If you wish to naturalise as a British citizen, you must hold indefinite leave to remain or settled status, be of good character, and meet certain minimum residence requirements as specified in the British Nationality Act 1981 (“British Nationality Act”).
Amongst other benefits, British nationals, unlike holders of indefinite leave to remain, cannot ordinarily lose their status. British citizens also benefit from the protection of the Crown when travelling overseas and are entitled to participate in elections. They are, of course, free to live, study or work in the UK without restriction and claim state benefits.
The UK Home Office recognises dual nationality so applicants do not have to give up their existing nationality/nationalities to acquire British citizenship.
There are three main routes to British naturalisation:
• marriage or civil partnership with a British national;
• completing a qualifying residence period; and
• (for EEA nationals and their dependants only) completing a qualifying residence period in the UK through the EU Settled Status Scheme (EUSS).
We are specialist British citizenship solicitors recommended by the Legal 500. We provide comprehensive legal advice, ensuring your application meets the legal requirements. We collate your evidence and prepare detailed submissions to the Home Office. Where required, we will also undertake ongoing liaison with the Home Office.
If you would like to discuss your application for naturalisation as a British citizen with one of our specialist British citizenship solicitors in more detail, please visit us by prior appointment in our central London offices or contact us on +44 (0)20 7038 3980, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online enquiry form.
We assist individuals outside London and indeed globally via email, telephone and Zoom.
Click on the links below for detailed information about the legal requirements on how to naturalise as a British national and procedure.
An application for naturalisation as a British citizen will be considered by the Home Secretary provided you meet the following requirements:
- you are aged 18 or over and are not of unsound mind;
- you are of good character;
- you have a sufficient knowledge of the English language and culture (unless over 64 or otherwise exempt);
- you intend, if you become naturalised, to live either in the UK or abroad in Crown service; and
- you meet either the three- or five-years residence requirements.
If you would like to naturalise as a British citizen, you will need to show that you:
- were in the UK on the date five years prior to the date of the application;
- have not been absent for more than 450 days in that period;
- have not been absent for more than 90 days during the last 12 months of that period;
- have held indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK for the last 12 months;
- have not been in breach of immigration laws in the last 5 years; and
- intend to make either your home or your principal home in the UK.
The key rules are the residency requirement, the maximum number of days absence permitted during the qualifying period and being able to demonstrate a clear future intention of making the UK your main country of residence for the foreseeable future.
If you are married to a British citizen and wish to naturalise as a British citizen yourself, you will need to show that you:
- are married to a British citizen and the marriage is subsisting;
- were in the UK on the date three years prior to the date of the application;
- have not been absent for more than 270 days in that period;
- have not been absent for more than 90 days during the last 12 months of that period;
- hold indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK; and
- have not been in breach of immigration laws in the last 3 years.
The key requirements are the residency requirement and the maximum number of days absence permitted during the qualifying period.
It is important to note that for this category of applicants there is no future intention requirement. This means that once the application is lodged the applicant is free to travel and live overseas. Both the biometrics and citizenship ceremony can be conducted overseas (see below). It is therefore slightly more straightforward for those who are married to a British citizen.
This can be one of the most problematic issues when applying for British citizenship. Individuals who have had a criminal conviction, including fines imposed by a court or traffic offences, need to be careful. Depending on the nature of the offence the applicant might not be able to naturalise as a British citizen until a specified period has passed. If the offending was particularly serious or problematic, the individual may never be able to gain British citizenship. Failure to disclose a conviction, even if spent, can be fatal to an application for naturalisation.
Although the British Nationality Act only specifies an individual should not have been in breach of immigration laws in the past 3 or 5 years (depending on which route an individual applies through), the Home Office will consider good character throughout the 10 years prior to the submission of the application for naturalisation as a British citizen.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the good character assessment is the requirement to have complied with all immigration laws during any stay in the UK during the whole 10 years prior to the date of application, not just the relevant qualifying period. This can be problematic for individuals who had a contentious immigration history at some point during that time, for example, they had a gap or break in their lawful permission such as when an application is returned as invalid because there was a minor procedural issue that needed correction.
Applicants in this situation should seek advice from an immigration lawyer/British citizenship solicitor.
The permitted absence limits of 450 days for an application to naturalise under the 5 year route, or 270 days under the 3 year route, are not cast in stone. It is possible to have absences above these limits if there is a good reason for any absence and, for particularly high absences, that additional residence criteria are met. The Home Office are sympathetic to absences connected with a medical or compassionate nature.
Over the years our immigration lawyers have had considerable success in obtaining nationality for individuals who have had absences beyond the statutory limits. If your absences are high, please contact one of our immigration lawyers to discuss your circumstances – you may still be eligible to naturalise as a British citizen.
EEA nationals and their family members must hold settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme, otherwise their application will be refused. They must have held this permission for at least 12 months if applying under the 5 year route (above). However, if they were granted settled status less than 12 months ago but also acquired permanent residence through the EEA Economic Area Regulations 2016, they can supply evidence of the grant of PR when applying to naturalise as a British citizen and therefore may be eligible to apply immediately.
It was previously possible, when applying for recognition of the right to permanent residence, to ask the Home Office to issue a letter "back-dating" the grant of permanent residence. What this meant in practice was that a successful applicant would not then necessarily have had to wait a full 12 months after the issue of the biometric residence permit before applying to naturalise as a British citizen.
It is not possible to "back-date" a grant of indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme.
When applying for naturalisation as a British citizen the Home Office will want to see evidence that the applicant has been lawfully resident in the UK during any periods of stay in the previous ten years. This is of greatest concern to European applicants and their family members who were not engaged in employment or self-employment throughout their time in the UK. In particular, the definition of “good character” is a problem for homemakers and students who are unlikely to have held comprehensive sickness insurance or a European Health Insurance Card issued by their home country as required by the then EEA Regulations.
An EEA national’s permanent residence may historically have been evidence by an endorsement in their passport or in a paper card.
EEA nationals and their family members only became eligible for a document certifying permanent residence once they had exercised Treaty Rights in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years, i.e. through employment, self-employment, study or economic self-sufficiency (the latter two require the individual to hold comprehensive medical insurance).
Nationals of EEA countries and their family members should ensure that they have sufficient evidence to show they were in the UK lawfully for any period of residence during the last 10 years. Failure to do so may result in the application to naturalise a as a British citizen being rejected and loss of the associated application fees.
RLegal Immigration Solicitors can assist EEA nationals and their dependants with an application for settled status as well as the naturalisation process.
We strongly recommend EEA nationals and their family members seeking to naturalise as a British citizen instruct a specialist British citizenship solicitor. Our immigration lawyers will be happy to guide you through the complexities and take the strain out of the naturalisation application process for you.
Unless exempt, applicants need to demonstrate Knowledge of Life and Language in the UK. This is done in two parts:
(1) successfully passing a Life in the UK Test; and
(2) demonstrating competence in the English language to at least level B1.
It is possible to demonstrate competence in the English language either by:
a) being a national of a majority English speaking country;
b) passing an approved Secure English Language Test run by an approved provider;
c) obtaining a bachelors, masters or PhD degree which was obtained from a majority speaking English country; or
d) obtaining a bachelors, masters or PhD degree which was taught in English provided a certificate of comparability and confirmation of language must be obtained.
The Life in the UK Test aims to test an applicant’s knowledge of British history, institutions, cultural and social mores. There is an official textbook to accompany the test, whilst various providers offer unofficial revision materials and practice tests.
The Home Office will accept English language tests taken from an approved provider if taken after 2013 and was submitted in connection with a successful application for indefinite leave to remain.
If you are seeking to rely on an English language test from more than 2 years ago you should consult one of our British citizenship lawyers for further advice.
A British naturalisation application must be supported by two referees, each of whom must have known you for at least 3 years and one of whom is a professional.
Your referees must also be:
- a British citizen (for preference);
- aged 25 or over;
- not related to you;
- not related to the other referee;
- not your solicitor or agent.
Referees are not deemed acceptable if they have been convicted of an imprisonable offence during the last 10 years.
The application is made by way of an application Form AN, which must be submitted with the relevant fee and supporting documentary evidence.
The application can be made online and supporting documentation uploaded to the Home Office via a UKVCAS (UK Visas and Citizenship Application Service) portal.
In both cases the applicant must attend an appointment to provide their biometrics through UKVCAS.
Failure to comply with the biometric enrolment request within the allotted time can result in the rejection of your application. As British naturalisation solicitors we will manage this process for you to ensure that you do not miss any key deadlines.
Once the application has been lodged, technically an individual can travel overseas without affecting the chances of success as a result of exceeding particular levels of absence from the UK.
However, it is important to note that Home Office officials can request submission of an individual’s passport during the consideration British citizenship process and excess absences from the UK after submission could potentially lead to questions about whether the individual intends to make the UK his principal home.
Furthermore, the Home Office can request the original documents be provided within a specified period.
It is not possible to provide a comprehensive list to support an application as this will depend on the individual circumstances of the applicant.
Applicants should be prepared to provide the following documents:
For a more definitive guide to the documents required to support an application for naturalisation as a British national we, of course, recommend you seek advice from an immigration lawyer or one of our specialist British citizenship solicitors so that we can evaluate your case and provide a more comprehensive list pertaining to your circumstances.
The Home Office charge processing fees for naturalisation applications which vary depending upon the nature of the application.
The Home Office fee for a typical British naturalisation application is £1349.20.
If your application is refused, the Home Office will retain the majority of your application fee but will refund the £80 citizenship ceremony element.
The Nationality Directorate is currently taking approximately 2-6 months to process British naturalisation applications, however this timescale can vary greatly depending upon COVID-19, staffing levels and the number of applications received.
Once the Home Office have approved the application for naturalisation a letter will be sent inviting the applicant to register to attend a citizenship ceremony at a local authority. The Home Office asks that contact to arrange the ceremony be done within 21 days of the letter, although this procedural aspect is not strictly adhered to.
The applicant must attend a citizenship ceremony within the permitted time frame which is ordinarily 90 days from the date of the invitation letter. Please note that due to COVID-19 this has been temporarily extended to 6 months.
A private citizenship ceremony can be booked for a fee, subject to availability.
The applicant will need to take an oath of allegiance during the short ceremony whereafter the Certificate of Naturalisation as a British citizen will either be handed over or sent by post.
You can then apply for your first British passport by completing a paper or online form and sending supporting documentation. In our professional experience, this is relatively straightforward and does not normally require assistance from an immigration solicitor. he