What is British Citizenship?
Having British citizenship means you’re able to work, live and study in the UK without any time restrictions. It also means you’re entitled to access to both public funds and a British passport. In addition to these entitlements, you can also spend an indefinite amount of time out of the country without putting at risk your right to remain.
To be eligible to acquire British citizenship, you must have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), EU Settled Status or EEA Permanent Residence status. Additionally, you must not have any criminal convictions, including any related to immigration offences.
To learn more about the rules on British citizenship and who is eligible, contact our team of expert Newcastle immigration lawyers today.
Eligibility Requirements for British Citizenship
When making an application, there’s a number of criteria that must be met in order to be eligible to become a British citizen by naturalisation:
- Must be 18 or over;
- You must have been living continually in the UK throughout your five-year qualifying period with no more than 450 days of absence within that time;
- You must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 12 months;
- You must not have been in breach of any immigration laws;
- You must have passed the B1 CEFR English language requirements unless you’re exempt;
- You must have passed the Life in the UK test, which is an essential component of becoming a citizen of the UK as it helps test a person’s knowledge of the history, culture and customs of the United Kingdom.
Additionally, you will also be required to demonstrate good character to prove you will amount to a positive and upstanding member of British society. In order to determine whether you meet the requirements, your criminal history will be looked at – you must not hold a severe or recent criminal record, otherwise your British citizenship application is likely to be rejected.
As well as your criminal record in the UK, the Home Office will also look at your criminal record from overseas, along with any issues or infractions related to immigration. In addition to your record of crime, positive actions will also be looked at when assessing your British citizenship application.
UK Citizenship Routes
For anyone wishing to become a British citizen, there are a number of immigration routes you can take. You should choose the route that best suits your personal circumstances as this will give you the best chance of success and should also make the application process more straightforward.
- British citizenship by marriage: Anyone wishing to naturalise by this route needs to have lived in the UK for a minimum of three years before the date of their British citizenship application. You must also be 18+ and be married or in a civil partnership with someone who is a British citizen.
- British citizenship by birth: If you were born in the UK on or after January 1st 1983 or one of your parents is a British citizen then you automatically gain British citizenship yourself.
- The five-year route: EEA citizens who have continually and lawfully resided in the UK for five years or more are eligible to apply for permanent residence. Any non-EEA national can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after the same period of time. Once either of these have been held for a minimum of 12-months, citizenship can then be applied for. For EU citizens who wish to pursue this immigration route, the EU Settled Status application can be commenced after five years of continuous residence in the UK.
- Citizenship for those considered “stateless”: If you qualify as “stateless” then you’re able to apply to become a British citizen. However, the process you’ll need to follow and your success will be determined by the country in which you were born.
- Resuming your British citizenship: For anyone who has previously renounced their British citizenship, it’s usually possible to resume it. However, there is specific guidance that must be followed for anyone looking to resume their citizenship. Also, it is only possible if the renunciation was necessary to allow you to retain or acquire another nationality, according to the British Nationality Act 1981.
Citizenship Versus ILR – What are the Differences?
Whilst citizenship and ILR (as well as permanent residence and Settled Status) are similar as they allow you to live, work and study in the UK, there are some key differences between the two and it’s important to understand these distinctions.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (IDL)
This can be applied for once you’ve lawfully been a resident of the UK continuously for five years. Once obtained, you will then be considered a British settled person meaning you can reside in the UK free from immigration controls without the need for Visas to leave and/or enter the country.
If you wish to become naturalised as a British citizen, then Indefinite Leave to Remain is a crucial step towards obtaining citizenship, although if you reside outside of the UK for more than two years then your IDL can be removed.
With British citizenship, once you’re fully naturalised, you’ll be entitled to the full set of rights afforded to a British person, including the right vote and a full British passport. You’ll also have the right to live elsewhere without the possibility of your status changing.
Documents required to apply for British citizenship
When making an application to naturalise as a British citizen, there are a number of supporting documents you’ll need to provide to the Home Office. These include the following:
- Life in the UK test certificate: Once you pass this test, you should receive a certificate that you’ll need to show when applying for British citizenship. If you’ve already sat this test when making your ILR application then you won’t need to re-sit it.
- Proof of English language ability: If you’ve passed an accredited English language exam then you will have received a certificate. The exam must be taken at a test centre approved by the Home Office, and the qualification must also be recognised for your certificate to be valid.
- Proof that you’ve lived continually and lawfully in the UK throughout the qualifying period.
- Proof of previous immigration status(es) including any applications you’ve made or visas you’ve held prior to coming to the UK.
- Information pertaining to any time you’ve spent out of the UK during your qualifying period.
- Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card and/or any other documentation proving you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain
- Proof of identity and permanent residence status. This can be your passport, birth certificate, or other official documents recognised by the Home Office.
- Proof you aren’t a Person Subject to Immigration Control (PSIC) and are therefore not subject to any time restrictions.
- Proof you exercised your Treaty Rights during your time in the country. Treaty Rights refers to a person’s economic activity, and proof of this can be provided in the form of bank statements, Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) or confirmation of employment.
Meeting the English language requirement
Demonstrating competency in English – both written and verbal – is a key part of any ILR or British citizenship application. In order to demonstrate your proficiency, you must pass an English language qualification at a minimum level of B1. The test must also be taken at a verified test centre.
Only certain types of tests are recognised by the Home Office – they must be certified by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other languages). This means that other more general qualifications such as NVQs and GCSEs are not accepted.
Under some circumstances you may be exempt form the English language requirements. These include the following:
- If you’re aged 65 or over
- If you hold a degree that was studied for in English
- If you suffer a long-term physical or mental health issue
If you wish to bypass the English language requirement as you have a degree, you’ll need to prove this qualification was taught in English. It must also be equivalent to a UK qualification to be considered valid. This should be checked with an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS).
Keep in mind that some qualifications only last for two years. In cases where a certificate has now expired but was previously accepted as part of an IRL, Settled Status or permanent residence application, the Home Office should still accept it.
Requirements for British Citizenship by Birth
Contrary to what some believe, British citizenship is not automatically granted to anyone born on British soil. In order to be eligible, you must be both born in the country and have at least one parent who is either a full British citizen or settled in the UK.
Any child born in the UK whose parents are both non-British will automatically be classed as dependants. This means they’ll be subject to the same immigration requirements as their parents, and while they’ll be able to apply for British citizenship at a later date, the success of their British citizenship application will depend on them satisfying the eligibility criteria for their chosen route.
Requirements for British Citizenship by Descent
The UK immigration rules around citizenship by descent can be quite confusing for some. People with British parents may be eligible for citizenship by descent. British citizenship is usually passed down one generation, so if you have a British parent but you were born outside the UK you might automatically be eligible for citizenship. However, your children won’t automatically become British citizens if they’re also born outside the UK.
People born after 1st January 1983 may be able to acquire citizenship by descent if they have a parent who was born in a former British colony. Those who have a British-born grandparent who served in the military may also be eligible for citizenship by descent.
Tracking the Status of an Application for British Citizenship
Once you submit your form for British citizenship, you can expect it to be processed within 3-6 months of it being received. However, you should keep in mind that this timescale is not set in stone and can vary, depending on the number of applications being dealt with at that time. Other factors that can affect processing time are the complexity of your application and the number of requests you receive from the Home Office regarding your application.
You aren’t required to submit your passport alongside your naturalisation application; therefore, you will be free to leave and re-enter the country while your application is being processed.
There’s currently no way you can track the progress/status of your naturalisation application. Having said that, it is possible to contact the UKVI with any questions you have regarding your British citizenship application status, although they might be limited in what information they can provide.
How Long Must a Person Hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) Before They can Apply for Full British Citizenship?
It is possible to apply for British citizenship once you’ve held ILR, EEA, Permanent Reside or EU Settled Status for a minimum of 12 months. However, if the applicant is married to a British citizen then they become eligible as soon as the ILR is approved.
During the 12-month qualifying period, it is not permitted for you to leave the country for more than 90 days and you may be required to provide travel details for any time spent abroad.
Anyone holding EU Settled Status will not be able to naturalise if they spend more than five years in another country.
Similarly, ILR holders will also be unable to naturalise if they spend more than two years outside the country as they’ll lose their ILR status. In the event this happens, a new application will need to be made.
What You Can Expect from the Life in the UK test
In order to assess your suitability for British citizenship, you’ll be required to pass the Life in the UK test. This test consists of 24 questions pertaining to British culture, history and customs, and most of the questions are related to the information found in the Home Office’s Life in the United Kingdom handbook.
In order to pass the test, you’ll need to score higher than 75% (18 out of 24 questions) and failure to make the grade will result in your application for British citizenship being rejected.
The test can be booked online and must be sat within three days. At present, there are around 30 official test centres across the UK, but you’ll only be able to choose from the five closest to your location.
Once you begin the test, you’ll be given 45 minutes to answer all the questions. You’ll need to bring the same ID you submitted when booking the test, along with proof of address which must show both your name and postcode and be dated within the last three months. Anyone unable to provide the required documentation on the day of their test will be unable to take the test. No refunds will be given.
You will be notified about the result of your test by the Home Office in due time.
What Does the British Citizenship Ceremony Involve?
Applicants who are successful are invited to participate in a British citizenship ceremony. This is a ceremony designed to welcome all successful applicants into the British community. Anyone who is eligible will be invited by the Home Office and those wishing to attend must book within three months of receiving their invitation.
The ceremonies are conducted by local authorities and are usually done under a group format. These cost £80. If you’d prefer a private ceremony, this is a possibility although these will cost more than the standard group option. How much will depend on your local authority, so you’ll need to contact them to find out the exact cost.
When attending a citizenship ceremony, it’s important to take your invitation with you. You may also bring up to two guests. During the citizenship ceremony, you’ll be required to swear an Oath of allegiance, pledging to abide by the laws of the land. For those who prefer not to swear by God, an affirmation can be made instead.
Once the citizenship ceremony comes to an end, you’ll receive a certificate and a welcome pack, which will provide helpful information about your rights as a British citizen. For those based outside of the UK, it’s possible to attend a citizenship ceremony at a British embassy/consulate.
Key Info About the UK Naturalisation Form
Anyone who wishes to become a UK citizen, it’s essential to complete Form AN (Application for Naturalisation). Regardless of whether you hold Settled Status, permanent residence or IDL, you’re required to complete this form when applying for British citizenship.
Form AN has a number of sections in which you must provide detailed information that will then be used to assess your eligibility. The British citizenship application form will cover areas such as employment, residency and biography, and it must be completed to the highest possible standard.
If you’re applying as the spouse of a British citizen then you’ll also need to provide proof of your relationship. The Form AN should also contain the signatures of two referees.
How Long Should You Expect to Wait for a Decision?
Once your Form AN has been submitted and your application fee paid, the UKVI will then begin processing your citizenship application.
It should not take any longer than six months to process all your information, so you can expect to receive a decision on your application within that timeframe. This timeframe is the same regardless of which route you used when making your application, so holders of EU Settled Status or EEA Permanent Residence should not expect their application to be processed any quicker.
Presently, there’s no way to fast-track your application. However, it’s possible to receive a decision quicker than the six months’ time-frame, particularly if your application is organised well, contains no errors and needs no additional information. On the other hand, applications can encounter delays if you fail to submit things correctly or forget to include any documentation, so be mindful of that if you want to avoid any additional waiting.
What are the Rules on Dual Citizenship?
As there are no rules that say a person must renounce other nationalities, it’s permitted for an individual to hold dual citizenship in the UK. This means it’s completely legal to be both a citizen of the UK and a citizen of another country simultaneously.
Multiple citizenships where an individual holds three or more nationalities is also permitted, so it’s possible for those who hold dual nationality elsewhere to become a UK citizen.
Dual nationality doesn’t need to be applied for separately. If you’re a British citizen, you simply need to apply to become a national of any country that permits dual citizenship. Keep in mind that different countries have different rules, so it’s imperative that you find out whether the country you wish to apply to become a citizen of allows dual citizenship. You should contact the relevant embassy or consulate for this information.
Before you submit your application for dual citizenship, there are some things you should be mindful of. For example, once your second citizenship is granted, you’ll no longer be able to receive any form of diplomatic assistance whilst in a different nation to the one you hold permanent residence in.
Additionally, if you’re applying to become a citizen in a country that does not permit dual nationality, then you’ll be required to renounce your British citizenship. Likewise, nationals of countries that don’t permit dual citizenship will lose their previously held status if they apply to become a citizen of the United Kingdom.
For anyone looking to become a British citizen, it’s strongly advised to consult the country from which nationality was first obtained, to familiarise themselves with the rules around dual citizenship beforehand.
Can you Renounce your British Citizenship?
If you wish to renounce your British citizenship, you are fully entitled to do so. There are a number of reasons why some choose to do this. One of them is to become a national of a country that does not permit its citizens to hold dual nationality. You should bear in mind that if you wish to become a citizen of a country that does allow dual nationality, you are not required to renounce your UK citizenship.
If an application to renounce your citizenship is granted, you’ll receive a ‘Declaration of Renunciation’, which can be used as certification that you’re no longer a citizen of the United Kingdom.
Renouncing your status as a British citizen means that only you will be affected. It will not affect the status of your family members’ citizenship.
Anyone wishing to renounce their citizenship must be over the age of 18. Additionally, you will be required to meet the ‘Sound Mind’ requirement, which allows the Home Office to determine, in the eyes of the law, that the person renouncing their status as a British national is capable of making their own decisions.
If you renounce your citizenship and then change your mind afterward, it is possible to resume your status as a British national at a later date. However, there are a number of criteria you must meet in order to regain your citizenship. In addition to proving you still have connections to the UK, you must also pass the Home Office’s ‘Good Character’ assessment.
Obtaining British Citizenship Through Marriage
You are eligible to apply for British citizenship if you are married to a British citizen and have been living lawfully in the UK for three years or more as a settled person.
Before you start the British citizenship application process, you must ensure you meet the following requirements:
- You’re over the age of 18
- You’ve passed the ‘Good Character’ requirements and you don’t possess a criminal record including any immigration-related violations
- You’ve passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
- You’ve held either Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), EU Settled Status or EEA Permanent Residence for a minimum of three years before making your application
- You’re married to a British national. If your partner is not a UK national with a British passport you cannot apply
Proficiency in both written and spoken English. This can be either in the form of an ESOL certificate or proof you’re from another English-speaking country. If the above is established, then you can go ahead to apply for British nationality.
Do I Need a Referee to Support My Application for Citizenship?
When making an application for British citizenship, you need to include at least two referees. This is to verify the information you submitted to the Home Office is both accurate and honest.
Both of your referees must sign your application form. Failure to ensure this is done so properly will result in your entire application being deemed invalid.
You are able to choose your own referees, however, they must meet the requirements set out by the Home Office. These include the length of time you’ve known the referees (a minimum of three years) and they must not have been convicted of any criminal offence in the previous ten years.
It’s a requirement that one of your referees holds a role in a professional standing, for example a doctor, teacher, religious minister etc. Your referee cannot be a solicitor or legal representative who is representing you, nor can they work for the UKVI. It is also not essential that this referee is a British citizen.
However, your other referee does have to be a British citizen in possession of a British passport. They must also be over the age of 25 and work in a professional setting.
What’s Involved in the Naturalisation Process?
Naturalisation refers to the process a person goes through in order to become a British citizen. To be eligible to naturalise, there is a number of requirements that must be met and you must be at least 18 years of age. You must also have been settled in the UK (Permanent residence, ILR or Settled Status) for a minimum of 12 months.
If you’re married to a British citizen, you can commence the application process once you’ve been continually living in the United Kingdom for three years.
Before starting your application, you should be sure you satisfy the entry requirements by not exceeding the maximum amount of time allowed outside of the country during your qualifying period. This is particularly important during the last year of the period as you are only allowed up to 90 days outside the UK. You must also pass both the ‘Good Character’ requirement and the KoLL (Knowledge of Language and Life) requirement to be eligible for British naturalisation.
Finally, you must also complete and submit the Home Office Form AN. The whole process takes between three and six months, and once a decision has been made, you’ll be notified in due time. If successful you’ll be invited to attend a citizen ceremony welcoming you to life as a citizen of the United Kingdom in addition to receiving a Certificate of Naturalisation.
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If you wish to naturalise in the UK, our Newcastle immigration lawyers can help. In order to gain full British citizenship, you must hold Indefinite Leave to Remain, Settled Status or permanent residence. Provided you’re eligible, we’ll guide you every step of the way.
Here’s what we’ll do:
- Provide a Letter of Representation that will outline the strengths of your case for citizenship to the Home Office
- Complete your application form to a flawless standard, ensuring no delays occur due to errors, missing info etc
- Conduct a thorough document check to make sure everything is included in your application
- Establish whether you’re eligible for British citizenship, Settled Status or permanent residence
- Help you prepare for both the Life in the UK test and your English language examination
- Liaise with the Home Office on your behalf throughout the entire process
The answer is yes, it’s possible for your children to be included on your citizenship application, although they’ll need to meet some requirements. Firstly, they’ll need to hold Indefinite Leave to Remain, and they’ll also need to be under the age of 18. If they’re adults, they should make their own application for citizenship.
Children over the age of 13 will be eligible provided they’ve been a resident in the UK for two years or more prior to your application.
If your child was born in the UK before you were granted IRL or Settled Status, they may be able to apply for British citizenship once you become naturalised. If your child is born in the UK and you have already become naturalised, they will automatically become a British citizen.
EEA citizens will need to apply for Permanent Residence. Those from an EU member state can apply for Settled Status. You can apply for Settled Status if you’ve been living in the UK continuously for five years or more, although you’ll be ineligible if you spent more than 90 days outside the country in any 12-month period.
Once you’ve been granted permanent residence status, you can apply for British nationality after 12 months.
EU citizens wishing to stay in the UK on a permanent basis should apply for Settled Status.
A number of requirements must be met before you can apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.
Here are some things to bear in mind:
- The ‘Good Character’ requirement: Demonstrating a good character is a key part of becoming naturalised British citizens. It shows the Home Office that you will respect the rights and observe the laws of the land, while there will also be immigration and criminal checks carried out on you to ensure you meet the requirements. This applies to any applicant over the age of 10.
- Sound mind: In order to naturalise, you must demonstrate a sound mind. This refers to your ability to make decisions, as well as your comprehension of what the process of becoming a British citizen involves.
- Immigration time restrictions: To make an application for naturalisation, your leave to remain should be free from time restrictions. This means that before you apply, you must have been granted either ILR, Settled Status or permanent residence.
- Dual nationality: As the UK permits dual nationality, you are not required to renounce any additional citizenship you may have. However, if you are a citizen of a country that does not permit dual nationality, you may lose your citizenship with that country upon making your application. You should always check with the relevant embassy or consulate.
Your eligibility for British nationality depends on a number of factors including how long you’ve been a resident of the UK, as well as your ability to meet all the necessary requirements. For those married to a British national, you’ll only need to have been living in the UK for a minimum of three years before applying. However, bear in mind you must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain, Settled Status or permanent residence for at least 12 months.
Although it is possible to apply for ILR sooner (Such as if you’re married to a British citizen), in most cases it can only be obtained after five years of continuous residence in the country. Switching to a different visa type during these five years will mean your ILR requirements will change.
It is possible for refugees to naturalise, although a specific route must be taken. The route is set out in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 and it consists of three stages:
- Temporary Residence Status: This is obtained once an asylum application is granted and it must be held for five years.
- Probationary citizenship: This is obtained once an applicant passes an Active Review. In order to pass this stage, the applicant must successfully complete the Life in the UK test, have a continued need for protection and not have committed any criminal offences.
- Permanent residence status.