For individuals who do not automatically hold British nationality by birth or descent, the most common route to getting British citizenship is through naturalisation.
Naturalisation is a Home Office application process requiring applicants to evidence that they meet the British citizenship eligibility criteria.
British citizenship application process
In addition to completing the form, you will also need to compile and submit extensive documentary evidence proving your eligibility.
The application is then submitted to UK Visas & Immigration for processing.
You will also need to submit your biometric information and pay the current application fee.
Check you’re eligible!
Before starting your naturalisation application, you should first check that you are eligible:
- You must be at least 18 years old (see below for applications for children).
- You must have lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years and held a permanent residence card if an EEA national or indefinite leave to remain if a non-EEA national for at least 12 months prior to making your application.
- You must not have spent more than 450 days outside of the UK during the 5-year qualifying period.
- You musy not have spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 month period immediatly preceding your application.
- You must meet the ‘good character’ requirement. Factors such as criminal history, financial affairs (eg paying taxes) and whether you have breached any immigration laws will be examined.
- You must intend to continue your residence in the UK.
- You meet the English language standard and have passed the Life in the UK test.
What is the Life in the UK test?
It is possible to resit if you fail, but you will have to wait 7 days to take the test again.
If you passed this test as part of your ILR application, you will not have to resit the test provided you can show your pass certificate.
Exempt from the test are applicants who are under 18 or over the age of 65, or where have applied for exemption due to a long-term physical or mental condition.
How to get British citizenship for children
Children must also meet the main eligibility criteria, including being of good character where they are aged over 10. They will not however need to sit the Life in the UK test.
How to get British citizenship as the spouse of a British national
If you marry a British national, you will not automatically attain British citizenship. You will need to make an application to naturalise.
As the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, provided you satisfy the general eligibility requirements, you can apply for British citizenship as soon as you are granted indefinite leave to remain, or permanent residence if you are an EEA national. This means you do not have to wait a further 12 months before becoming eligible to get British citizenship.
You will also have to have lived in the UK for a minimum of 3 years prior to making your application. During this qualifying period, you must not have been out of the country for more than 270 days, or 90 days in the 12 months prior to your application.
How long does it take to get British citizenship?
Naturalisation applications can take up to 6 months in total to process, or longer if there are complications with your application, such as requests for additional information – making it even more important to ensure your initial application and supporting documents are comprehensive.
You may also be asked to attend an interview, where you will be asked questions about your application.
British citizenship ceremony
If your application is successful, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony, organised by your local council. There is a fee to pay for the ceremony.
During the ceremony, you will make an oath of allegiance, promising to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the United Kingdom and you will receive your certificate of British citizenship.
Once you have received your certificate, you will have 5 days to send your biometric residence permit back to the Home Office.
How to get a British passport
Once you have received your certificate of naturalisation, you can use this to apply for your first British passport.
If you intend to apply for a British passport straight after naturalising, you may want to consider using the Nationality Checking Service.
Delivered by local authorities, the service allows you to apply for citizenship and a passport at the same time.
The process is to prepare your application, attend a local authority centre and pay the application fee. Not all authorities offer this service however, so you would need to confirm availability in your area.
Dual citizenship is allowed in the UK, meaning you will not under British law be required to relinquish your original nationality once you attain British citizenship.
However, you would need to check the position in your home country, as not all countries permit their citizens to hold dual nationalities.
Do you need help applying to get British citizenship?
Attaining British citizenship is a life-changing process. You gain the right to vote and access public services and funds and also to apply for a British passport.
With so much at stake, and given the cost of making a naturalisation application, ensuring your submission is complete, comprehensive and accurate will be critical to avoiding delays or even refusal. A common area of confusion for example is the supporting evidence that should be submitted.
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.