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British citizenship gives you the right to remain in the UK for the rest of your life. You can live, work, study, claim benefits and apply for a British passport. Understand the requirements for UK citizenship, fees, and processing time.
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British Citizenship Guidelines
You can become a British citizen either by birth or you can apply for naturalisation if you are aged 18 or over. To be eligible to become a British national, you need to prove that you have been in the UK on Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status for at least three years, and that you have never broken UK law, including immigration breaches.
Once your permanent residence status request is approved, you can live, work and study in the UK permanently, without any immigration restrictions. You will also be able to travel and spend time abroad without the need to worry about losing your status.
To learn more about how to get settled status in the UK, you can get in touch with our team of professional immigration lawyers.
How can I become a British citizen by Naturalisation?
Naturalisation is the process by which you can apply for British Citizenship if you were not born in the UK. To be eligible, you must be 18 years old or over and satisfy certain conditions. You must not have any serious or recent criminal record nor have broken any UK immigration laws during your time in the UK. Most importantly, you must have lived in the UK as a settled person (holding Indefinite Leave to Remain) for at least twelve months.
Those who are married with British citizens, can submit their application for naturalisation after three years of continuous residence as a settled person.
Before you apply for naturalisation, you must also ensure that you meet additional requirements. Your total number of absences from the UK must not exceed a specific time frame, especially during the last year of your qualifying period, when you cannot spend more than 90 days outside the UK. It is also essential to satisfy the English language requirements unless you are exempt.
To apply for British citizenship, you can complete the relevant Home Office naturalisation form. The application process usually takes from three to six months. If your application is approved, you will receive an invitation to attend a Citizenship ceremony to obtain your Certificate of Naturalisation.
What documents do I need to register for British Citizenship?
When submitting your request to become a British citizen, it is essential to prepare an adequate portfolio of documents to demonstrate that you meet all the residency requirements. This will help the Home Office evaluate your case and speed up your processing time.
The following are the documents that you must send to the Home Office to get British citizenship:
- Evidence of your identity and permanent residence status, such as your passport, birth certificate or any valid travel document.
- Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), residence card, or any proof that you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status..
- Evidence of your previous immigration status and your right to remain in the UK, including any visa that you held before you settled in the UK.
- Proof of English language and knowledge of life in the UK. You will receive a valid pass certificate after completing both the Life in the UK Test and the ESOL language exam. If you have already completed the Life in the UK Test when you obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain, you do not need to resit the exam.
- Evidence of lawful residential presence in the UK during the qualifying period. As a resident of the UK, you must have always respected all the immigration laws.
- Travel details of any period of absence that you have spent outside the UK. To become a British citizen, you need to show that you have not been absent from the UK for more than 450 days during the five year residence period
- Proof showing that you are free from UK immigration time restrictions and you have the right to remain in the UK.
- You meet the good character requirement and you have never been in breach of any UK immigration laws.
- Proof that you have exercised treaty right in the last 3 or 5 years, depending on your immigration status. To this end, you can provide letters confirming your current employment, bank statements or letters from your education establishment.
What are the British Citizenship requirements?
Based on the British Nationality Act, those who wish to apply for Naturalisation must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be over the age of 18.
- Have spent at least 5 years of continuous residence in the UK, with no longer than 450 days outside the UK.
- Have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK for at least 12 months.
- Meet the B1 CEFR level English language requirements (unless exempt).
- Pass the Life in the UK Test, to show that you are aware of the basics of the British customs, traditions and culture.
- Not have been in breach of any UK immigration rules.
- Demonstrate that they meet the Good Character requirement.
The “Good Character” requirement
To qualify for British citizenship, you must demonstrate your “good character”. This means that you must not hold any severe nor recent criminal record. The Home Office will also review any criminal offence committed overseas and UK immigration-related issue. On the other hand, the UKVI will take into accounts any contributions that you may have made to society.
What are the immigration routes for British Citizenship registration?
According to your circumstances, there are several routes you can follow to register as a British citizen.
- British Citizenship by Birth or by Descent. You may automatically be recognized as a British national if you were born in the UK after 1st January 1983. However, you may also be eligible if you were born abroad from at least one parent who is a British citizen or settled person.
- British Citizenship by Marriage. To apply for British nationality as the spouse or civil partner of a UK citizen, you must first have spent at least 3 years in the UK as a settled person (either holding Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status).
- 5-year route. After 5 years of residence in the UK, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. After another 12-month period as a settled person, you are allowed to submit your application for British nationality. The same applies to EU and EEA citizens on the EU Settled Scheme.
- Citizenship for “stateless” individuals. If you are “stateless” and are thus not recognized as the citizen of any country, you may be eligible to be a British citizen. Both your eligibility and the application process you need to follow depends on the country where you were born.
- Nationality for those who renounced it. If you gave up your British Citizenship, you may eventually be allowed to resume your status.
What are the differences between British Citizenship and ILR?
Both ILR (including permanent residence and EU Settled status) and British nationality give you the right to live, work and study in the UK free from immigration controls. However, these are two distinct status.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
You can apply for ILR after five years of continuous residence in the UK. Once you get this status, you will be officially a British settled person, and you will be able to live permanently in the UK, access public funds, be joined by your family and leave and re-enter the country without the need to apply for a visa.
Holding ILR is a mandatory step before you can naturalise in the UK as a citizen. However, it is essential to note that you can lose your ILR status if you live outside the UK for more than two years.
British nationality will grant you full rights and responsibilities, including the ability to vote in parliamentary and local elections and to obtain a British passport. Most importantly, you will be able to leave the UK for unlimited periods of time without worrying about losing your status.