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British Citizenship

British Citizenship

For those who want to make the UK their permanent home and become a British national, our London immigration lawyers are here for you.

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What is British Citizenship?

If you are a British citizen, you are able to live, work and study in the UK in definitely. You have access to public funds and can apply for a passport. Additionally, you can spend an unlimited amount of time outside of the country without being at risk of compromising your status.

To be eligible, you must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), EEA Permanent Residence or EU Settled Status for a minimum of three years. You must have always obeyed the law- this includes immigration-related offences.

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What are the requirements for British Citizenship?

In order to become a British citizen through the process of Naturalisation, there are a number of eligibility criteria that must be satisfied:

  • You must be over the age of 18;
  • You must have had Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK for at least 12 months;
  • You must have passed the Life in the UK Test. This is to demonstrate that you have adequate knowledge of British history, culture and customs in order to become naturalised as a British citizen.
  • You must not be in contravention of any UK immigration rules.
  • Unless you are exempt from them, you must have satisfied the B1 CEFR English language requirements;
  • You must have been a continuous resident of the UK for at least 5 years, with no longer than 450 days of absence in this period.

‘Good Character’

It also necessary that you demonstrate the ‘good character’ requirement in order to obtain British Citizenship. ‘Good character’ refers to whether or not a prospective citizen will be a positive and upstanding member of society. Your criminal history will be looked at in order to determine whether you meet the requirement- you must not hold either a recent or severe criminal record. The Home Office will look at both criminal offences that have taken place overseas, and issues and/or violations linked to immigration. However, positive contributions to society will also be looked at when assessing your case.

What are the different routes that lead to British Citizenship?

If you want to become a British citizen, there are a number of different routes that can be taken. The route that makes sense for you depends on your circumstances.

  • British Citizenship by Marriage: In order for this immigration route to be pursued, you must have spent at least three years as a settled person (this can take the form of Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status). You must also be the spouse or married partner of a British citizen.
  • British Citizenship by Birth or Descent: Those born in the UK on or after January 1st 1983 or born when one of their parents was a British citizen usually gain citizenship automatically.
  • The 5-year citizenship route: You are able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if you are a non-EEA citizen and have lived in the UK for five years. For those from within the EEA, you can apply for permanent residence status after the same period of time. Holders of ILR or permanent residence status can then apply to become a British national after 12 months. The same rules apply to those who have ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme. As with ILR and permanent residence status, settled status can be applied for if you have lived in the UK for five years.
  • Citizenship for those who are ‘stateless’: To be classed as stateless, you must not be recognised as a citizen of any country. If these are your circumstances, you may be able to apply for British citizenship. However, your ability to apply and the process you will need to follow is closely linked to the country in which you were born.
  • Resuming your British citizenship: If you had previously renounced your British citizenship, it is usually possible for it to be resumed. There is specific guidance you need to follow if you wish for it to be resumed.

What documents will I require as part of my British Citizenship application?

In order to successfully naturalise as a British national, there are a number of documents that you must provide to the Home Office as part of your application. These are:

  • Proof of your knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK: If you have passed the Life in the UK test, you will receive a certificate that provides evidence of this. If the Life in the UK Test was sat when you applied for ILR, you do not need to re-sit the exam. Similarly, you will receive a certificate if you have an English language qualification at B1 CEFR or higher. The qualification must be on the Home Office’s list of recognised tests and must have been taken at a recognised test centre. The certificates received for passing these tests can be used as evidence in your citizenship application.
  • Confirmation that you were lawfully resident in the UK during the qualifying period.
  • Proof of previous immigration status. This includes all visas held prior to becoming settled in the UK.
  • Any travel details pertaining to a period of absence outside of the UK.
  • Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card, or other proof that you possess Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or settled status.
  • Proof of your identity and permanent residence status. This can take the form of your passport, birth certificate or any other travel documentation.
  • Confirmation that you are not a Person Subject to Immigration Control (PSIC) and that your leave to remain does not have time restrictions.
  • Evidence that you have been exercising your Treaty Rights in the last 3 or 5 years, depending on your circumstances. Treaty Rights are centred on an EU citizen’s involvement in the economic activity of the country in which you reside. Evidence can take the form of bank letters, confirmation of employment or confirmation of studies from your educational institution.

How does being a British national differ from possessing Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

Whilst ILR (including permanent residence and settled status) and citizenship are similar in that they both afford an individual the right to live, work and study in the UK free from immigration controls, there are some hugely important differences between the two.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

ILR can be applied for once you have been lawfully resident in the UK for five continuous years. Once ILR has been obtained, you will be deemed a British settled person.

This means you can reside in the UK on a permanent basis, free from immigration controls. You will be able to leave and re-enter the UK without having to apply for a visa.

Possessing ILR is a crucial step towards becoming naturalised as a British national. Yet ILR can be removed if you reside outside of the UK for more than two years.

British Citizenship

Once you become fully naturalised, you will have the full set of rights that are entitled to a British person. These include being able to vote in all referenda and elections, including general elections.

You will also be able to obtain a British passport. Further to this, you will be able to spend as much time as you want outside of the country without fear of compromising your status.

What are the eligibility criteria for British citizenship by birth?

British nationality is not an automatic right afforded to all children born in the UK. In order to be eligible for British citizenship by birth, at least one parent of a child born in the UK must be either a British national or hold settled status. For those children born in the UK whose parents are both non-British, they will automatically be classed as dependants. Thus, they will be subject to the same immigration controls as their parents. In these situations, an individual can become a British national at a later time via a different route, however this will be conditional on satisfying the eligibility criteria for whichever route is pursued.

What are the requirements for British citizenship by descent?

In order to be eligible for British citizenship by descent, an individual must have been born outside of the UK to a minimum of one British parent. This essentially means that British nationhood cannot be automatically bestowed on any child born outside of the UK.

For those born after the 1st of January 1983, it may be possible to naturalise as a British citizen by descent if you have a parent that was born in a former British colony. Additionally, you may also be able to if you have a British-born grandfather who served in the military.

Is it possible to track the status of my British citizenship application?

The form that is submitted in order to become a British citizen is usually processed within three to six months of it being received. However, this timescale is not absolute and can vary, something that should be borne in mind prior to submission. The time it takes depends on both the complexity of your case and the number of requests received by the Home Office.

You do not have to send your passport to the Home Office alongside your Naturalisation form. As a result, you are permitted to leave and re-enter the country freely in the time it takes for your application to be processed.

There is currently no facility available that enables you to track the status of your application online. However, you are able to contact the UKVI via email or on the phone for all questions regarding your application and its status.

I possess Indefinite Leave to Remain. When is it possible to apply for Citizenship?

For those who hold ILR, permanent residence or Settled Status, it is possible to apply for citizenship after 12 months. However, for those married to a British national, it is possible to become fully naturalised as soon as ILR is obtained.

You are not permitted to spend more than 90 days away from the UK during the 12-month qualifying period. You may be required to provide travel details pertaining to absence. If you are a citizen of the EU that holds Settled Status, you will be unable to naturalise if you spend more than five years abroad. You will then have to spend more time in the UK to become eligible for citizenship.

Similarly, ILR holders will be unable to naturalise if they spend more than two years outside of the UK as ILR status will be lost. If you wish to re-obtain your status, a new request will need to be submitted.

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What does the Life in the UK Test involve?

The test takes the form of 24 questions that are predominantly based on information found in the Life in the United Kingdom handbook. The test places considerable emphasis on the culture, customs and history of the UK. The handbook is provided by the Home Office, and should be studied in preparation for the test. In order for the test to be passed, the minimum mark that can be received is 75%. Passing the Life in the UK Test is an essential requirement for all those who wish to naturalise as a British national.

The Life in the UK Test can be booked online. It must be booked a minimum of three days in advance. There are upwards of 30 test centres in the UK, however you will only be able to choose one from the five that are closest to where you live.

When you sit the test, you will be given 45 minutes to answer the 24 questions. You must bring the same ID that you used when booking the test. In addition, it is mandatory that you bring proof of address. This must display both your name and postcode and must be dated within three months of the date your test is due to take place.

If you fail to bring valid documentation with you on the day of your test, you will be unable to sit it. You will also be ineligible for a refund. If the test is passed, you will receive a pass notification letter from the Home Office.

What does the British Citizenship ceremony involve?

If you are over the age of 18 and your application for British nationality is successful, you will be invited to participate in a British citizenship ceremony. You will be sent an invitation from the Home Office. You must book the ceremony within three months of receiving this. The ceremony is intended to make all who gain citizenship welcomed into the British community.

The ceremony itself will be organised by your local authority. It is common practice for the ceremonies to be conducted in groups. However, it is possible to arrange a private ceremony if that’s what you’d prefer. A group ceremony costs £80. Private ceremonies are more expensive- the costs can be checked through contacting your local authority.

You are able to bring up to two guests to your ceremony. It is important that you bring your invitation with you. During the ceremony itself, you’ll be required to make an Oath of Allegiance and a pledge. This states that you will honour the rights and laws of the UK. For those who would prefer not to swear by God, it is possible to make an affirmation instead.

Once the ceremony comes to an end, you will be presented with a certificate of British citizenship. You will also receive a welcome pack. This is designed to provide information regarding your rights as a British citizen. For those outside of the UK, it is possible for the ceremony to take place in a British embassy/consulate.

What do I need to know about the Naturalisation form?

If you wish to become a British citizen, you will need to complete and submit form AN- Application for Naturalisation as a British citizen. This is necessary for holders of Settled Status, permanent residence and Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The form has various sections that require detailed information in order to determine your eligibility. It is imperative that all sections are completed to the highest standard. You will need to provide information pertaining to employment, residency and biography.

You will need to evidence your relationship if applying as the spouse of a British citizen. You will need to input information pertaining to your two referees on your form. They will also need to sign it.

What is the timeframe for the British citizenship process?

Once form AN submitted and the fee has been paid, the Home Office will begin to process your request. The form and associated documentation do not take longer than six months to process, so you will receive a verdict within this timeframe. The timeframe is the same regardless of the route- holders of Settled Status or permanent residence do not receive a decision quicker than those with ILR.

There is currently no means of fast-tracking the citizenship process, however you may receive a decision quicker than the expected waiting time.

Conversely, complex cases may take longer than the standard six-month time period. Your request will be delayed if you fail to include all of the necessary documentation.

 

Does the UK enable an individual to obtain dual citizenship?

In light of there being no legal need for other nationalities to be renounced, an individual is permitted to obtain dual nationality in the UK. Holders are able to be both a citizen of the UK and a citizen of a different country. Multiple citizenships are also permitted under UK law. With this in mind, it is possible to gain British nationality even if dual nationalities are already held.

Dual nationality does not need to be separately applied for. If you already hold British citizenship, you are able to apply to become a national of any country that permits you to become a dual citizen. It is important to note that different nations have different rules in relation to dual nationality. It is therefore vitally important to find out whether the nation for which you wish to apply for citizenship will allow you to maintain your British nationality as well. This information can be found out by contacting their embassy or consulate.

Before submitting your request for dual nationality, there are a number of important things to be borne in mind. For instance, once your additional form of citizenship is granted, you will be unable to receive any form of diplomatic assistance whilst in a different nation in which you hold permanent residence.

In addition, if you are applying to become a national of a country that does not permit dual citizenship, you will need to give up your status as a British citizen. Further to this, for nationals of countries who do not permit dual citizenship, applying for British nationality may lead to previously held status being lost. It is strongly advised that, for those who wish to become a British citizen, they should inform the country from which nationality was first obtained.

What are the English language requirements for a British nationality application?

Demonstrating that you have a sufficient level of proficiency in both written and spoken English is a key part of any ILR or citizenship application. In order to do this, you must pass an accredited English language qualification at a minimum level of B1. The test itself must be taken at a verified test centre.

The Home Office only accept certain types of English language qualification- they must be certified by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). With this in mind, more general qualifications such as GCSEs and NVQs will not be accepted.

There are certain circumstances under which you will be exempt from the English language requirements. These are:

  • If you are aged 65 or over
  • If you suffer a long-term physical or mental health condition
  • If you are a holder of a degree that was studied for in English

For applicants who studied overseas, you will need to provide evidence that your degree was taught in English and that it is equivalent to a valid UK qualification. This should take the form of an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS).

It is important to note that some test qualifications only last for 2 years.

In circumstances where a certificate has expired but was accepted as part of an ILR, Settled Status or permanent residence application, the Home Office should accept it.

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If I am a British national, do I have the option to renounce my citizenship?

It is possible to renounce your status as a British national if this is what you want to do. A common circumstance why this may be desired is so that an individual can become a national of a country that does not permit dual citizenship. It is important to note that if you wish to become a national of a country that does allow dual citizenship, your status as a British national does not have to be renounced.

If your application for the renouncement of your status is accepted, you will receive a ‘Declaration of Renunciation’. The certificate can be used as evidence that you are no longer a citizen of the United Kingdom. However, renouncing your status as a British national has no impact on the status of your family members, who retain their status. Only you are affected by your decision.

You must be over the age of 18 in order to apply for a renouncement. Additionally, you will be required to meet the ‘Sound Mind’ requirement. This demonstrates that deemed capable of making your own decisions in the eyes of the law.

The Resumption of Nationality

It is possible for you to apply for the resumption of your status as a British national if you change your mind.In order to regain your citizenship, you must demonstrate that you still have substantial connections to the UK. Furthermore, the Home Office will need to assess you in relation to the ‘good character’ requirements in spite of having previously been a British citizen.

What is the process involved with obtaining British citizenship via marriage?

An application for citizenship can be made if you are married to a British person and have been lawfully resident in the UK for three years as a settled person.

Prior to commencing the application process, you must ensure that you meet the following requirements:

  • You are over the age of 18
  • You have passed the good character requirements and do not possess a criminal record in any country or immigration-related violation
  • You have passed the Life in the UK Test. This is essential in all applications for citizenship.
  • You have held either Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), EEA Permanent Residence or EU Settled Status for at least three years before applying.
  • You are married to a British national. If your partner is not fully naturalised and does not hold a British passport, an alternative route to citizenship will need to be followed.
  • You have demonstrated the necessary level of proficiency in both spoken and written English. This can take the form of a certificate from an ESOL exam or proof that you are from an English-speaking country.

You will need to prove that you have been lawfully resident in the UK for at least three years prior to commencing your application.

Does the process require me to have a referee?

You are required to have two referees as part of your application for British nationality. Their purpose is to verify that the information you submit to the Home Office is honest and correct.

Your form must be signed by both of your referees. If it is not, it will be deemed invalid.

Your two referees should be of your choosing. However, they must have known you for at least three years prior to the submission of your application. In addition, they must not have held any criminal convictions in the previous ten years.

It is crucial that one of your referees holds a professional role such as a doctor, teacher, minister of religion or member of a professional body. They cannot be a solicitor or legal professional representing you on this case nor can they work for the UKVI. The person does not necessarily have to be a UK citizen.

Having said this, it is imperative for your other referee to be of British nationality and hold a UK passport. They must be at least 25 and deemed a professional.

What is the process of Naturalisation?

Naturalisation refers to the process involved with applying for British nationality. There are a number of requirements that must be satisfied and you must be over the age of 18 to apply. You must have been a settled person in the UK (this can take the form of ILR, permanent residence or Settled Status) for a minimum of 12 months.

If you are married to a British citizen, you can apply for Naturalisation after three years of continuous residence as a settled person.

Prior to applying, you must ensure that the time you spend outside of the UK does not exceed a specific timeframe. This is of particular relevance in the last year of the qualifying period, as you are not allowed to spend more than 90 days overseas. It is vitally important to pass the Life in the UK Test and language requirements.

You must complete and submit the Home Office AN form to apply. It usually takes between three and six months to be processed. If you successfully obtain British citizenship, you will be invited to a citizenship ceremony at which you will receive a certificate of Naturalisation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If you wish to become a British citizen, our London immigration lawyers are here to assist you.

In order to naturalise, it is crucial that you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain, permanent residence or Settled Status. If you are eligible, we will guide you through every step.

We will:

  • Provide a Letter of Representation that outlines the strengths of your case to the Home Office.
  • Complete your application form to an exemplary standard
  • Conduct a thorough document check
  • Establish that you are eligible for British Citizenship, permanent residence and settled status
  • Ensure that you are adequately prepared for both the Life in the UK Test and your English language exam
  • Liaise with the Home Office throughout the entire application process

It is possible for your children to be included on your citizenship application provided they hold ILR. This would only be necessary if they are under the age of 18. If they are older, they can apply for citizenship themselves.

Children over the age of 13 will be eligible for citizenship if they have been resident in the UK for two years prior to applying.

If you have a child that was born in the UK prior to when you obtained ILR or EU Settled Status, they may be able to apply for citizenship as soon as you become naturalised. If your child is born in the UK and you already possess citizenship, they will automatically become a British citizen.

If you are an EEA citizen, you will need to apply for either Permanent Residence (PR). You can apply for Settled Status if you are from an EU member state. These can be applied for after five years of continuous residence in the UK providing you have not more than 90 days outside of the UK in any 12-month period.

Once you have obtained permanent resident status, you will be able to apply for British nationality after 12 months. This is conditional on meeting the eligibility requirements. Also, you must not have been outside of the UK for more than 450 days in the five-year period.

Settled Status is intended for EU citizens who wish to remain in the UK on a permanent basis. The EU Settlement Scheme should be used to register for Settled Status.

There are a number of criteria that must be satisfied in order to naturalise as a British citizen.

Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • The ‘Good Character’ requirement: This requirement applies to any applicant over the age of 10. Demonstrating good character is key to successfully naturalising as a British citizen. It shows that you will respect the rights and observe the laws of the UK. The Home Office will carry out criminal and immigration checks in order to determine whether or not you satisfy the requirement.
  • Sound Mind: You must demonstrate that you are of Sound Mind in order to naturalise. This refers to the ability to make your own decisions and understand what is involved in gaining British citizenship.
  • Immigration Time Restrictions: To apply for Naturalisation, your leave to remain must be free from time restrictions. This means you must have gained either ILR, permanent residence or EU Settled Status prior to applying.
  • Dual nationality: Because the UK allows dual nationality, you do not need to renounce any previous nationalities upon applying for citizenship. If you are a citizen of a country that does not permit dual nationality, you may be regarded as having lost this citizenship upon applying for British citizenship.

Your ability to apply for British citizenship relates to how long you have been continuously resident in the UK. For those married to a British national, you will only need to have been continuously resident in the UK for three years prior to applying. However, you must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain, EU Settled Status or permanent residence for at least one year.

Whilst it is possible in certain circumstances to apply for ILR sooner (such as if you are the spouse of a British citizen), in most cases it can only be obtained after five years of continuous residence. If you switch to a different visa type during these five years, your ILR requirements will change.

 

Refugees are able to become British nationals however there is a specific route that must be taken. This route is explained in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act from 2009, and is formed of three distinct stages:

  • Temporary Residence Status: This obtained by way of an asylum application being granted, and must then be held for five years.
  • Probationary Citizenship: This status is obtained through passing an Active Review. In order to pass the Active Review, applicants must have passed the Life in the UK Test, have a continued need for protection and not hold a criminal record.
  • Permanent Residence status.