Naturalisation applications are costly and you will not be refunded if your application is refused. We can help you apply for British naturalisation.
Unless you are British by descent, to become a UK citizen you have to apply to the Home Office through the process of British Naturalisation.
With British citizenship, you can apply for a British passport, vote, and live and work in the UK free from immigration controls.
Through your naturalisation application, you will need to evidence that you meet the naturalisation criteria, or your application will be refused and your fee will not be refunded.
You have to meet certain legal requirements to be naturalised as a British citizen.
You are eligible to apply for British naturalisation if you satisfy the following criteria:
You are 18 years old or over.
UK residence & valid status
You do not have excessive absences from the UK during the qualifying period. When calculating the number of days absent, the Home Office does not take into account days that were spent travelling.
You satisfy the English language requirements and have passed the Life in the UK test.
You are of ‘good character’ and do not have a serious or recent criminal record and have not broken any immigration laws or conditions while in the UK.
Lawful immigration status
You must have held valid and lawful immigration status during the qualifying residency period.
You must intend to make the UK your permanent home.
The citizenship requirements also vary depending on whether you are married to a British citizen.
If you are not relying on marriage to a British citizen, you will need to show:
If you are applying for citizenship on the basis of your marriage to a British citizen of a person with UK settled status, you will need to show: In the 12 months immediately prior to your application, you have not been away from the UK for more than 90 days
Even where certain requirements are not met, the Secretary of State has the power to deem applicants for UK citizenship as having met those requirements. This discretion can apply in relation to:
In addition,the Secretary of State may decide to waive the language and life in the UK requirements due to the applicant’s age, physical or mental condition.
Any application for British citizenship relying on discretionary consideration requires specialist advice and supporting documentation.
The following requirements cannot be waived by the Secretary of State or treated as satisfied by applicants:
You become eligible to apply for British citizenship after five years with UK settled status – either full EU settled status or Indefinite Leave to Remain, unless you are becoming a British citizen through marriage. If you are married to a British citizen or a UK settled person, you can apply to naturalise as a British citizen after three years of living in the UK and as soon as you are granted ILR, ILE or EU settled status.
If you are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, you can apply for British citizenship as soon as you are granted ILR. If you are not married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, you have to wait 12 months from the date you are granted ILR before you can make your naturalisation application.
You must be able to demonstrate you possess sufficient proficiency in one of the British languages—English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic—in order to be qualified to naturalise with British citizenship.
The UKVI only recognises and accepts official English test qualifications from authorised test centres. You must take the IELTS test (International English Language Testing System) and receive at least a B1 certificate from ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). You’ll need to pass speaking and listening examinations to demonstrate your language proficiency. Other English language credentials, including NVQs and GCSEs, are not accepted.
There are several instances where applicants won’t need to provide evidence of their language skills in order to be granted naturalisation. Some of these include:
In order to avoid having to prove your English language ability for your naturalisation application, you may need to provide an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS), which attests to the equivalency of your qualification to a UK degree and the fact that it was taught in English. This is necessary if you have studied and earned a degree abroad.
The Life in the UK Test costs £50.
You will be required to answer 24 multiple choice questions, and they will cover a wide range of subjects, such as British history, daily life, values, and traditions.
To prepare for the test, you should use the Life in the UK Handbook; this features the information about UK customs, culture and history that form the basis of the test questions.
To pass, you need to score at least 18 (75%). You can retake the exam as often as necessary to pass. Each time you take the test, you will be charged the same fee.
The Life in the UK Test will not need to be passed in order for you to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK if you have already completed it and received a certificate.
You will not need to take the Life in the UK test if you have already passed the test for a previous Home Office application such as applying for ILR.
You will not be required to take the Life in the UK Test to obtain British nationality if you are under the age of 18 or above 65. Anyone with a chronic mental disease, physical impairment, or both may apply for an exemption to the Life in the UK requirement.
According to the British Nationality Act of 1981, a person must be of “good character” in order to naturalise as a British citizen. The term “good character” is not defined in the Act, but the Home Office guidelines outline how caseworkers should evaluate this requirement. This includes a non-exhaustive list of behaviours that indicate an applicant lacks “good character,” such as criminal activity, support for terrorism, sound finances, notoriety, deception and dishonesty, and immigration-related issues.
Any application for British citizenship by naturalisation must carefully evaluate the good character criteria because even seemingly minor details can result in a refusal outcome.
If you have any concerns about meeting the good character requirement, take professional advice. Potential difficulties should be identified and addressed as part of your application for UK citizenship to avoid falling foul of the rules.
Previous offences and convictions are likely to impact your naturalisation application. The degree to which you will be affected will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of the offence(s), whether you received a custodial sentence and whether the conviction is spent. You are required by law to disclose all criminal offences as part of your naturalisation application. Failure to do so can result in a refused application and can impact any future UK applications you make.
To qualify for British citizenship, you cannot have spent more than 90 days out of the country in the 12 months immediately prior to the date you make your application.
In addition, over the five-year qualifying residency period, your total absences from the UK cannot be more than 450 days, or if you are the spouse of a British citizen, your absences during the qualifying 3-year period cannot total more than 270 days.
The timeline for applying for British Naturalisation if you are not relying on marriage or civil partnership and if you are an EU national who arrived in the UK after 1 January 2021, is typically as follows:
Year 1 – Arrival into UK
The date you arrive in the UK with lawful permission to remain for a limited period – such as under a Skilled Worker visa – is when the clock starts in your UK residency for any future ILR or citizenship application.
Year 5 – Apply for ILR
After five years of continuous residence in the Uk with lawful status, you become eligible to apply to settle permanently through ILR. Once granted ILR status, you have to wait twelve months before you become eligible for naturalisation.
Year 6 – Apply to naturalise
After living as a permanent resident with ILR for a full year, you can make the naturalisation application.
The timeline for applying for British Naturalisation if you are married to or in a civil parnership with a British citizen is as follows:
Year 1 – arrival into UK
The date you arrive in the UK with lawful permission to remain for a limited period – such as under a Spouse visa – is when the clock starts in your UK residency for any future ILR or citizenship application.
Year 5 – Apply for ILR & naturalisation
You can apply to settle in the UK indefinitely after 5 years. You must be able to show that you were living in the UK on the exact date 3 years prior to submitting your application.
Once your are granted ILR, you can apply straight away for citizenship.
EU nationals who arrived in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 have to obtain full EU settled status and have held this status for five years before they become eligible for British citizenship.
EU nationals who arrived in the UK under the new points-based immigration system must have obtained lawful status through a relevant visa, and can only become eligible for naturalisation if their visa route allows this. For example, Skilled worker and spouse visa holders can become eligible for naturalisation after five continuous years of UK residency, while those on a Start up or visitor visa are not on a path to UK ILR.
To apply for British citizenship, you have to make a formal application to the Home Office by completing the relevant application form, in most cases this will be Form AN for adults naturalising. You also have to submit all of the required supporting documentation and pay the application fee, which is £1500 from 4 October 2023).
In support of your application, you will also need to compile and submit documents to prove your eligibility.
The application form is 30 pages long and has accompanying guidance which you should read before you complete the document.
Form AN is extensive. You must fill out the form accurately and in full in order to prove your eligibility and avoid issues with your application.
The form is divided into various sections. You must include your personal information, information about your work situation in the UK, information about any dependents applying with you, and documentation of your UK residency.
If you are applying for citizenship on the basis of marriage, you will also need to provide additional documentation to prove your relationship is genuine and legal.
Additionally, information on your two designated referees must be provided. Your referees must attest to the accuracy of the information in your application form AN by signing and approving it.
You’ll need to include the following details with your Form AN:
The information concerning yourself, absences and documents that you submit in support of your application must be comprehensive or you risk the application being delayed or refused, with a loss of your application fee.
UKVI also have powers to take action where it is alleged you have made a false statement or submitted a fraudulent document.
In most cases, you will also need to attend an appointment at a UKVCAS centre to submit your biometric information.
Once submitted, UKVI will then review your submission, cross-referencing with information such as HMRC records, verifying your visa status in the UK and as well as checking for any criminal or civil matters which may disbar you.
To evidence your eligibility, you’ll need to provide extensive supporting documentation with your application form. The exact documents to provide will depend on your circumstances so it is advisable to take professional guidance on what you should submit for your application.
To illustrate, you would generally be required to provide:
You will need to provide details of two referees within your naturalisation application. Both naturalisation referees must have known you personally for at least three years. One of the referees must be a person with a professional standing e.g. accountant, police officer, chemist etc, and can be of any nationality. The other referee person should be a British citizen with a British 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.
The referee must not:
The referees are required to make a declaration and to provide the applicant with the following information to be added to the application form:
The majority of British naturalisation applications are processed in 6 months. Decisions on more straightforward and well-prepared applications can be made in as little as 3-4 months, while more complex applications can take longer than six months. Processing times will also vary based on Home Office staffing and workload.
You are permitted to leave the UK while your UK naturalisation citizenship application is being processed, provided you have retained your original passport. This means for your citizenship application, you should submit a fully certified copy of your passport and keep your original passport for travel purposes.
However, it is important to note that while your citizenship application is being processed, you remain subject to immigration control and must provide proof at the border of your permission to enter the UK, such as evidence of your ILR status. The decision to allow you to re-enter the UK will be at the discretion of border officials.
In most cases, you will need to attend an appointment in the UK to enrol your biometric data within 45 days of submitting your application for British citizenship. Failure to submit your biometric data when requested will result in your application being rejected.
The absence rule is one of the most common grounds for refused naturalisation applications.
You must not have spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in the 12 months preceding the date of your application for British Citizenship by Naturalisation.
You must also not have spent more than 450 days outside of the UK in the five years prior if you are not married to a British citizen. You must have spent no more than 270 days abroad of the UK in the three years before if you are married to a British citizen.
You can retain your passport, provided you have submitted a certified copy of your passport with your application.
Before applying to naturalise as a British citizen, you should also confirm if your existing country of nationality permits citizens to hold dual citizenship with the UK. As some countries do not permit citizens to hold two nationalities, it will be important to understand the impact of British Naturalisation on your current nationality.
If you are successful in your application for British citizenship, you will have 90 days to attend a citizenship ceremony in the UK, where you will be presented your certificate of naturalisation. Once you have the certificate, you can apply for your British passport.
The Secretary of State retains powers to deprive individuals of their British citizenship if they are found to have obtained their citizenship status through misrepresentation, fraud or failure to declare relevant information. It may also be against the law to make a false statement in order to get British citizenship.
If your naturalisation application has been refused, you will need to understand the grounds for refusal to determine your next steps, whether that is to seek a reconsideration of the decision, to resubmit the application or to make a new one. For example, was there an error in completing the form, did you pay the incorrect fee or was the application refused on discretionary grounds? Given what is at stake, taking advice can help to understand your options and how best to proceed.
British naturalisation applications commonly fail due to incorrect documentation, errors when completing the form and failing to respond to Home Office enquiries in a timely manner.
You can avoid a refused application by taking professional advice on how to make your British naturalisation application.
We understand how stressful Home Office application processes can be, and take a proactive approach to keeping you updated on the progress of your application. We take great pride in playing a supportive role to ease the pressure as you make a life-changing process.
Contact us for specialist support with your naturalisation application.
Yes, you are permitted to travel in and out of the UK while your naturalisation application is being processed.
From 4 Ocotber 2023, it costs £1500 to make a British naturalisation application. Note that Home Office fees are subject to frequent change and you should double-check the cost when submitting your application to avoid a delay or refusal on the grounds of failing to pay the appropriate fee.
Most British naturalisation applications take around 6 months to be processed. Straight forward applications may be processed quicker, while more complex applicaitons or applications requiring further information can take longer. Processing times will also vary depending on the Home Office's caseload.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we can support you through every step of the British naturalisation process, from guidance on eligibility and completing the application form to compiling the relevant supporting documents.