Naturalisation applications are costly and you will not be refunded if your application is refused.
We can help you apply for British naturalisation.
British citizenship through 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.
How we can help
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.
British naturalisation requirements
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 have held settled status in the UK for at least 12 months at the time of making your application, either under Indefinite Leave to Remain, or as an EEA national with EU settled status or permanent residence in the UK.
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.
Naturalisation if you are not a spouse of a British citizen
If you are not relying on marriage to a British citizen, 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
- During this qualifying 12-month period, you have not been subject to any time restrictions on your stay in the UK
- You were present in the UK on the exact date five years prior to making your citizenship application
- During this qualifying five-year period, you have not been absent from the UK for more than 450 days
- During this qualifying five-year period, you did not breach any UK immigration laws
- You are of good character
- You have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK
- You have sufficient knowledge of the English language
- You intend to make the UK your permanent home
Naturalisation as a spouse of a British citizen
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
- You were present in the UK on the exact date three years prior to making your citizenship application
- During this qualifying 3-year period, you have not been absent from the UK for more than 270 days
- During this qualifying 3-year period, you did not breach any UK immigration laws
- On the date you are making your application, you are not subject to any time restrictions on your stay in the UK
- You are of good character
- You have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK
- You have sufficient knowledge of the English language
- You intend to make the UK your permanent home
Discretionary grounds for citizenship eligibility
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:
- The allowed absence criteria (for instance, if you were gone from the UK for more than 90 days in the year preceding to your application);
- “No time limit” requirements of 12 months;
- The requirement that at no point throughout the three or five-year qualifying period, you were in the UK in violation of immigration regulations.
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:
- To have been a resident of the UK for the first three or five years of the qualification period (although there is considerable latitude for members of the armed forces);
- Having no time limit placed on your stay in the UK (i.e., having been granted indefinite leave to remain or acquiring the right to permanent residency);
- Be of good character
When can I apply for British citizenship?
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.
Can I apply for British Citizenship as soon as I have ILR?
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.
English language requirement
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.
Exemptions to the English language requirement
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:
- Where you can provide proof that you are fluent in English or another British language by showing that you have earned a degree where the language of instruction or research was English.
- Where you are 65 years of age or older.
- Where you have a serious, long-lasting bodily or mental condition that has negatively impacted you.
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.
Life in the UK test requirement
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.
Good character 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.
Can you apply for British citizenship if you have a criminal record?
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.
British citizenship absence rules
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.
UK naturalisation timeline
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.
UK naturalisation timeline for spouses of British citizens
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.
British naturalisation for EU nationals
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.
How to make a British naturalisation application
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 of £1,330.
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:
- Personal Information – This contains details about you, such as your name and contact information, the names and contact information for your parents and partner, any pertinent employment information, and your familiarity with living in the UK.
- Residence requirements – This will contain information about your present place of residence in the UK as well as comprehensive records of any overseas trips you may have taken in the five years prior to your application. Details on permanent residency must be provided for EEA and Swiss nationals.
- Evidence of Good Character – You must disclose any details on previous convictions or criminal history. This includes any warnings you may have gotten. Even if the information concerning criminal conduct in the UK is of utmost importance, it’s equally crucial to disclose any convictions you may have gotten elsewhere.
- Referees: It’s critical that you have two officially appointed referees and are able to include complete contact and personal information for each person in form AN.
- Declaration – This is your chance to support your claim with evidence that shows you are qualified and suitable to get full British citizenship through naturalisation.
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.
Supporting documents for naturalisation application
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:
- Original passport with information on your current nationality
- IELTS certification
- Proof of Life in UK test
- Confirmation of UK residence
- Indefinite Leave to Remain authorisation or proof of you are currently no subject to UK immigration restrictions
- All of your travel documentation from the previous five years to prove continued presence in the UK
British naturalisation application referees
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:
- Be the applicant’s legal representative for the citizenship application
- Be a relation of the applicant or of the other referee being relied on in the application
- Be an employee of the Home Office
- Have a conviction for an imprisonable offence from the last 10 years for which the sentence is not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
The referees are required to make a declaration and to provide the applicant with the following information to be added to the application form:
- Their full name
- Their home address(es) for past 3 years
- Their date of birth
- Their profession
- Their telephone number
- Their email address
- Their British passport number (if British)
- Description of how they know the applicant
Naturalisation application processing time
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.
Can I travel after applying for UK citizenship?
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.
Do you have to submit fingerprints?
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.
How many days can I stay outside the UK for British Citizenship?
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.
Can I keep my passport when applying for UK citizenship?
You can retain your passport, provided you have submitted a certified copy of your passport with your application.
British naturalisation & dual nationality
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.
What happens if you are granted British citizenship?
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.
Can British citizenship be lost?
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.
Naturalisation application refused?
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 FAQS
Can you travel after submitting your naturalisation application?
Yes, you are permitted to travel in and out of the UK while your naturalisation application is being processed.
What is the British naturalisation application fee?
It costs £1,330 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.
How long does British naturalisation take?
Most British naturalisation applications take between 3-4 months to be processed. Straight forward applications can be decided within 2 months, and more complex can take up to 6 months. Processing times will also vary depending on the Home Office's caseload.
How can DavidsonMorris help?
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.