What are the rules on dual citizenship if you are applying to naturalise as a British citizen?
Dual citizenship refers to the status of an individual who is recognised by two different countries as holding separate and concurrent citizenship for those two different nations.
Each country, however, has its own rules relating to citizenship and the circumstances in which it recognises individuals as having nationality.
So while the UK allows its citizens to hold dual nationality, other countries – including some European nations – do not.
In this guide we explain the current position on holding British nationality and what this means if you do not want to relinquish your existing citizenship.
Benefits of dual citizenship
You will benefit from the advantages of both citizenships if you have dual citizenship. Having dual citizenship will allow you to live in both countries and travel between them.
In the UK, you will attain the same rights as any other British citizen as a dual national, including the right to:
- Apply for a British passport: Get a British passport to travel unrestrictedly inside and outside of the UK.
- UK permanent residence: Attain the right to reside, work, or study in the UK on an indefinite basis.
- Access public funds: you will be able to access benefits where eligible and utilise NHS resources without IHS charge.
- Participate in the UK democratic system: You will obtain the right to vote in the UK and to run for public office.
However, while having two nationalities has many advantages, it’s crucial to keep in mind that if you have dual citizenship, there will be more than just immigration implications to consider. For example, you may be liable to double taxation and will be bound by the laws of both nations.
In addition, the UK Government will not have powers to provide you with diplomatic assistance while you are in your other country of nationality.
UK dual nationality
Before applying for British citizenship, it will be important to understand if and how your change in nationality will impact your current citizenship. For example, if your home country allows dual citizenship with the UK, there should be no impact on your original citizenship and you will be able to hold a passport from both countries. This can provide benefits (to you and potentially your relatives) where you are travelling frequently in and out of each country, perhaps for work or to visit relatives.
In other circumstances, however, attaining British citizenship may result in automatic loss of your previous citizenship or refusal by the other government to recognise your British citizenship.
You may also need to notify your country of original citizenship of your intention to naturalise.
As each country has its own rules, it’s recommended to take advice on your specific circumstances. You should seek clarification on the rules of your country of citizenship, and whether it allows dual nationality with the UK, or if attaining British citizenship forces you to give up your original citizenship. Even where dual nationality is permitted, you should check if there are any requirements on you to notify a home country authority of your dual citizenship.
Dual citizenship & marriage rules
While some countries may automatically confer nationality rights to spouses, this is not the case in the UK.
Under UK rules, you do not automatically attain British citizenship by marrying a British citizen. Instead, you have to make an application to the Home Office, providing evidence that you meet the criteria to naturalise as the spouse of a UK citizen.
Dual citizenship & children rules
Children born overseas to British national parent(s) are usually automatically granted British citizenship, based on the rule that British citizenship can be passed down one generation.
EU citizens – does settled status or permanent residence impact nationality?
The EU settlement scheme confers equivalent of indefinite leave to remain status; it does not affect citizenship.
If you have been granted EU settled status or pre-settled status, you continue to hold your original nationality. You remain a citizen of your home country and retain the passport of your home country. You will not become a British citizen unless you make a successful application to change from settled status to British citizenship.
You are free to hold EU settled status on an indefinite basis to safeguard your lawful residence in the UK, without any necessity or requirement to proceed to apply for UK naturalisation. Should you make the decision to naturalise, you will have to meet the citizenship requirements.
Countries which allow dual citizenship with the UK
A key consideration when looking at naturalising as a British citizen will be the rules of your country of current citizenship. Some countries allow dual citizenship with the UK without restriction, whereas others permit this where certain conditions are met. Under the local laws of some countries, dual citizenship is not allowed at all, so should you proceed with your UK naturalisation application, you would be giving up your current citizenship at the point of attaining British citizenship.
The rules in this area are complicated and subject to change, so it is best to take advice on your circumstances to understand the position at the time of making your application.
Countries which allow dual citizenship with the UK include (some countries may require certain conditions to be met):
- United States
- United Kingdom
- South Korea
- South Africa
- Sierra Leone
- Sri Lanka
- Czech Republic
Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands generally only allow dual citizenship to those who acquire a second nationality by birth, but not by naturalisation.
Countries which do not ordinarily allow dual citizenship with the UK:
- Czech Republic
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Are you eligible for dual nationality in the UK?
In most cases, British citizenship is either attained by birth, through parentage, or by ‘naturalisation’. Naturalisation is a legal process through which non-British citizens can be granted British citizenship by evidencing that they meet the UK’s citizenship requirements.
This includes being:
- Aged 18 or over
- Of full mental capacity
- Having held UK settled status (either under indefinite leave to remain, permanent residence or EU settled status) for at least 12 months (unless married to a British citizen or settled person)
- Having lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years (or three years if married to a British citizen or person with settled status in the UK)
- Having been in the UK on the day five years exactly before the date you submit your application
- Not having absences from the UK for more than 90 days during the previous 12 month period and
- Not having absences from the UK for more than 450 days during the previous five year period
- Passing the English language requirement and Life in the UK test
- Passing the good character requirement
- Not having breached UK immigration rules during the qualifying residency period
- Intending to have your main home in the UK
Once naturalised as a British citizen, you can apply for a British passport. You will be able to live and work in the UK free from immigration restriction, you can access the NHS and you will gain the right to vote.
Applying for dual citizenship in the UK
To make an application for British citizenship, the main steps are as follows:
- Are you eligible? You will need to be certain you meet all of the eligibility criteria, such as holding permanent residence for 12 months (unless married to a UK resident).
- Complete the relevant citizenship application form and submit required supporting documentation.
- Pay the relevant fee(s).
- Submit your biometric data.
- Attend an interview if requested.
- Pass the Life in the UK test and/or English language test where required.
Cost of British citizenship
The British citizenship application fee is £1330 per applicant. The biometric enrolment fee is another £19.20.
Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to take the Life in the UK test which costs £50 per attempt, and the test to prove you meet the English language requirement, which can cost upwards of £150.
How long does it take to become a British citizen?
There are a number of very stringent standards that must be met before you may seek to become a British citizen. You typically needed to have lived in the UK for 5 years prior to completing your application, according to one condition based on residency.
If you submit your application and meet the requirement, you should hear back within 4 weeks to verify that your documents have been received. British citizenship application processing can take up to six months, and it might take longer if you have to provide further information or go through an interview.
If your British citizenship application is approved
If you are successful, you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony to formalise your change of status. Retain your certificate for future needs. You can then apply for a British passport, if you did not make a concurrent application to naturalisation.
Do you have to notify government authorities of your UK citizenship?
Dual citizenship is permitted in the UK, therefore having citizenship in two different countries is not problematic there. If your country of origin forbids dual citizenship, matters can quickly become complicated. If you’re unsure whether you are required to notify your home country of your intentions, it is advisable to consult an immigration lawyer. To avoid breaking the law, you should do this before beginning the citizenship application process in the UK.
Is multiple citizenship with the UK allowed?
Multiple citizenship, such as triple citizenship, is possible with the UK. Since there is no requirement under UK law to renounce or give up previous citizenship or nationality, it is possible to apply for UK naturalisation where you already hold multiple citizenships. You will of course need to check the rules of the other countries in question as this may well introduce a limit on the number of citizenships any one individual can hold.
Giving up British citizenship
If you already hold British citizenship and want to attain citizenship of a country which does not permit dual citizenship with the UK, you may look at renouncing, or giving up, your UK citizenship. This is a formal, legal process and the implications (legal, immigration, taxation etc) should be fully considered.
Citizenship is a hugely complex area of law, and with so much at stake it’s important to understand the full implications of assuming a nationality. Issues with Home Office applications can cause delays and potentially lead to a refusal and lost application fee.
Whether you are considering applying for UK citizenship or looking to understand if you or a loved one such as a child already hold British citizenship through birth and are eligible to apply for a British passport, take professional advice on your circumstances.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration solicitors. We help individuals with all aspects of the UK citizenship and settlement applications, from guidance on eligibility to support with compiling a comprehensive submission. For advice or queries about UK citizenship, contact us.
Dual citizenship FAQs
Can I hold dual nationality with the UK?
The UK allows dual citizenship, which means its nationals are in most cases allowed to have citizenship of another country at the same time. However, not all countries permit dual nationality. Some countries, for example, may regard you as having lost your nationality once you are granted British citizenship.
How do I apply for UK dual citizenship?
As a UK national, you do not need to apply for dual cnationality. You can apply for foreign citizenship and keep your British citizenship. As a non-UK national, you would need to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. This means meeting the eligibility requirements, including having self ILR for at least 5 years in most cases and passing the English language test, and make an application to the UK Home Office.
Do I obtain dual citizenship automatically after marriage?
No, British citizenship is granted automatically when you marry a UK national. You will need to make an application for British citizenship as a spouse of a British citizen or person with UK settled status.
Last updated: 3 August 2022