Call 020 7494 0118

British Citizenship (An Essential Guide!) | DavidsonMorris

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

British Citizenship

British citizenship can be acquired automatically, by registration or through the process of naturalisation where the relevant citizenship eligibility requirements have been met.

If you have lived in the UK for more than five years and hold either indefinite leave to remain, EU settled status or permanent residence, you may be eligible to apply to the Home Office to naturalise as a British citizen.

Naturalisation is a costly process and you will lose your fee if your application is refused. There is also no right of appeal. With so much at stake, it will be important to get your application right first time.

  • 12 minute read
  • Last updated: 20 November 2019

 

Contents

 

Becoming a British citizen

 

What is British citizenship by naturalisation?

Unless you are British by descent, you must apply to the UK Home Office be granted British citizenship.

Naturalisation is the process of becoming a British citizen. The application process will require you to show you meet the eligibility requirements.

To be eligible to naturalise as a British citizen, you must be over 18 years of age and have held valid status in the UK under either indefinite leave to remain, permanent residence or EU settled status for at least 12 months. If you are married to a British citizen, you can apply as soon as you are granted settled status and will not need to wait 12 months to apply.

 

What are the British citizenship eligibility requirements?


Video: Hermione Smith talks about British citizenship eligibility requirements

You are eligible to apply for British citizenship if you satisfy the following criteria:

Requirement Details
AgeYou must be 18 years old or over.
ResidencyYou have spent 3 continuous years in the UK prior to your application date (the ‘qualifying period’). Your total number of absences from the UK over the qualifying period does not exceed 270 days. Your total number of absences from the UK during the 12 months prior to application does not exceed 90 days
Immigration statusYou have held for at least 12 months Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, or as an EEA national have permanent residence in the UK or have been granted EU settled status.
Good characterYou meet the good character requirements and not have a serious or recent criminal record.
Knowledge of language and life in the UKYou must satisfy the English language requirements and pass the Life in the UK test.
Compliance with immigration rulesYou have been compliant with UK immigration rules throughout the qualifying period.
Intent to resideYou intend to remain in the UK.

 

What are the requirements for British citizenship by marriage?

If you are married to a British citizen, you will need to show:

Requirement Details
AgeYou are over 18 years of age.
ResidencyYou have not been outside of the UK for more than 90 days in the past 12 months or 270 days in the past three years or your spouse/civil partner is in the Crown or a designated service outside of the UK.
Immigration statusYou have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, or as an EEA national have permanent residence in the UK or have been granted EU settled status.
Good characterYou meet the good character requirements and not have a serious or recent criminal record.
Knowledge of language and life in the UKYou have passed the British citizenship ‘Life in the UK’ test and satisfy the English language requirement.
Compliance with immigration rulesYou have been compliant with UK immigration rules throughout the qualifying period.
Intent to resideYou intend to remain in the UK with your spouse or civil partner.

 

How can an EU national become a British citizen?


Video: Hermione Smith talks about how an EU national can apply to become a British citizen.

EEA nationals may be eligible to become a British citizen once they have been living in the UK for a period of five years or more.

As an EEA national, you can apply for British citizenship in one of two ways.

You can apply to naturalise after 12 months with EU settled status, whereby you will be required to provide evidence that you meet the residency requirements. Alternatively, you can apply if you hold permanent residence in the UK.

If your spouse or civil partner is a British citizen, you can apply to naturalise as soon as you are granted a permanent residence card.

What is the British citizenship good character requirement?

The good character requirement is a complex area and a common ground for citizenship application refusal.

Applicants over the age of 10 applying to naturalise or register as a British citizen will have to satisfy the good character requirement. This includes proving you do not have a recent criminal record and you have not tried to deceive the Home Office or breached the UK immigration rules in the 10 years preceding your application.

Previous offences and convictions are likely to affect your British citizenship application, although this does depend on a number of factors, including the type of conviction or offence. You will be required to submit details in your application of cautions, warnings, drink driving offences, fixed penalty notices and road traffic offences, civil judgments, civil penalties for illegal working and if you have been declared bankrupt at any time, details of the bankruptcy proceedings.

While full disclosure is mandatory, not all convictions may be taken into account when your application is being processed, for example where the conviction is considered ‘spent’. This could affect the timing of your application.

 

How to apply for British citizenship by naturalisation?

To apply for British citizenship, you will need to complete Form AN.

It is important to complete Form AN correctly and to submit all the required supporting documentation. Incorrect or incomplete applications will be rejected, without refund of the application fee.

You will be required to make an appointment to attend a UKVCAS centre to submit your supporting documents, fingerprints and photograph.

Your British citizenship application will be reviewed and checked by UKVI to verify your visa status, tax status and any immigration, criminal or even civil legal issues.

If you are granted citizenship, you will receive an invitation to attend a citizenship ceremony to receive your certificate of naturalisation.

How to register a child for British citizenship?

To register your child for British citizenship, you will need to complete Form MN1 and evidence they meet the relevant eligibility requirements either through birth or adoption.

A parent can apply for British citizenship under Form AN at the same time as submitting their child’s form MN1.

Parents should be aware of the possibility that the child may be considered eligible for registration, but that their own application may be refused. Section 7 of Form MN1 invites the parent to confirm that, in this event, the child should still be registered as a British citizen.

If the relevant box is not ticked, the child’s application will be treated as having been withdrawn at the point when the parent’s application is refused. The child’s application fee will not be refunded.

Once an individual reaches the age of 18, they apply for British citizenship as an adult, either by registration if they have an entitlement, or by naturalisation using Form AN rather than form MN1.

What is the process for British citizenship by registration?

In the event that you were born in the UK before 1 January 1983, typically you will be automatically classed as a British citizen and will not need to apply to register your citizenship. You can apply for a British passport as proof of your nationality.

Where you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983, and one of your parents was a British citizen or settled in the UK, you should automatically attain citizenship and can apply for a passport.

You may however need to register as British if you were born on or after 1 January 1983 and either you are under 18 and since your birth one of your parents became a British citizen, or got permission to stay in the UK permanently, or you lived in the UK until you were 10 years old or older.

You are under 18 
To apply under this route, however, you must be under 18 years old when you submit your application. Once a child reaches the age of 18 they must apply for British citizenship as adults, either by registration if they have an entitlement, or by naturalisation.

If you were born on or after 1 January 1983 and one of your parents considered the UK as their home, you may be able to register your citizenship where any of the following applied to one of your parents after your birth:

They became a British citizen
They were granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK
They were granted settled status, also known as indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme
They were granted indefinite leave to enter the UK

 

You lived in the UK until you were 10 
If you were born on or after 1 January 1983 and you lived in the UK until you were aged 10 or older, you can again register to become a British citizen if you satisfy the following criteria:You were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983
You are 10 years of age or over
You have spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in each of the first 10 years of your life, although in special circumstances the Home Secretary may make an exception to this requirement
You are of good character

 

If you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time you were born one of your parents was a British citizen or settled in the UK, you may automatically be treated as a British citizen and, therefore, will not need to apply to register for British citizenship,

Settled means living in the UK without any time restrictions. This includes people who have indefinite leave to remain, settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, permanent residence status or a right of abode.

In these circumstances, rather than applying to register for British citizenship, you can instead apply for a UK passport, or even a letter confirming your status.

British nationality guidance

 

What are the different types of British nationality?

Under UK rules, there are six different types of British nationality:

Types of British nationality: 
British citizenship
British overseas territories citizen
British overseas citizen
British subject
British national overseas
British protected person

 

Qualification and eligibility vary between the different categories, as do the requirements on whether individuals need to register or apply for their status.

Do you qualify for British nationality?

DavidsonMorris London Office

Image: DavidsonMorris London Office, Lime Street

Depending on where and when you were born, as well as your parents’ immigration status at the time of your birth, you may be able to apply to register as British.

Where a child is born overseas to a parent who is a British citizen otherwise than by descent, that child will automatically acquire British citizenship.

If born in the UK, an individual might be automatically classed as a British citizen where they meet the requirements. For example, an individual will automatically qualify as a British citizen where they were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time of their birth, one of their parents was a British citizen or ‘settled’ in the UK.

Individuals born in the UK to parents who were neither British citizens nor settled in the UK will not have acquired British citizenship by birth.

Under UK nationality rules, British citizens are classed as either having British citizenship by descent or British citizenship otherwise than by descent.

Citizens otherwise than by descent can normally pass on British citizenship through one generation to children born abroad, although the child will be unable to pass on their citizenship to subsequent generations overseas.

With British citizenship by descent, however, you cannot normally pass citizenship to children born outside of the UK, unless they were born to a parent in Crown, designated or EU service.

Even where you have not automatically acquired British citizenship, you might still be able to apply to register as a British citizen, for example, where you have another type of British nationality, or apply to become a British citizen through the process of naturalisation.

What is a British overseas territories citizen?

Whether or not you are a British overseas territories citizen, previously referred to as British dependent territories citizenship, will depend on the date you were born. If you were born before 1 January 1983, you would have become a British overseas territories citizen on that date (when the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force), where you were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) on 31 December 1982, and you had connections with a British overseas territory because you, your parents or your grandparents were born, registered or naturalised in that British overseas territory.

If you are a woman who was married to a man who became a British overseas territories citizen on 1 January 1983, you too will have become a British overseas territories citizen on that date.

If, on the other hand, you were born after 1 January 1983, you will be classed as a British overseas territories citizen where you were born in a British overseas territory, and at the time you were born one of your parents was a British overseas territories citizen or legally settled in a British overseas territory.

Finally, if you were adopted in an overseas territory by a British overseas territories citizen you will also be classed as a British overseas territories citizen, or if you were born outside the overseas territory to a parent who gained British overseas territories citizenship in their own right.

As a British overseas territories citizen, you are entitled to hold a British passport. However, unless you are also classed as a British citizen, you will still be subject to immigration controls.

As of 21 May 2002, when the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 came into force, British citizenship will have been automatically conferred on you if your British overseas territories citizenship was gained by connection with a qualifying territory. The qualifying territories are as follows:

British overseas territories citizenship: 
Anguilla
Bermuda
British Antarctic Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
The British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Falkland Islands
Gibraltar
Montserrat
Pitcairn Islands
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Turks and Caicos Islands

Where you have not automatically acquired British citizenship, you may still be eligible to register as a British citizen where you became a British overseas territories citizen after 21 May 2002 and meet certain conditions.

Who qualifies as a British overseas citizen?

Image: DavidsonMorris internal

You will have become a British overseas citizen on 1 January 1983 if you were a citizen of a CUKC, ie; citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, on 31 December 1982, and you did not become either a British citizen or a British overseas territories citizen on 1 January 1983.

As with a British overseas territories citizen, as a British overseas citizen you are entitled to hold a British passport but will still be subject to immigration controls, i.e. you will not have the automatic right to live and work in the UK.

Again, however, you may be eligible to register as a British citizen where you meet certain conditions.

Who is classed as a British subject?

You will have become a British subject on 1 January 1983 if you were either a British subject on 31 December 1948 who did not become a citizen of the UK and Colonies, a Commonwealth country, Pakistan or Ireland, in other words a British subject without citizenship, or a person who had been a citizen of Ireland on 31 December 1948 and had made a claim to remain a British subject.

If you are a woman who registered as a British subject on the basis of your marriage to a man in one of the categories above, you will have become a British subject on 1 January 1983.

As with a British overseas territories citizen and a British overseas citizen, as a British subject you are entitled to hold a British passport but will not have the automatic right to live and work in the UK.

Again, however, as with the other types of British nationality, you may be eligible to register as a British citizen where you meet certain conditions.

What is a British national overseas?

Any British overseas territories citizens from Hong Kong who hadn’t registered as British nationals overseas, and held no other nationality or citizenship on 30 June 1997, automatically became British overseas citizens on 1 July 1997.

You will have been eligible to register as a British national overseas prior to 1 July 1997 if you were a British overseas territories citizen by connection with Hong Kong.

As with other types of British nationality, you can hold a British passport but will need to register as a British citizen to acquire the right to live and work in the UK free from immigration restrictions.

What is a British protected person?

You will have become a British protected person on 1 January 1983 if you were a citizen or national of Brunei, already a British protected person or the child of a British protected person and would otherwise have been born stateless in the UK or an overseas territory.

However, you may have lost your British protected person status in circumstances where the territory you were connected with became independent and you became a citizen of that country, or you otherwise gained any other nationality or citizenship.

Again, as with all other types of British nationality, you can hold a British passport but will need to register as a British citizen to acquire any additional rights.

What are the British citizenship by birth requirements?

Under British law, not all children born in the UK are automatically recognised as British citizens.

A child will automatically qualify as a British citizen where they were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time of their birth one of their parents was a British citizen or ‘settled’ in the UK.

If the child was born in the UK to parents who were neither British citizens nor settled in the UK, the child will not have acquired British citizenship by birth.

Who qualifies for British citizenship by descent?

Under British citizenship by descent rules, individuals born outside the UK may become UK citizens where one or both of their parents, or in some cases grandparents, are British citizens.

With British citizenship by descent, however, you cannot normally pass citizenship to children born outside of the UK, unless they were born to a parent in Crown, designated or EU service.

You can be a British citizen otherwise than by descent where you were born or adopted in the UK before 1 January 1983; born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to a mother or, if your parents were married, a father, who was a British citizen or settled in the UK; born in the UK on or after 1 July 2006 where either parent is a British citizen or settled in the UK; or where you have been given citizenship after applying for it in your own right, for example, by being naturalised or registered as a British citizen.

How do you register British nationality?

If you are a British overseas citizen, a British protected person, a British subject or a British national overseas you can apply to register as a British citizen using online Form B(OS).

However, for your application to succeed you will need to satisfy a number of requirements under British nationality law.

In addition, since 4 July 2002, or 19 March 2009 if you’re a British national overseas, you must also not have renounced any citizenship or nationality, voluntarily given up any citizenship or nationality, or lost any citizenship or nationality through action or inaction.

You will need to submit documentary evidence of your British nationality, as well as evidence of no other citizenship or nationality, for example, from the country where you were born.

You will also need to enrol your biometric information, ie; a digital photograph of your face and a scan of your fingerprints, at an additional cost of £19.20.

In the event that your application is successful, and you are living in the UK and aged 18 or over, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown and to pledge your loyalty to the UK. You will then be presented with your certificate of registration as a British citizen.

Use form B(OTA) to register as a British Citizen if you live in the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory or if you live elsewhere and want to apply by post and are a British overseas territories citizen, British Overseas citizen, British protected person, British subject or British National (Overseas), where you are a British Overseas Territories citizen, a British Overseas citizen, a British protected person, a British subject (under the 1981 Act) or o a British National (Overseas), and you are of good character, and you meet the 5-year residence requirements (having spent no more than 450 days abroad during that time, and no more than 90 days abroad in the last 12 months) OR you have worked as a Crown servant at any time, for example, in the armed forces or overseas civil service OR you meet the alternative requirements for British Overseas Territories citizens.

In either case, or when using Form B(OTA), as with an application using Form B(OS), you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony if your application is successful and you are aged 18 or over.

British citizenship FAQs

What are the benefits of British citizenship?

As a British citizen, you can live in the UK permanently and free from immigration control. You can work without restriction and can access the NHS without charge. You can also apply for a British passport and will attain the right to vote.

What are the rules on British citizenship and dual nationality?

The UK does allow you to have more than one nationality. However, not all countries allow dual nationality. British citizen applicants should check if their country of origin allows nationals to hold both British citizenship and citizenship of that country. Some countries, for example, may require nationals to notify of their new citizenship status. If a country does not permit dual nationality with the UK, you should confirm if becoming a British citizen would lead to an automatic loss of your previous nationality.

How long are the British citizenship processing times?

British citizenship applications can be processed in approximately 2-3 months, but may take up to 6 months where there are complicating factors or if the Home Office caseload is high.

How much are British citizenship fees?

The Home Office fee for an adult applying for British citizenship is £1330. For children, the fee to register as a British citizen using form MN1 is £1012. Home Office fees are subject to frequent change and you should check before sending in your application. Failure to pay the correct fee can result in a delay or refusal of your application. If you make a mistake and fail to submit a relevant document, your application will be automatically refused and you will lose the fees.

How to apply for British citizenship if you have indefinite leave to remain?

One of the requirements to naturalise as a British citizen is to have held indefinite leave to remain following at least five years of residence in the UK, or three years if married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen. After 12 months with indefinite leave to remain, individuals can apply for UK citizenship by completing Form AN. Spouses of British citizens do not need to wait 12 months and can apply as soon as they are granted ILR.

Can I get British citizenship with a criminal record?

Previous offences and convictions are likely to affect your British citizenship application, although the impact will depend on the type of conviction or offence. If you are concerned about the implications of any past criminal convictions, contact us for advice as to when a conviction will become spent and when it is possible to apply for citizenship.

What is the British citizenship ceremony?

If your UK citizenship application is approved, you will receive an invitation to attend at a British citizenship ceremony where you will receive your Certificate of Naturalisation.

What happens if British citizenship is refused?

If your application is denied, you may be able to resubmit an application. However, it will be important to understand why the application failed and how this can be addressed or rectified. For example, was there a factual error in completing the form, was the incorrect fee paid or failure on discretionary grounds. Taking professional advice will ensure you approach any new application with full consideration of the initial grounds for citizenship refusal.

More To Explore

By far the most friendly and approachable lawyers we have ever used