British Citizenship Refused?

british citizenship refused


If your British citizenship application is refused, depending on the circumstances, your options could include challenging the decision or making a fresh application.

Attaining British citizenship can provide you with benefits such as the right to hold a British passport and unrestricted entry to the UK, free from immigration controls. It will also allow you to participate more fully in the life of your local community, including the right to vote and to stand for public office.

Perhaps most importantly, naturalising as a British citizen will formalise your identity in the UK, giving you the same citizenship as your loved ones and cementing your status and future in Britain. Having British citizenship refused can therefore significantly impact your sense of identity, as well as your civic rights in the UK and your ability to freely come and go without restriction.

It can also be hugely frustrating to be refused after the time and expense invested in making your application.

The following guide for naturalisation applicants looks at the reasons for British citizenship refusal decisions, together with the options potentially available to applicants, including the right to ask the UK Home Office to reconsider their citizenship decision using Form NR.


Why are British citizenship applications refused?

British nationality law, as contained mainly within the British Nationality Act 1981, sets out the different requirements for naturalising as a British citizen. Unless there is scope for some discretion to be exercised in the applicant’s favour by Home Office caseworkers, naturalisation applications will be refused for any failure to meet these statutory requirements. This could include, for example, a failure to meet the qualifying residence requirement as a result of prolonged absences from the UK, or where an applicant has been convicted of a serious criminal offence and fails to meet the good character requirement.

Most refusals of citizenship applications could be avoided by ensuring your submission and supporting documents fully evidence that the legal requirements have been met. In some cases, the refusal may be due to official error.

Your decision letter from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) should explain the grounds for your citizenship refusal. UKVI is the division of the UK’s Home Office responsible for the issuance of visas and for making British citizenship decisions.


What are your options if your British citizenship application has been refused?

If your British application has been refused, your options generally are either to request a reconisideration of your original application or to make a new application for naturalisation:


1. Reconsider the original application

While there is no right to appeal a refusal of a citizenship decision, a request can be made by an applicant for that decision to be reconsidered if they can show the reason for the refusal was incorrect and that decision was not soundly based on either law, policy or procedure. A refusal could be due to official error in circumstances where:

  • UKVI has not used the correct requirements or criteria to decide the application
  • UKVI refused an application for lack of response to their enquiries when a response had been received but not linked to the application
  • UKVI decided the application without allowing sufficient time for a response or completion of enquiries
  • UKVI refused an application on character grounds due to a criminal conviction which was later quashed on appeal or this involved a case of mistaken identity
  • UKVI failed to take account of relevant information or documentation in its possession.

UKVI will not normally re-open an application if it was refused because the applicant had failed to respond to enquiries or to arrange a citizenship ceremony, including if this was because of an error by someone representing them. There are limited exceptions here, but only if the applicant did not receive UKVI’s correspondence because of an unexpected absence or illness, or where there are other exceptionally compelling circumstances.

UKVI will also not reconsider a refusal decision on grounds of:

  • long residence, where the statutory citizenship requirements are not met
  • convenience of having a British passport for either business or other reasons, but the requirements are not met
  • cultural reasons or for reasons connected with ancestry
  • past service in the armed forces.

When asking UKVI to reconsider any refusal decision, there is an additional charge of £372. This will be returned, minus the citizenship ceremony fee where this has already been refunded, if the decision is reversed and the application for citizenship is approved.

Taking advice on your circumstances will help you understand your options.


Form NR

If an application for British citizenship is refused and the applicant would like UKVI to reconsider that decision, they will need to complete Form NR (Request to reconsider a decision to refuse). When applying for reconsideration of a decision to refuse British citizenship, the applicant will need to provide the following details on this form:

  • their full name and date of birth
  • their Home Office reference
  • their current address and addresses for the last 5 years
  • their telephone number and email address
  • the name and address of any solicitor/agent representing them.

The applicant will also need to set out why they disagree with the refusal decision, as outlined in their decision letter, where Form NR provides the following possible options:

  • Was the application refused because the applicant had not provided requested information and they believe that this had been provided by the due date?
  • Does the applicant believe that the decision was reached prematurely, before they were able to supply all relevant documentation?
  • Does the applicant believe that the decision was incorrect according to law?

If reconsideration of a refusal decision is sought on the basis that the applicant had not provided requested information and they believe that this had been provided by the due date, they will need to submit evidence of when this information was sent. Equally, if the applicant believes that the decision made was reached prematurely, before the applicant had been able to supply all the relevant documentation, they must say what steps they had taken to contact UKVI to ensure that they were allowed sufficient time. The form provides a blank box to expand on these reasons, although an additional sheet may be attached.

In contrast, if UKVI is being asked to reconsider a refusal decision on grounds that the decision was incorrect as a matter of law, the applicant must specify which requirements have been assessed incorrectly with reference to the guide accompanying the application form (Form NR), together with UKVI’s casework instructions that can be found at GOV.UK. In particular, there is specific guidance on “Nationality policy: Naturalisation as a British citizen by discretion” dated 10 August 2023, plus certain other associated online guides.

Before submitting the completed Form NR, together with a fee of £372, the form must be signed, declaring that the matters contained within it are correct. Importantly, making a false declaration in order to gain British citizenship is a criminal offence punishable with up to 3 months imprisonment or up to a £5000 fine, or both, under the 1981 Act.

Having signed the declaration, the form and any relevant evidence must be sent to Department 73, UK Visas and Immigration, The Capital, New Hall Place, Liverpool, L3 9PP.

As with the initial application for naturalisation, UKVI will then consider:

  • Are the statutory requirements as set out in the British Nationality Act 1981 met?
  • If not, is there any discretion not to apply a particular requirement or to vary the extent to which that requirement is applied?
  • If so, are the additional criteria set out in the Home Secretary’s policy in relation to the exercise of discretion met?
  • If not, has the Home Secretary previously granted citizenship to someone outside the policy in the same circumstances?
  • If not, are the circumstances sufficiently compelling and different from any others that have been refused to justify consideration to grant and create any further precedent?

The statutory requirements are legal requirements that cannot be ignored by UKVI caseworkers when making decisions on behalf of the Home Secretary, where discretion is limited to certain requirements, but the rest — known as “unwaivable” requirements — must be satisfied in full. This means that if a requirement has not been met, and discretion cannot be exercised, the application must be refused and the decision cannot be reversed.

Even where discretion exists, this must be applied in a consistent and rational manner in accordance with the online Home Office guidance. As such, just because discretion may be allowed, this does not mean that it has to be exercised and many citizenship applications are still refused. As such, if UKVI cannot be satisfied that the statutory requirements or the additional criteria for the exercise of discretion are met, or that an application in some way merits exceptional consideration, then it is bound by law to refuse the application.


2. Make a new application for British citizenship

If an unsuccessful applicant still wishes to naturalise as a British citizen, it is possible to re-apply, although a fresh application, together with the appropriate fee, must be submitted.

There is no specific time limit for re-applying for citizenship following a refusal decision. However, to maximise the prospects of a successful outcome second time round, an applicant must ensure that they can address any reason given for the refusal before re-applying, which may mean waiting. Even if an applicant has lived in the UK for a period of 5 years, or 3 years as either the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, it is not uncommon to overlook the additional residence requirements that must be met. This includes presence in the UK at the very start of the qualifying period, where an applicant must have been physically present in the UK on the first day of either the 3 or 5-year qualifying residential period, with no discretion for UKVI to overlook this requirement.

Equally, absences from the UK throughout the qualifying period can be problematic. If an application is made on the basis of either marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen, the applicant must not usually have had more than 270 days outside the UK in the 3 years prior to making the application. Otherwise, they should not have exceeded more than 450 days’ absences in the 5-year qualifying period. Additionally, under either the 3- or 5-year route in the context of absences from the UK in the final year, there must not usually have been more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12-month period prior to applying.

If re-applying to become a British citizen, it is again important for an applicant to seek expert legal advice. Having had British citizenship refused once, an advisor can assess, if and when, any fresh application for naturalisation is likely to be successful. They can also help to prepare the application form, and to gather the necessary evidence in support, providing the applicant with the best possible chance of being approved for citizenship.


Will your application fee be refunded if citizenship is refused?

The total fee payable to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen is £1580, including an £80 citizenship ceremony fee. As these fees are prescribed in law, the applicant will only be entitled to a refund of the ceremony fee following a refusal, as this is only payable if they are actually required to attend. However, they will not be entitled to a refund of the fee for the cost of UKVI handling and processing their citizenship application.


Need assistance?

Naturalisation is not an automatic entitlement, but rather a matter of law as contained within the 1981 Act and its associated regulations. This means that UKVI may exercise its discretion to naturalise an applicant, but only if they satisfy all the statutory requirements. It is therefore important to ensure that these requirements can be met before applying or, where an applicant potentially falls short, to provide an adequate explanation within their application to persuade UKVI that its discretion should be exercised in their favour.

Importantly, the onus is very firmly on the applicant to show that they satisfy the legal requirements, or any additional criteria, or otherwise merit exceptional consideration for British citizenship. It is not for the Home Office to prove otherwise. This means that when asking UKVI to reconsider a refusal decision, a persuasive argument, together with convincing evidence in support, will need to be submitted with that application.

By seeking expert legal advice from an immigration specialist, this can help to maximise the prospects of a successful request for UKVI to reconsider its decision.

DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For expert advice on your options following a refused naturalisation application, contact us.


British citizenship application refusal FAQs

What is the refusal rate for British citizenship?

Thousands of applications for British citizenship are refused every year where, in the year ending September 2023, there were 225,458 applications submitted for British citizenship, with 181,879 successful applications. This gives a refusal rate of 43,579, just less than 20%.

What happens if citizenship refused?

If an application for British citizenship is refused, the applicant can ask UK Visas and Immigration to reconsider its decision by completing Form NR and paying the relevant fee. The fee for reconsideration of an application for naturalisation is £372.

Can I reapply for British citizenship?

If your application for British citizenship is refused, you can re-apply, provided you can rectify the reason for the refusal. For example, if you have not met the qualifying residence requirement, you may need to wait before re-applying.

Can you appeal a citizenship refusal?

There is no legal right to appeal a citizenship refusal, although in circumstances where the decision made by UK Visas and Immigration was not soundly based on law, policy or procedure, a request can be made to reconsider that decision.

Last updated: 26 November 2023


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

Contact DavidsonMorris
Get in touch with DavidsonMorris for general enquiries, feedback and requests for information.
Sign up to our award winning newsletters!
Find us on: