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British Naturalisation – FAQs

Becoming a British citizen entitles you to vote, to apply for a British passport and to live and work in the UK free from immigration control. Unless you are British by descent, you will need to make an application to be granted British citizenship, by proving you are eligible for British naturalisation. Applications can be made by individuals who are married to a British citizen, or by individuals who meet certain criteria for naturalisation.

Given what is it stake – not least the application fee – it’s important for applicants to approach the process with an understanding of what the Home Office is looking in a successful application.

What do we mean by ‘British Naturalisation’?

British naturalisation allows non-British citizens to become British. For most migrants, the ultimate aim is to become a British citizen so that they can settle permanently and travel in and out of the UK with ease. The process of naturalisation is therefore the way in which you obtain the status of British citizenship.

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How can you qualify for British naturalisation?

There are two main routes to British naturalisation qualification; the 5 year route and the 3 year route.

The 5 year route for British Naturalisation 

Typically, in order to qualify under this route you will need to have been in the UK lawfully for 5 years and for one of those years you must have held the status of indefinite leave to remain (or Permanent Residence for EEA nationals and their family members).

As with all the immigration categories you will have previously been in, there are residence requirements that you must meet. You must:

  • have lived in the UK for at least 5 years before the date of your application
  • spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years
  • spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • been granted indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence and held this for at least 12 months, as mentioned above
  • not broken any immigration laws while in the UK

Note that EEA nationals will typically need to have spent 6 years in the UK in order to qualify for British naturalisation.

The 3 year route for British Naturalisation 

Alternatively, if you are the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen you will be eligible to apply after 3 years in the UK. The residence requirements are as follows:

  • have lived in the UK for at least 3 years before the date of your application
  • spent no more than 270 days outside the UK during those 3 years
  • spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • been granted indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence
  • not broken any immigration laws while in the UK

What other requirements are there?

No matter which route you qualify under, there are additional, mandatory requirements on applicants. You must:

  • be over 18 (there are separate provisions for children)
  • be considered to be of good character – this is a hugely complex area, and the ground cited in the majority of citizenship refusals
  • have met the knowledge of English language and life in the UK – this is a two part test that involves you passing the Life in the UK test and meeting the English language requirement as a separate limb
  • be of sound mind. This means you must be capable of making decisions for yourself

What date can you apply?

It is often forgotten, but it is extremely important that you submit your application of a day when you were physically present in the UK at the beginning of the five year period. This means that if your application is submitted on, say, 1 August 2015, you must actually have been in the UK on 1 August 2010 or 2012 for spouses and civil partners.

Travelling whilst the application is under consideration

You are allowed to travel whilst your application has been submitted.

Previously, certified copies of your passport and BRP were accepted. Now you are required to submit your original BRP with the application which of course inhibits travel. The upside to this is that you are able to request your BRP back from the Home Office in order to travel.

It is important to stay in contact with your legal representative whilst you are travelling as you may be required to attend an interview before the application is submitted.

As well as that, your application might be approved and you will have a limited time in order to arrange your citizenship ceremony.

Completing the application form

For many people completing the application form can be challenging. There are a number of questions, designed to determine your intentions and assess your suitability for British naturalisation.

Absences

The first hurdle that we reach is the section titled Residence Requirements where you are required to detail your absences from the UK in the past 3 or 5 years depending on which route you qualify under.

You are expected to insert:

  • the dates that you left the UK
  • the date your returned
  • where you went
  • your reason for going there; and
  • how many days you were absent

It is the last column, how many days absent, that tends to prove a problem.

It is important to note that when calculating the number of days absent, the Home Office does not take into account days that were spent travelling.

Example: You travelled to the Bahamas for a holiday on the 1 May 2012 and returned on 15 May 2012. The total number of days absent would be 13, not 15. Similarly if you went to France for the day i.e. travelled on 23 March 2013 and came back the same day, or even the 24 March 2013, this would count as 0 days absent. You will still need to list the travel on the schedule.

Referees

This is an important part of the application form that must be completed correctly. This page requires you to get two people, who have known you for at least 3 years. One of those people must be a person of any nationality with a professional standing e.g. accountant, police officer, chemist etc.

The other person must normally be a British citizen with a British citizen passport and either be a professional person or be aged over 25.

Both referees must sign and complete the same page with a passport picture of you attached. You cannot use two separate pages.

Supporting Documents

It is essential that you submit the right documents with your application. Failure to do so will result in a refusal.

The very basis of the application is proving your residence in the UK for the last 3 or 5 years (or 6 years for EEA nationals). Therefore it is essential that you document your presence in the UK. How else will the Home Office know what you’ve been doing for the past few years if you do not show them? This includes showing your economic activity, any studying you have done etc.

If you’re applying on the basis of your marriage/civil partnership with a British citizen, it is vital that you produce evidence of your relationship i.e. your marriage certificate.

British naturalisation – How we can help

At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to advise you on the most appropriate type of application for your individual circumstances and have the insight to make the British naturalisation application process as smooth as possible.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient management and processing of British citizenship and British naturalisation applications.

 

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