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From ILR to Citizenship in the UK

  • 16 minute read
  • Last updated: 12th November 2019

 

If you have indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and are looking to naturalise as a British citizen, the following guide looks at the process of making an application to change your status from ILR to citizenship, from the requirements that must be met to common reasons for refusals.

 

This article covers:

 

What are the differences between ILR and citizenship?

There are 6 categories of UK nationality:

  • British citizen
  • British overseas territories citizen
  • British overseas citizen
  • British subject
  • British national (overseas)
  • British protected person

 
Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is the permission granted to a non-EEA national to live and work in the UK indefinitely, free from immigration restrictions.

That said, the grant of ILR does not provide you with the same rights and entitlements as a British citizen. In particular, although you will be permitted to remain in the UK on a permanent basis, you run the risk of losing this status if you leave the UK for a continuous period of more than two years. In contrast, British citizenship is for life.

Furthermore, having become naturalised as a British citizen, in addition to being allowed to apply for a British passport, this will provide you with the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of your local community and UK life generally, including the right to vote in local and general elections.

 

When can you apply for citizenship with ILR?

Having been granted ILR, this will put you on the pathway to becoming naturalised as a British citizen. In other words, having held indefinite leave to remain for a qualifying period, and subject to meeting the relevant requirements for citizenship, you can apply for naturalisation.

Typically, you can apply for British citizenship by way of naturalisation if you are aged 18 or over and have held indefinite leave to remain in the UK for a period of 12 months. However, as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, you will be eligible to naturalise as a British citizen as soon as you have been granted ILR.

 

British citizenship requirements

Naturalisation is not an absolute entitlement, rather a decision will only be made to grant British citizenship where you can evidence that you satisfy certain statutory requirements.

The requirements for naturalisation as a UK citizen will differ depending on whether you are applying on the basis of your marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen, or otherwise.

If you are applying to naturalise as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, you will need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • Be aged 18 or over
  • Be of full capacity
  • Have sufficient knowledge of English and about life in the UK
  • Be of good character
  • Have lived in the UK for a minimum of three years before applying and meet the other residence requirements

 
If you are applying to naturalise other than as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, you will need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • Be aged 18 or over
  • Be of full capacity
  • Have sufficient knowledge of English and about life in the UK
  • Be of good character
  • Intend to continue living in the UK
  • Have lived in the UK for a minimum of five years before applying and meet the other residence requirements

 

What are the residence requirements?

To meet the residence requirements you must be able to prove that you were in the UK exactly five years before the day of receipt of your application by the Home Office, save except where you are applying as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, in which case this period is reduced to three years.

In addition, you must not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the five year period before making your application, reduced to 270 days in the qualifying three year period for spouse or partner applications, nor more than 90 days in the last twelve months ending with the date of the application.

You must also be free of immigration time restrictions on the date of application, and must not have been in breach of the immigration rules during the residential qualifying period. In other words, you must have had the necessary permission throughout this period to be in the UK legally.

That said, if there are special circumstances, the Home Office may exercise some discretion over immigration breaches and time restrictions, as well as any excess absences, for example, where these are as a result of exceptionally compelling reasons of either an occupational or compassionate nature.

 

Good character requirement

The good character requirement is not statutorily defined but, in broad terms, to satisfy this requirement you must have shown respect for the rights and freedoms of the UK, observed its laws and fulfilled your obligations as a UK resident. This includes not having a recent or serious criminal record, where criminal record checks will be carried out for all applicants.

In particular, if you have a conviction within the relevant sentence based threshold you are unlikely to be accepted as a British citizen. By way of example, an application will normally be refused for any custodial sentence of more than four years, regardless of when the conviction occurred, or for any non-custodial offence where the conviction occurred within the last three years.

Every application for naturalisation will be considered on an individual basis on its own merits by a Home Office caseworker. As such, in addition to any criminal convictions, various other key areas will be assessed, including any deception and dishonesty in previous immigration applications.

 

KoLL requirement

The KoLL requirement refers to ‘knowledge of language and life in the UK’. As part of the application process, applicants need to show they have a commitment to respect the laws, values and traditions of the UK as well as having knowledge of life in the UK and the ability to communicate in English.

You can satisfy the KoLL requirement if you have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test, a requirement of indefinite leave to remain, together with evidence of your proficiency in English by way of either one of the following:

A UK degree or other academic qualification taught or researched in English and deemed to be equivalent to a UK degree or higher
An approved English speaking and listening qualification.

If you are a national of a majority English-speaking country you will not be required to obtain any English language qualification, although you will still be required to show that you have passed the Life in the UK test.

You may also be wholly exempt from the KoLL requirement if you are aged 65 or over, or have a long-term physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting this requirement.

 

ILR to citizenship application process

To be naturalised as a British citizen you will need to apply to the Home Office either online or using Form AN, submitting your supporting documentation and application fee of £1,330. You will also be required to enrol your biometric information as part of the application process at an additional cost of £19.20. This will include a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face.

When you apply online, you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information. You can also have your documentation in support of your application scanned at your UKVCAS appointment or, alternatively, you can upload copies through the online service.

If you are applying by post you will need to forward your documentation at the same time, so you will be without your passport until a decision is made.

The documentation you will need to provide in support of your application will depend upon your individual circumstances. At the very least, however, this will need to include the following, although this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Your passport and any existing biometric residence permit
  • Documentary evidence of your marriage or civil partnership where applying as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen
  • Documentary evidence of your lawful residence
  • Documentary evidence of your knowledge of language and life in the UK, or medical evidence in support of any exemption where applicable.

 
Having submitted your citizenship application you will usually get a decision within six months, although some applications can take longer. The Home Office will inform you if you need to provide further information.

 

What does the ILR to citizenship application process involve?

To be naturalised as a British citizen you will need to apply to the Home Office either online or using Form AN, submitting your supporting documentation and application fee of £1,330. You will also be required to enrol your biometric information as part of the application process at an additional cost of £19.20. This will include a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face.

When you apply online, you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information. You can also have your documentation in support of your application scanned at your UKVCAS appointment or, alternatively, you can upload copies through the online service.

If you are applying by post you will need to forward your documentation at the same time, so you will be without your passport until a decision is made.

The documentation you will need to provide in support of your application will depend upon your individual circumstances. At the very least, however, this will need to include the following, although this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Your passport and any existing biometric residence permit
  • Documentary evidence of your marriage or civil partnership where applying as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen
  • Documentary evidence of your lawful residence
  • Documentary evidence of your knowledge of language and life in the UK, or medical evidence in support of any exemption where applicable.

 
Having submitted your citizenship application you will usually get a decision within six months, although some applications can take longer. The Home Office will inform you if you need to provide further information.

 

What happens once a citizenship application has been granted?

In the event that your application is successful, you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony. You will receive an invitation from the Home Office confirming the local authority you should contact to arrange your ceremony.

You must book the ceremony within three months of being sent your invitation. You will also need to pay an additional fee of £80 to attend a group ceremony. You can ask for a private ceremony, although this will cost you more.

If you do not attend the ceremony within 90 days without good reason, your application for citizenship will be refused and you will need to re-apply.

During the ceremony you will be required to affirm or swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and to pledge your loyalty to the UK. This means you promise to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK. At the end of the ceremony you will be presented with your certificate of naturalisation under British citizenship.

Importantly, within 5 working days of receiving your certificate of British citizenship, you must send your biometric residence permit back to the Home Office, otherwise risk a financial penalty of up to £1,000.

 

When can an application be made for a British passport?

Once you have concluded the ILR to citizenship process and have your certificate of British citizenship, you can use this to apply for a British passport. You can either apply online or by post. This will cost £75.50 when applying online and £85 when applying using a paper form.

In support of your application, in addition to your naturalisation certificate, you will also need to provide the passport you used to come into the UK.

 

Common grounds for citizenship application refusals

Given that naturalisation is not an absolute right, you are not guaranteed the grant of citizenship, even where you appear to meet all the requirements.

Further, although the Home Office may be able to exercise some discretion in some cases, for example, in respect of immigration breaches or excess absences, you will need to provide detail of any special circumstances when you apply, together with additional evidence in support.

In fact, one of the most commonly cited reasons for being refused an application for citizenship is a failure to provide sufficient documentation or to adequately respond to further queries.

As such, to maximise your prospects of a successful outcome, it is always best to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist experienced in applications for ‘ILR to citizenship’. In this way, any potential problems can be identified prior to submitting your application for naturalisation and, where necessary, additional documentation collated and submitted in support.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are experienced UK nationality and immigration law specialists. We advise and support individuals making a Home Office nationality application, including naturalisation applications to change your status from ILR to citizenship. For professional guidance and help with your application, contact us.

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