- Supporting documents
- Routes to British citizenship
- Citizenship and ILR – the differences
- Eligibility requirements
- British citizenship by birth
- British citizenship by descent
- Tracking your application
- ILR to British citizenship
- The Life in the UK Test
- The British Citizenship Ceremony
- Naturalisation form
- Application timeframe
- Dual citizenship
- English language requirements
- Renouncing your citizenship
- British citizenship by marriage
- Application referee
- The Naturalisation process
What is British citizenship?
British citizenship gives a person the ability to live, work and study in the UK without time restrictions, and provides access to both public funds and a British passport. Further to this, the restrictions on your ability to spend time outside of the country will be completely removed, meaning there is no risk of you compromising your immigration status.
In order to successfully apply for British citizenship, you must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), EU Settled Status or EEA Permanent Residence for at least 12 months. In addition, it is vital that you do not have any criminal convictions, including those for immigration-related offences.
For more information, contact our Manchester immigration lawyers on 0161 826 9783.
What documents will I need to apply?
In order to successfully apply for British citizenship, there are a number of supporting documents that need to be submitted to the UKVI. These are as follows:
- Your Life in the UK Test pass certificate: If you have successfully passed the test, you will have received a pass certificate that provides evidence of this. If you have already sat the test as part of your ILR application, it will not need to be re-sat.
- Proof of English language ability: you will receive a certificate if you have passed an accredited English language exam at level B1 CEFR or higher. The exam must be on the Home Office’s list of approved qualifications and must have been taken at an approved test centre.
- Proof that you were continuously and lawfully resident in the UK throughout the qualifying period.
- Proof of your previous immigration status. This includes all visas held prior to becoming settled in the UK.
- Travel details pertaining to any days spent outside the UK.
- Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card or any other proof that you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
- Proof of your identity and permanent residence status. You are permitted to use your passport, birth certificate or any other travel documents.
- Proof that you are not a Person Subject to Immigration Control (PSIC) and therefore have no time restrictions attached to your leave.
- Proof that you have exercised your Treaty Rights during your time in the UK. Treaty Rights pertain to a person’s involvement in the economic activity of the country. Proof can take the form of bank letters, confirmation of employment and Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS).
What are the different routes to British Citizenship?
If you wish to apply for British citizenship and become naturalised, there are a number of different routes that can be taken.
Your chosen route should be the one that best reflects your personal circumstances.
- British citizenship by marriage: to naturalise via this route, it is essential that you have lived in the UK as a settled person for a minimum of three years (‘settled’ in this context can mean ILR or EU Settled Status). You must also be the spouse or married partner of a British citizen.
- British citizenship by birth or descent: under normal circumstances, those born in the UK on or after the 1st of January 1983 or born when one of their parents was a British citizen gain citizenship automatically. There is also the British citizenship for a child born abroad route, where the child has one or more British parents.
- The five-year route to citizenship: if you are a non-EEA national who has been continuously and lawfully resident in the UK for five years, you are permitted to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. For EEA citizens, permanent residence can be applied for after the same period of time. Once ILR or permanent residence has been held for a minimum of 12 months, you can apply for British citizenship. The same rules apply for EU citizens who wish to apply for EU Settled Status – an application can be commenced after five years of continuous residence.
- Citizenship for those who are ‘stateless’: to be officially classified as ‘stateless’, you must not be a recognised citizen of any country. If these circumstances apply to you, you may be permitted to apply for British nationality. However, your ability to do this and the process you must follow is closely related to your country of birth.
- Resuming your British citizenship: if you have renounced your British citizenship, it is usually possible for it to be resumed. There is specific guidance you will need to follow in order to do this.
What are the key differences between British citizenship and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?
ILR (including EEA Permanent Residence and EU Settled Status) and British citizenship are similar in that they both enable a person to live, work and study in the UK free from immigration restrictions. However, there are some significant differences between the two.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
Once a person has been continuously and lawfully resident in the UK for a minimum of 5 years, an ILR application can be commenced. If your application is a success, you will be classed as a settled person.
This means you can live in the UK on a permanent basis, free from immigration controls. You will be able to live and re-enter freely without requiring a visa, although if you spend more than two years outside the UK, your status will be lost.
Once you become naturalised as a British citizen, you will have the full set of rights afforded to those who acquire British citizenship automatically. These include being able to vote in all referendums and elections.
You can also apply for a British passport. In addition, you will be able to spend as much time as you want outside of the country without risking losing your status.
What are the British citizenship eligibility requirements?
In order to apply for British citizenship via the process of Naturalisation, there are a number of eligibility requirements that must first be satisfied. These are:
- You must be over the age of 18;
- You must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for at least 12 months;
- You must have been continuously and lawfully resident in the UK throughout the five-year qualifying period, with no more than 450 days of absence during this time;
- You must not have breached any of the UK immigration rules;
- Providing you are not exempt, you must have passed the B1 CEFR English language requirements;
- You must have passed the Life in the UK Test. This is used to demonstrate a person’s knowledge of the culture, customs and history of the UK, and is an essential part of becoming naturalised as a British citizen.
To successfully apply for British citizenship, you must also satisfy the ‘good character’ requirement. ‘Good character’ refers to whether or not a prospective British citizen has adhered to the rule of law and generally been a good and upstanding member of society.
In order to ascertain this, your criminal history will be looked at- you must not have either a severe or recent criminal conviction.
The Home Office will look at offences that have been committed both overseas and domestically. However, positive contributions to society will also be taken into account.
What are the requirements for British citizenship by birth?
British citizenship by birth is not an automatic right given to all persons born on UK soil. Eligibility for British citizenship stems from being born in the UK and having at least one parent who is either settled in the UK or a full British citizen. For children born in the UK whose parents are both non-British, they will automatically be classed as dependents.
As a result, they will be subject to the same immigration requirements as their parents. Individuals in this situation will be able to apply for British citizenship via a different route at a later date, provided you can satisfy the eligibility criteria for your chosen route.
What are the eligibility criteria for British citizenship by descent?
To be eligible for British citizenship by descent, a person must have been born outside of the UK to at least one British citizen. This means that British citizenship cannot be automatically given to any child born outside of the UK.
For those born after the 1st of January 1983, it may be possible to acquire British citizenship by descent if you have a parent that was born in a former British colony.
Those with a British-born grandparent who served in the military may also be able to acquire British citizenship by descent.
Am I able to track the status of my application for British citizenship?
The form that is submitted when you apply for British citizenship is usually processed within three to six months of it being received. However, it should be borne in mind that this timescale is not a certainty and can vary. Factors that can influence processing times include the complexity of your case and the number of requests you receive from the Home Office.
It is not necessary for you to submit your passport alongside your Naturalisation form. As a result, you will be able to leave and re-enter the country as many times as you wish whilst your application is being processed.
As it stands, there is no means by which you can track the progress/status of your Naturalisation application online. Having said this, you are able to contact UKVI via phone or email with any questions you have regarding status of your application.
How long must I have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) before applying for British citizenship?
A person becomes eligible to apply for citizenship once they have held ILR, EEA Permanent Reside or EU Settled Status for a minimum of 12 months. However, if a person is married to a British citizen, they become eligible as soon as ILR is granted.
During the 12-month qualifying period, you are not permitted to spend more than 90 days outside of the country. You may be required to provide travel details for any periods of absence.
If you hold EU Settled Status, you will not be able to naturalise if you spend more than five years abroad. In these circumstances, you will need to spend more time in the UK to become eligible.
ILR holders will be unable to naturalise if they spend more than two years outside of the country as ILR status will be lost. For it to be regained, a new application will need to be submitted.
What should I expect from the Life in the UK Test?
The Life in the UK Test consists of 24 questions pertaining to the culture, customs and history of the UK. Most of the questions are based on information found in the Life in the United Kingdom handbook – this is provided by the Home Office and should be studied prior to taking the test.
To pass the Life in the UK Test, it is essential that you score at least 75% – this equates to 18 out of 24 questions. Passing the test is a mandatory part of the process of applying for British citizenship.
The test can be booked online. It must be booked at least three days in advance of the test being sat. There are currently around 30 official test centres in the UK, but you will only be able to choose one from the five that are closest to where you are based.
When you take the test, you will be given 45 minutes to answer the 24 questions. It is essential that you bring the same ID that you used when booking the test. You must also bring proof of address. This must display both name and postcode and be dated within three months of your test date.
If you fail to provide valid documentation on the day of your test, you will be unable to sit the test. You will also be ineligible for a refund. If the test is passed, you will be notified via a letter from the Home Office. You may re-sit the test as many times as you need to, upon payment of the test fee.
What does the British citizenship ceremony involve?
Successful British citizenship applicants who are over the age of 18 will be invited to participate in a British citizenship ceremony. The ceremony is designed to ensure that all people who gain citizenship are officially welcomed into the British community. Those who are eligible will be sent an invitation from the Home Office. The ceremony must be booked within three months of receiving this.
The ceremony itself will be organised by your local authority. Under normal circumstances, the ceremony is conducted in group format. However, it is possible to arrange a private ceremony if this would be your preference. A group ceremony costs £80. Private ceremonies are more expensive – you will need to contact your local authority to find out the exact costs.
You must bring your invitation with you to the ceremony. In addition, you are permitted to bring up to two guests. During the ceremony, you will be required to make a pledge and swear an Oath of Allegiance – this states that you will abide by the rights and laws of the UK. an affirmation can be made instead for those who do not wish to swear by God.
At the end of the ceremony, you will receive both a certificate and a welcome pack. The latter is designed to provide additional information regarding your rights as a British citizen. Those based outside the UK can attend a ceremony at a British embassy/consulate.
What do I need to know about the Naturalisation form?
When you apply for British citizenship, the process requires you to complete and submit Form AN – Application for Naturalisation as a British citizen. This is essential regardless of whether you hold ILR, EU Settled Status or EEA Permanent Residence.
Form AN has a number of sections within which you must provide detailed information – this information will be used to determine your eligibility. All sections must be completed to the highest possible standard. You will need to provide information concerning employment, biography and residency.
If applying as the spouse of a British citizen, you will need to provide evidence of your relationship. Your form should also contain the details and signatures of your two referees.
What is the expected timeframe for British citizenship process?
Once you have submitted form AN and paid the application fee, the UKVI will begin to process your application.
The form and supporting documentation does not take longer than six months to process, so you should receive a decision within this timeframe. The timeframe is the same regardless of which route you apply through – holders of EU Settled Status or EE Permanent Residence do not receive a faster decision.
There is currently no means by which the application can be fast-tracked. However, it is possible to receive a decision quicker than the expected waiting time, particularly if your application is well organised and correctly submitted.
Conversely, applications can be delayed if you fail to provide the necessary documentation. Complex cases can also increase processing time.
Will I be able to apply for dual citizenship?
As there is no legal need for other nationalities to be renounced, it is possible to apply for dual citizenship. A person can be both a citizen of the UK and a citizen of a different country. In addition, UK law also permits multiple citizenships. This means that you can apply for British citizenship even in situations where dual citizenship is already held.
UK dual citizenship does not have a separate application process. If you already hold British citizenship, you are free to apply to become a national of any nation that permits dual citizenship. It should be borne in mind that different nations have different rules in relation to dual nationality. You should therefore find out whether the country you intend to become a citizen of will allow you to maintain your British citizenship. This information can be obtained by contacting their embassy or consulate.
Before submitting your application, you should consider that you will be unable to receive UK diplomatic assistance whilst in the other country where you hold citizenship.
If you wish to submit a citizenship application in a country that does not permit dual citizenship, you will have to renounce your British citizenship prior to applying. In addition, nationals of countries that do not permit dual citizenship may lose their citizenship if they apply for British nationality. With this in mind, it is strongly advised that you inform your country of origin prior to commencing the British citizenship application process.
What are the British citizenship English language requirements?
When applying for British citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain, you must demonstrate that you have the required level of proficiency in both written and spoken English. This is achieved by passing an accredited English language exam at a minimum level B1. The test can be taken at any recognised test centre.
The Home Office only accepts English language qualifications that are certified by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). As a result, more general qualifications such as NVQs and GCSEs will not be accepted.
Certain British citizenship and Indefinite Leave to Remain applicants will be exempt from the language requirement. These are:
- Those aged 65 or over
- Those suffering a long-term physical or mental health condition
- Those who hold a degree that was studied for in English.
Applicants who studied for a degree overseas will need to prove that it was both taught in English and is equivalent to a valid UK qualification. This should take the form of an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS).
It should be borne in mind that some test qualifications only last for two years. In circumstances where a test was submitted when you applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain but has now expired, the Home Office should accept it.
Can you renounce your British citizenship?
Those who wish to renounce their British citizenship are permitted to do so. One of the more common reasons why a person may wish to do this is so they can become a citizen of a country that does not permit dual citizenship. It should be borne in mind that if you wish to become a national of a country that does allow dual citizenship, your British citizenship does not have to be renounced.
If your application for renouncement is approved, you will receive a ‘Declaration of Renunciation’ – this provides written evidence that you are no longer a citizen of the UK. Only you will be affected by your decision – a renouncement of citizenship will have no impact on the immigration status of your family members.
Only those over the age of 18 are permitted to apply for a renouncement. In addition, it is essential that you satisfy the ‘Sound Mind’ criteria. This shows that you are considered capable of making your own decisions in the eyes of the law.
Resuming your nationality
If you change your mind, it is possible to apply for the resumption of your status as a British citizen. Regaining your citizenship hinges on demonstrating that you still have substantial connections to the UK. Additionally, the Home Office will re-assess whether you fulfil the good character requirement despite you having formerly been a British citizen.
Am I able to apply for British citizenship by marriage?
You can apply for British citizenship by marriage if you are married to a British citizen and have been a continuous and lawful resident of the UK for at least three years.
Before commencing your application, there are a number of requirements that must be met:
- You must be over the age of 18
- You must have satisfied the ‘good character’ requirement and therefore be free from criminal convictions or immigration-related offences in any country
- You must have passed the Life in the UK Test – this is a vital part of a British citizenship application
- You must hold Indefinite Leave to Remain, EEA Permanent Residence or EU Settled Status for at least 12 months before commencing your application
- You must be married to a British citizen. If your partner is not fully naturalised and does not hold a British passport, you will need to pursue an alternative route to British citizenship
- You must have demonstrated the required level of ability in both written and spoken English. This can take the form of either an ESOL certificate or proof that you are from an English-speaking country.
It is essential that you prove you have been a continuous and lawful resident of the UK for a minimum of three years in order for your application to be successful.
Will I need a referee for my citizenship application?
Applying for British citizenship requires you to have at least two referees. Their purpose is to verify that all of the information you submit to the Home Office is both honest and correct.
Your application form must be signed by both of your referees. If it is not, your entire application will be deemed invalid.
You are able to choose the two referees that appear on your application. However, it is essential that they have known you for a minimum of three years. Additionally, they must not have been convicted of any criminal offences in the previous ten years.
It is mandatory that at least one of your referees holds a role of professional standing, for example, doctor, teacher, minister of religion or member of a professional body. They cannot be a solicitor or lawyer who is representing you nor can they work for UKVI. It is not essential that the chosen referee is a British citizen.
However, it is essential for your other referee to be a British citizen and a British passport holder. They must be at least 25 years old and of professional standing.
What does the Naturalisation process involve?
Naturalisation refers to the process through which a person obtains citizenship. To be eligible to naturalise, it is essential that you have satisfied the eligibility requirements and are over the age of 18. You must have been settled in the UK (ILR, Permanent Residence, Settled Status) for at least 12 months.
If you are married to a British citizen, you will be able to commence the Naturalisation process after three years of continuous residence in the UK.
Before you apply, you must be certain that you satisfy the residency requirements – in other words, you must ensure that your days outside the UK during the qualifying period do not exceed the stated timeframe. This is particularly important during the last year of the period, as you are not permitted to spend more than 90 days outside the UK. It is also essential that you pass both the KoLL (Knowledge of Language and Life) requirements and the ‘Good Character’ requirement.
In order to naturalise, you must also complete and submit Home Office Form AN. This usually takes between three and six months to be processed. If your application for British citizenship is successful, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony, during which you will receive a Certificate of Naturalisation.
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Yes, it is possible for a refugee to become British citizen, however this must be done via a specific route. The route is laid out in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act from 2009, and comprises three distinct stages.
- Temporary Residence Status: this is gained when a person’s asylum application is approved. It must be held for five years before progressing to the next stage.
- Probationary citizenship: this status is gained through passing an Active Review. To pass the Active Review, applicants must have passed the Life in the UK Test, have a continued need for humanitarian protection and be free from any criminal convictions.
- Permanent Residence status
Naturalising as a British citizen arguably constitutes the most significant step in the UK immigration process. There are a number of important criteria that must be satisfied, and it is important to get the application right at the first attempt.
Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- The ‘Sound Mind’ requirement: you must demonstrate that you are of ‘sound mind’ in order to naturalise. This is achieved by showing that you have the ability to make your own decisions and demonstrating that you understand what is involved with applying for British citizenship.
- The ‘Good Character’ requirement: evidencing that you are of ‘good character’ is an integral part of naturalising as a British citizen. It shows that you will honour and adhere to the rights and laws of the UK. satisfying the requirement hinges on demonstrating to the Home office that you are guilty of neither criminal or immigration-related offences. All applicants over the age of 10 are subject to the requirement.
- Dual citizenship: the UK permits dual nationality, and as a result, you will not need to renounce any other nationalities in order to naturalise as a British national. If you are a citizen of a country that does not allow dual nationality, you may lose your nationality as a result of applying for UK Naturalisation.
- Immigration Time Restrictions: In order to naturalise, it is essential that you have a form of leave to remain that is free from time restrictions. With this in mind, you must hold ILR prior to commencing your application.
The coronavirus pandemic has had significant changes on the UK immigration system, take a look at our COVID-19 guidance to find out how it’s affected British Citizenship applications.
Whether or not a person is eligible to become naturalised depends on the length of time for which they have been a continuous and lawful resident of the UK. Those who are married to a British citizen only need to have been resident for three years in order for a citizenship application to be commenced. However, it is also essential that Indefinite Leave to Remain has been held for at least 12 months prior to applying.
Whilst in certain cases (for example when a person is married to a British citizen) it is possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain sooner, in most circumstances it can only be applied for after 5 years of continuous and lawful residence in the UK.
Although only those aged 18 or over can apply for citizenship themselves, it is possible to register your child for citizenship in the UK. Further to this, you can include your family members on your application providing they already hold Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Children aged 13 or over can qualify for Naturalisation providing they have lived in the UK for at least two years prior to commencing their application.
If you have a child that was born in the UK before you gained Indefinite Leave to Remain, they may receive an entitlement to be registered for citizenship as soon as you become settled.
Children born in the UK to non-British parents who are already settled in the UK automatically acquire British citizenship at birth.
Once your application for British citizenship has been granted, you will be free from immigration controls and therefore permitted to apply for a British passport.
British passports are deemed the most acceptable evidence of nationality. However, if you do not have the documentation that is needed to successfully apply for a passport, you can alternatively apply for a Nationality Status Document.
Applications for British citizenship can be both stressful and complex if attempted without any legal assistance To find out how we can help, get in contact today on 0161 826 9783.
Once you have submitted form AN in the hope of becoming a British citizen, you ought to receive a decision on your application within three to six months.
If your case is particularly complex or you fail to provide the correct documentation, your British citizenship application may take even longer than this to process.
There is currently no way to track the status of your application to become a British citizen online. Having said this, the UKVI will be able to provide information regarding your case via telephone or email.
At Manchester Immigration, we understand the immense importance of being able to secure your long-term future in the UK. We recognise the monumental significance of becoming naturalised as a British citizen, and enjoying the array of benefits it brings. For these reasons among many others, we will go above and beyond to maximise your chances of an approved application.
If you opt for our services, we will:
- Prepare a Letter of Representation that maximises the strengths of your application to the Home Office, drawing attention to relevant immigration laws in support of your case;
- Complete your British nationality application form to the highest possible standard;
- Conduct a through document check to ensure you have all of the necessary paperwork in place;
- Establish that you are eligible for British citizenship;
- Ensure that you satisfy the KoLL requirements;
- Maintain a frequent dialogue with the Home Office throughout the application process.
If you wish to become a British citizen, get in contact today on 0161 826 9783.