To successfully apply for naturalisation as a British citizen involves meeting a number of legal requirements. If you fail to meet all these requirements, your application may be refused.
What are your options on having British citizenship refused?
Having your British citizenship application refused can be hugely frustrating. After the time and cost of making the application, a naturalisation refusal will mean you won’t be able to apply for a British passport and you won’t have the right to vote.
There is no legal right to appeal citizenship decisions under the British Nationality Act 1981, or the regulations made under it. But if your application has been refused and you believe that the decision was not soundly based on law, policy or procedure, you may be able to request that the decision is reconsidered by the UK Home Office. The letter which notified you of the decision should explain the reason(s) why your application was refused.
The Home Office may also occasionally re-open an application, where refusal is due to official error. However, the circumstances here are limited, for example, where a caseworker:
- Hasn’t used the correct requirements or requisite criteria to decide the application.
- Has failed to take account of relevant information or documentation in their possession.
- Has refused an application for lack of response to their enquiries, when a response had been received but not linked to the application.
- Has decided an application without allowing sufficient time for completion of enquiries.
How will a refusal decision be reconsidered by the Home Office?
As with your initial application for naturalisation, reconsideration of decisions to refuse citizenship will be assessed by the Home Office according to the following key questions:
Are the statutory requirements as set out under the British Nationality Act 1981 met? These requirements are legal requirements, so they cannot be ignored by Home Office caseworkers. However, whilst some requirements must be satisfied in full — known as ‘unwaivable’ requirements — there may be some discretion in relation to others. Still, if requirements haven’t been met, and discretion cannot be exercised by law, then the application for citizenship must be refused and the decision will not be reversed.
If the statutory requirements haven’t all been met, is there any discretion not to apply the requirement in question or to vary the extent to which it’s applied? Where discretion exists under the rules, it must be applied by Home Office caseworkers in accordance with agreed policy guidance that covers most eventualities. In this way, the exercise of any discretion is said to be undertaken in a consistent and rational way. However, just because discretion may be allowed, this doesn’t mean that it has to be exercised, and many applications are refused because they don’t meet the additional criteria for the exercise of this discretion.
If the additional criteria set out in the agreed policy on the exercise of discretion haven’t been met, has citizenship previously been granted to someone outside of the policy in the same or similar circumstances? The number of applications that are granted exceptionally by Home Office caseworkers is extremely limited, and a worthy case might not necessarily match those exceptional cases that have already been (re)considered and granted.
If no-one else has been granted citizenship in the same or similar circumstances, are the applicant’s circumstances sufficiently compelling, and so different from others that have been refused, to justify consideration to grant and create a further precedent? Additional consideration may be given in rare cases, although the utmost caution will always be exercised by caseworkers to ensure that granting citizenship, even exceptionally, doesn’t empty the legal requirements of their meaning. If the circumstances are not sufficiently compelling, then the application for reconsideration will not be granted.
What is the process to ask for a refusal decision to be reconsidered?
When applying for reconsideration of a decision to refuse British citizenship, you’ll need to provide the following details using Form NR:
- Your full name and address
- Your date of birth
- Your Home Office reference
- Your email and telephone number
- The name and address of any solicitor or agent representing you.
You’ll also need to set out why you disagree with the refusal decision. Form NR specifically focuses on the following questions here:
- Was your application refused because you’d not provided requested information, but you believe that this had in fact been provided by the due date?
- Do you believe that the refusal decision was reached prematurely, before you were able to supply all relevant documentation?
- Do you believe that the refusal decision was incorrect according to law?
In relation to the first two questions, where relevant, you’ll need to provide evidence of when any requested information was sent or what steps you’d taken to contact the Home Office to ensure that you were allowed sufficient time. If your request for reconsideration is instead based in law, you’ll need to specify which requirements have been assessed incorrectly, with reference to the British citizenship (nationality guidance).
Finally, you’ll need to sign the form, declaring that the matters contained within it are correct. Making a false declaration so as to gain British citizenship is a criminal offence punishable by up to three months imprisonment, a £5000 fine, or both. Having signed the declaration, you must submit the form, together with the relevant fee and documentation in support.
Will your naturalisation fee be refunded if citizenship is refused?
The total fee payable to initially apply for naturalisation as a British citizen (at the time of writing) is £1330, including an £80 citizenship ceremony fee, plus an additional £19.20 to have your biometric information taken. These fees are prescribed in law, which means that only part may be refundable if applications are unsuccessful or withdrawn.
If British citizenship is refused or withdrawn, you’ll be entitled to a refund of the citizenship ceremony fee, as this is only payable if you’re actually required to attend. However, you’ll not be entitled to a refund of the fee for handling and processing your citizenship application, nor a refund of the biometric enrolment fee.
When asking the Home Office to reconsider any refusal decision, there’s 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 your application for citizenship is approved.
How can I maximise the prospects of a successful outcome?
Naturalisation is not an automatic entitlement. It’s a matter of law as contained within the 1981 Act and its’ associated regulations. This means that the UK Home Office may exercise discretion to naturalise you, but only if you satisfy the various statutory requirements. It’s therefore important to ensure that you meet all these requirements before applying or, where you potentially fall short, to provide an adequate explanation on application to persuade the Home Office that its discretion should be exercised in your favour.
The onus is very firmly on you, as the applicant, to demonstrate that you satisfy the legal requirements, or any additional criteria, or otherwise merit exceptional consideration for British citizenship. It’s not for the Home Office to prove that you don’t meet the requirements. This means that, when asking the Home Office to reconsider a decision, a persuasive argument, with cogent evidence in support, will need to be submitted with your application.
In many cases, having lived in the UK for a period of 5 years, or 3 years as either the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen — and having passed the Life in the UK test and, if needed, obtained an English qualification — many applicants feel assured in applying for citizenship. Sadly, most applications that fail do so because applicants have overlooked the additional residence requirements that must be met. To qualify for naturalisation as a British citizen, applicants are required to demonstrate close links with, and a commitment to the UK. The additional residence requirements form a significant part of proving this, including:
- Presence in the UK at the very start of the qualifying period: you must’ve been physically present in the UK on the first day of either the 3 or 5-year qualifying residential period, with no discretion for the Home Office to overlook this requirement.
- Absences from the UK throughout the qualifying period: if you’ve applied on the basis of marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen, you must not usually have had more than 270 days outside the UK in the 3-year period before making the application. Otherwise, you should not have exceeded more than 450 days absences in the 5-year qualifying period.
- Absences from the UK in the final year: regardless of the basis upon which you’re applying, under either the 3 or 5-year route, you must not usually have more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12-month period prior to the date of your application.
- Breaches of immigration law in the qualifying period: you must have been in the UK legally in the 3 or 5-year qualifying residential period before making the application. This means you must’ve had the necessary permission under UK immigration laws, for example, by not overstaying, and complied with any requirements to be in the UK.
- Immigration time restrictions: you must’ve been free from immigration time restrictions on the date of application under either the 3 or 5-year route, and free from immigration time restrictions for the 12-month period prior to the date of application under the 5-year route.
If a statutory requirement is ‘unwaivable’, there will be no grounds for reconsideration on the basis that the decision was incorrect in law. However, if there are special circumstances, some discretion may be exercised in relation to a number of the residence requirements, including excess absences from the UK, immigration breaches, and even immigration time restrictions in the last 12 months, provided you’re free from these restrictions on the date of application.
Most refusals could be avoided if applicants had ensured that they satisfied and addressed in their application all the necessary requirements. To maximise the prospects of a successful outcome on reconsideration, you should therefore secure expert advice to help you identify the best possible basis upon which to persuade the Home Office that its’ discretion should be exercised in your favour. Having had British citizenship refused once, your advisor can also assess, if and when, any fresh application for naturalisation is likely to be successful.
There are many reasons why UK naturalisation applications are refused. Whether you have received a refused citizenship application and are unsure of your options, or are preparing your application and want to optimise your chance of success, we can help.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration advisers, supporting individuals throughout the naturalisation process, from initial applications through to options to challenge the Home Office decision. If you have a question about a refused British citizenship application, contact us.
Refused British citizenship application FAQs
What happens if your citizenship application is rejected?
A rejection, in contrast to a refusal decision, is where no substantive consideration of a citizenship application has taken place, for example, because you’re simply not eligible to apply for citizenship.
Can you appeal a citizenship refusal?
Even though there’s no legal right of appeal of citizenship decisions, if you believe that the decision was not soundly based on law, policy or procedure, you can ask for that decision to be reconsidered by the UK Home Office.
What happens if my citizenship application is denied UK refund?
If your citizenship application is denied, you’ll not usually be entitled to a refund of the fee for handling and processing your application, or your biometric enrolment fee, but you should be refunded the £80 cost for the citizenship ceremony.
Who can be stripped of British citizenship?
You can be stripped of British citizenship, also known as deprivation of citizenship, if you obtained citizenship by fraud, or if you’re deemed to pose a threat to national security, for example, as an extremist, terrorist or serious organised criminal.
Last updated: 30 December 2021