British Citizenship Test: Applicants’ Guide

british citizenship test

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One of the mandatory requirements when applying to naturalise as a British citizen is that applicants pass the British citizenship test to prove their understanding and knowledge of British history, culture and politics.

This is in addition to having a language qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, or its equivalent.

The questions are taken from information in the official handbook for the Life in the UK Test.

The citizenship test continues to attract criticism for the scope of topics and the random nature of the questions. Given what is at stake – the expense and time required to make a naturalisation application – applicants are advised to prepare well by familiarising themselves with the handbook.

 

Is the British citizenship test different to the Life in the UK test?

The British citizenship test and the Life in the UK test are the same; they both refer to the mandatory assessment of the applicant’s knowledge of British culture, geography, history and politics required for to make an application to naturalise as a British citizen. The test is sometimes also referred to as the Britishness test or the UK nationality test.

In addition to the British Life in the UK test, citizenship applicants may also need to pass the English language test, as we explain below.

 

What is the British citizenship handbook?

You will be tested on information in the official handbook for the Life in the UK Test.

The handbook has information about:

  • UK history
  • The British government
  • UK geography
  • Local culture

 

All questions in the test are taken at random from the handbook. It also contains sample questions and answers, as well as study guides that can help you pass the test. Practising questions from the handbook is effective in improving pass rates.

British citizenship test practice questions are widely available online and you are encouraged to practise to prepare for the test.

The handbook is available in various formats, including online as an ebook or in elearning format, as an audio book or as a printed book.

 

How many questions are on the British citizenship exam?

There are 24 multiple choice questions taken from the Life in the UK handbook, on subjects such as British customs, traditions, laws and the political system.

 

How long does the test last?

You will have 45 minutes to answer all 24 questions. You should allow two hours for being at the test centre, to allow time to arrive, verify your ID documents, to sit the test, await the results and receive your pass/fail certificate.

You will find out the result after the test and will be issued either a pass or fail certificate.

In total, you should allow 2 hours for the entire process, including identity checks on arrival and 45 minutes for the test itself.

 

What do I need to bring with me to the citizenship test?

Before you can take the test, you must first prove your identity. You will be required to take the same identity documents used to make the online appointment in order to go through an identification process when you arrive. To establish your address, You will also require proof of address in original form.

 

When will I find out my results?

You will find out the result after the test and will be issued either a pass or fail certificate.

 

What score do you need to pass the British nationality test?

You have to answer at least 18 questions correctly to pass – ie you will need to score at least 75% to pass the test.

 

What are the British citizenship test exemptions?

Anyone applying for British citizenship or to settle in the UK must take the Life in the UK test, unless you qualify under one of the following exemptions:

  • You are under 18 or 65 or over
  • You have a long-term physical or mental condition, which you must confirm with a letter from a doctor.
  • You have already passed the Life in the UK test, for example as part of your ILR application.

 

Do ILR holders have to sit the British citizenship test?

If you passed the Life in the UK test as part of your ILR application, it won’t be necessary to take the test again for your citizenship application.

You will instead submit your Life in the UK test certificate as proof you have satisfied the mandatory requirement.

 

How much is the British citizenship test?

The British citizenship test costs £50 to sit.

This fee is non-refundable if you fail, or if you attempt to book at a test centre that is not local to your home address.

 

Where do I take the British citizenship test?

There are around thirty test centres in the UK. You will be asked to select one closest to where you live. You must bring proof of your address to the test.

If the centre is not close to where you live, you will not be allowed to sit the test and you will not get a refund.

 

How do I book my British citizenship test?

Book the test online at least three days in advance of the date you want to take it. In order to book, you will need to provide a valid email address, debit or credit card and an acceptable form of ID:

  • valid passport
  • valid travel document with a photo (you cannot use an emergency travel document)
  • biometric residence permit
  • biometric residence card

If you do not have any of these documents, you should email nationalityenquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk.

Use the exact name on your ID when making your booking.

 

If you have a disability

When booking your test, you can make special requests to support with your disability when you book your test, for example if you have a disability and need extra equipment or help accessing the centre.

 

What happens if I pass the test?

If you pass, you will be able to use your Life in the UK certificate to proceed with your application for ILR or citizenship.

 

Does the British citizenship test certificate expire?

This certificate has no expiry date, and can be used for all future UK immigration applications. Keep the certificate in a safe. If lost or misplaced, you may have to take the test again if your application requires.

 

Can I retake the British citizenship test?

Yes, if you fail the test you will be permitted to resit. You will need to wait seven days to take the test again, and you will have to pay the fee each time you sit the test. There is no limit to how many times you can resit the test.

 

Does the British citizenship test certificate expire?

This certificate has no expiry date, and can be used for all future UK immigration applications.

 

Can I retake the British citizenship test?

Yes, if you fail the test you will be permitted to resit. There is no limit to th number of time you can resit the test. However, you will need to wait seven days to take the test again. You will also have to pay the £50 test fee each time you sit the test.

 

English language test

As well as the Life in the UK test, naturalisation applicants may also need to pass certain other tests to prove their eligibility for British citizenship. British citizenship applicants have to prove their English language capability and proficiency, unless they come under an exemption.

Applicants aged 65 or over and those with long-term mental or physical conditions are exempt from the English language requirement.

In addition, applicants from one of the following countries are also exempt on the basis

Because the language requirement also applies to indefinite leave to remain applications, most naturalisation applicants have already met and proven their language capability as part of their settlement application.

You must be able to demonstrate that you have sufficient knowledge of the English language, specifcally that you can read, write, speak, and understand English at the necessary level, in order to satisfy the English language requirement.

You can prove that you fulfil the English language requirement in a number of different ways, by either:

  • Taking and passing an approved English proficiency test with a score of B1, B2, C1, or C2
  • Providing documentary evidence of an English-taught or English-based degree
  • Proving you are a national of an exempt country.

Further exemptions are available for settlement applicants, but not for naturalisation applicants. As such, if you were exempt from the language requirement for your ILR application, you may still need to show your language proficiency for your citizenship application.

Failure to provide acceptable forms of evidence can result in a refused citizenship application.

 

Exempt nationalities

If you are from one of the following countries, you will not need to meet the English language requirement for British citizenship:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

If you are from a country that is not on this exemption list, you will have to prove your language proficiency, even if English is the official language of your country.

 

Passing English language test

You must take an English language exam to fulfil the requirement if you are not exempt and don’t have an appropriate degree. You will need to take an approved test that assesses your speaking and listening abilities, known as a Secure English Language Test (SELT) at the B1, B2, C1, or C2 level.

If you reside in the UK, the following companies are authorised to administer English citizenship tests:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson
  • Trinity College London

The authorised test providers for those who are not in the UK are:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson
  • PSI Services (UK)

In most situations, you have to have successfully completed your English language exam within the two years before to applying for British citizenship. When making a citizenship application, you may demonstrate that you passed the test by giving either the specific reference number assigned to the exam or a copy of your test results.

 

English language degree

If you have an English-taught degree that you can use to prove you speak the language well enough, you will not need to take an English language exam.

If you want to use your degree to satisfy the English language requirement, it must have been obtained from a UK institution or a university in a nation with an English-speaking majority.

If the degree is from the UK, you must submit your original degree certificate; if not, you must submit a copy of your degree certificate along with an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) from Ecctis attesting that your degree is equivalent to a UK qualification and an English Language Proficiency Statement (ELPS) attesting that the degree was taught in English.

 

Additional British citizenship requirements

Passing the British citizenship test and the English language test are two of the key requirements to apply to naturalise as a British citizen.

For your application to be successful, you will also need to:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be of sound mind and full mental capacity
  • Be of good character
  • Intend to live in the UK
  • Meet the residence requirement
  • Have held valid status either under UK permanent residence (for EEA nationals) or been granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK for the minimum qualifying period.

 

Good character requirement

All applicants for British citizenship must prove that they are of good character. In other words, they must demonstrate that they have always shown respect for the UK by observing its laws and fulfilling their obligations as residents.

To review your eligibility, the Home Office will scrutinise different areas of your background, including your immigration history, financial soundness and criminality.

 

Criminality

If you have a criminal record, you may still be able to apply for British citizenship, depending on the severity of the offense, when it occurred, and whether the conviction has been expunged. Your application for British citizenship is likely to be denied if any of the following apply:

  • Are a repeat offender – the Home Office will consider the number of offences you have committed, the severity of those offenses, and the length of time over which they were committed. In addition, they will consider the effect of the offences on the public and whether or not the offences escalated in severity.
  • Caused severe harm – for instance, if the crime caused physical or mental damage to the victims.
  • Have perpetrated a sexual offence

The Home Office is also likely to deny your application for citizenship on the basis of criminality in cases of:

  • A prison sentence of four years or more, regardless of how long ago the offence occurred, or
  • A prison sentence of at least 12 months but less than 4 years, and less than 15 years have elapsed since your release.
  • You served less than one year in prison and less than ten years have passed since your release.
  • A non-prison (non-custodial) sentence or “out-of-court” disposition recorded on your criminal record within three years of your application for citizenship.
  • A suspended sentence is the same as a non-custodial sentence in immigration parlance.

Following the UKVI’s guidance, applicants who hold a custodial sentence of more than four years will not be considered as good characters, and their application will be rejected. Failure to disclose your full criminal history and relevant records with UK authorities will translate into your naturalisation or registration being refused.

According to the UKVI’s guidelines, convictions abroad will be considered only if in line with an equivalent sentence in the UK. In other words, if your conviction is for an offence that is not recognised by UK law because there is no comparable offence, your case may fall under the exceptional grant. As a consequence, your application will not be refused unless you have other convictions that can jeopardise your good character.

Failure to disclose any conviction abroad will result in your application being rejected, unless you can demonstrate that you did not know about it. If you are concerned about any issue that may negatively impact on your eligibility to become a British citizen, take advice.

Fixed penalty notices, penalty charge notices, and disorderly conduct penalty notices do not appear on a person’s criminal record and therefore do not ordinarily result in denial of citizenship.

The Home Office will also consider whether you have been convicted of terrorism or international crimes, such as crimes committed during armed conflict, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide, or whether you are subject to an international travel prohibition. These must be included in your application.

 

Financial soundness

When evaluating your character, the Home Office will consider whether you have:

  • Been declared insolvent – if this occurred more than ten years ago, you may be eligible for citizenship.
  • Participated in the liquidation/wind-up of a company e.g., through an informal arrangement, CVA, or administration.
  • Not-repaid public debts – such as NHS debts exceeding £500.
  • Participated in fraud involving public funds – e.g., claiming benefits to which you were not entitled.

 

Deception/dishonesty

Your application for citizenship is likely to be denied if you attempted to deceive the Home Office or another government agency. This includes falsely claiming benefits, gaining access to services to which you are not entitled (such as accommodation), and providing false information to a government agency. If you have been dishonest on your citizenship application or any other immigration application within the past ten years, your citizenship application is also likely to be denied due to your lack of moral character.

 

Notoriety

The Home Office may deny your application for British citizenship if you are deemed “notorious” for any of the following:

expressing objectionable views on race, religion, or sexual orientation in public, engaging in persistent antisocial behavior, contaminating the environment, or persistently and deliberately flouting the law are examples of criminal conduct.

 

Violations of immigration regulations

If the Home Office believes that you have violated their regulations, they may deny your application for citizenship. This could occur, for instance, if you worked when you were not authorised to, if you violated the terms of your visa, if you employed illegal workers, or if you overstayed your visa.

 

Residence requirement

The residency requirement is outlined in Schedule 1 of the 1981 British Nationality Act. The primary purpose of the residency requirement is to allow an applicant to demonstrate close ties to the United Kingdom and to enable the Secretary of State to evaluate the applicant’s commitment to the country and, ultimately, their suitability for citizenship.

The residency requirement for British citizenship naturalisation is:

  • The applicant must have been physically present in the United Kingdom five years prior to the application for naturalisation (or three years if married to or a civil partner of a British citizen);
  • In the 12 months immediately preceding the date of application, the total number of absences from the UK should not exceed 90 days.
  • The applicant must not have been in breach of immigration law in the five years (or three years) preceding the date of application.

This means since your first day in the United Kingdom, you must not have spent more than 450 days abroad in five years with lawful status (or 270 days if you are applying for UK citizenship through marriage). Additionally, you cannot have been out of the country for more than 90 days in the preceding 12-month eligibility period.

Primarily, the residence requirement will be evaluated using the applicant’s passport or travel document, which has been endorsed with arrival and departure date marks from the United Kingdom, and/or Home Office records. The Home Office acknowledges that passports may not be stamped to indicate departure from the United Kingdom if the absences cannot be proven by other means (such as flight or hotel reservations). Consequently, if there are no grounds for doubting the veracity of the claim, the applicant should be granted the benefit of the doubt.

The dates of departure from and arrival in the United Kingdom are not to be considered as absences, per section 50(10)(b) of the British Nationality Act of 1981.

If you must spend time abroad, your case may be evaluated on the basis of compelling reasons. Due to the fact that the Home Office has access to various immigration records to investigate the amount of time you have spent in the United Kingdom, it is recommended that you retain any evidence or documents that demonstrate the reasons for each of your absences.

 

Spouses of British citizens

Marriage to a British citizen does not automatically grant the non-UK spouse British citizenship.

You must have been living in the UK as a permanent resident for at least three continuous years prior to the date of your application in order to be eligible for British citizenship by marriage. This would usually be through holding either one of the following:

To satisfy the residence requirements you must not have had more than 270 days outside the UK in the 3-year period, and you must not have had more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months immediately preceding the date you submit the application.

You will be unable to apply for citizenship as the spouse of a British citizen if your British citizen spouse has died. Take advice on your circumstances as you may qualify under alternative routes.

 

British citizenship referees

You must provide two references with your application for naturalisation.

Referees must provide the Home Office with certain personal information and endorse a declaration.

There are laws regarding who can serve as an official. Your referees must have known you for at least three years, and they cannot be family members, agents, attorneys, or Home Office employees. If they have been convicted of a crime within the past decade, they are also ineligible to serve as a referee until a certain amount of time has elapsed. For both references, the referee must have known you for at least three years.

One must have “professional standing” On the gov.uk website, a comprehensive catalogue of government-approved occupations is available. Examples of occupations include, but are not limited to, accountant, attorney, chemist, local or county councillor, dentist, director of a VAT-registered business, journalist, member of parliament, optometrist, police officer, social worker, solicitor, and union official. This referee may be from any country and is not required to be a British citizen in order to act as a reference for your application.

Different requirements apply to the second referee, who must be a British citizen at least 25 years old or a professional.

The Home Office requires applicants to provide references who satisfy the necessary qualifications. If it turns out that one of your references does not meet these requirements, your application may be delayed.

 

What if your British citizenship application is refused?

There are many reasons why a British citizenship application could be refused. Not meeting the residency requirements, having a criminal record, or failing the “good character” examination are among the most common reasons:

  • Failure to meet the residence requirements – you must have lived in the United Kingdom for at least five years.
  • Failure to meet the language requirements – you must demonstrate the sufficient level of proficiency in either English or Welsh.
  • Not meeting the “good character” criteria – you must be of excellent character, which includes the absence of a criminal record.
  • Not passing the British citizenship test – you will not be successful in your naturalisation application if you fail to pass the Life in the UK test.

 

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris is a law firm specialising in UK immigration. We help individuals through the naturalisation process and provide guidance on completing the form and compiling supporting documentation. If you have a question about an application for British citizenship, please contact us.

 

British citizenship test FAQs

How hard is the British citizenship test?

It is advisable to prepare for the test by using the official Life in the UK test and practising potential questions. You can retake the test as many times as you need, but you will have to pay test fee for each sitting.

How many questions are on the British citizenship test?

There are 24 questions on the Life in the UK test. You have to get 18 correct to pass.

Which test do I need for UK citizenship?

British citizenship applicants have to pass the Life in the UK test. This is a computer-based multiple choice test about UK laws, history, culture and politics.

Does life in UK test expire?

There is no expiry on the Life in the UK test, while the English language test results last for two years.

What is the pass mark for British citizenship test?

You have to score at lease 18 out of 24 to pass the British citizenship test.

What happens if you fail the British citizenship test?

You will not be able to make your naturalisation application until you pass the British citizenship test. You will need to retake the test until you get the required pass score.

How to avoid Life in the UK Test?

There are limited exemptions to the British citizenship test. Home Office guidance says there is discretion to waive the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirement if, because of a person’s physical or mental condition, it would be unreasonable for them to meet it. THis would apply in cases where the appplicant is suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts their ability to learn English or prepare for the Life in the UK test, or has a mental condition which prevents them from speaking or learning English to the required standard.

Last updated: 18 September 2023

Author

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 500 and 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.

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