If you live in the UK as a settled person, you can apply for British Naturalisation. You can hire one of our immigration lawyers to submit your application.
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By its definition, naturalisation is a legal process through which someone changes their nationality. Successful applicants for British naturalisation are officially considered British citizens internationally, and carry all the same rights, both nationally and internationally, as anyone born in the UK.
For a long time, people living in the UK under foreign citizenship had not been able to apply to become a full British national through naturalisation. For example, before 1844, UK naturalisation could only be granted by an official and private act of parliament. Since 1844, the costs of naturalisation have come down, and it has been dealt with directly by the Home Office itself.
At its most basic level, British naturalisation is the most commonly used route for people with foreign citizenship to apply to become a British citizen.
If you are successful and become naturalised as a full British national, you’ll gain the same rights as anyone born here. You’ll be able to live and work in the UK freely, without being held subject to immigration control or immigration laws. For a lot of people coming to the UK with the intention of finally settling here as a British national, UK naturalisation is an important final step in their immigration route.
In order to be eligible to apply for British naturalisation, you’ll have to meet certain criteria. As well as this, you’ll need to also demonstrate certain characteristics that prove you are an appropriate candidate for becoming a British subject, which might include:
Becoming naturalised as a full British national means that you no longer have to worry about making visa applications or abiding by the requirements and eligibility criteria of Indefinite Leave to Remain.
As a non-EEA citizen hoping to come from a non-European country to settle in the UK, the likelihood is that you will have to apply for naturalisation on the basis of having spent 5 years in the UK lawfully or 12 months in a settled status unless you have a claim for British citizenship based on your ancestry. However, there are different eligibility requirements to be aware of.
The eligibility requirements to file a successful citizenship application in the UK are quite strict. This is because it is generally the last step in a foreign national’s journey to earning all the same rights as people born in the UK. Crucially, this also means that you will be able to apply for an official British passport and gain all the same international travelling rights as any UK citizen.
British nationality law and immigration control is strict in general, so we always recommend seeking professional advice when assessing your eligibility. The experienced and OISC-accredited immigration lawyers here at IAS can provide comprehensive immigration advice and assistance, helping to assess your eligibility and to also help put your application together too, strengthening your chances of success.
As an adult, non-EEA national applicant seeking to become a full British national, you must have spent the required amount of time in the UK before applying. The time requirement is entirely based on your current and previous immigration status – for most applicants, you must have been living in the UK lawfully for five years, although spouses of British nationals can complete the same process after three years of living in the UK.
The full mandatory British naturalisation eligibility requirements, as stated in the British Nationality Act 1981, are that:
You have passed the Life in the UK Test, proving that you have sufficient and appropriate knowledge of British culture, tradition and customs.
To be eligible to become naturalised with British citizenship as a non-EEA adult applicant, you need to be able to prove you have sufficient knowledge of a British language, whether that be English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic.
Only officially approved English test qualifications from approved test centres are recognised and accepted by the UKVI (UK visas and immigration). This means that you have to sit an IELTS test (International English Language Test System test) and achieve at least a B1 level certificate certified by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). You’ll have to prove your language proficiency by passing both listening and speaking tests.
This also means that most other English language qualifications, such as NVQs and GCSEs, are not valid. Some of the valid qualifications also only last for around 2 years before needing to be renewed. Expired certificates won’t be accepted by the Home Office unless it was previously accepted for another immigration application, such as for Indefinite Leave to Remain or a visitor visa.
You’ll be given 24 randomly-selected questions that cover a range of different topics, including British history, everyday life, values, and traditions.
Sitting the Life in the UK Test costs £50 to sit. You can sit the test as many times as you need until you pass. You’ll have to pay the same fee each time you sit the test.
There is a Life in the UK Handbook that can be provided by the Home Office. This handbook has a lot of information on UK traditions, lifestyles, and values. Most of the questions in the test are based on information available in this handbook. It can also be downloaded as an official app for use via your mobile phone.
The minimum pass mark for the test is 75% and passing the test by this mark is mandatory for any adult non-EEA applicant for British naturalisation. You can sit the test as many times as you need to reach the pass mark.
If you have already passed the Life in the UK Test and obtained a certificate as part of your Indefinite Leave to Remain application, you will be exempt from needing to pass the test as part of your UK naturalization application.
If you are under 18 or over 65 years old and seeking British citizenship, you will also be exempt from the Life in the UK Test requirement for British nationality. The same applies to anyone suffering from long-term mental or physical illness or disability.
You are able to book your Life in the UK Test online, but you have to do so at least three days before you plan on sitting the exam. You are also required to choose one from your five closest approved test centres to sit your exam.
You’ll need to bring ID and proof of address with you on the day of your exam. If you don’t, you won’t be able to sit the exam and you won’t be given a refund for your examination fee. This is to prevent fraud and to ensure that the person who is applying is the person sitting the exam.
Upon passing the test, you’ll receive a letter of notification. You’ll have to send this letter to the UKVI alongside other material as part of your naturalisation application. You may need to send it alongside your permanent address form.
An important but sometimes confusing part of the naturalisation application process is the need for applicants to prove themselves to have a ‘good character’.
This essentially boils down to showing that you have always shown respect and abode by UK laws while in the country, while also maintaining an excellent history of abiding by the laws of other countries too.
One of the most important UK citizenship requirements is to demonstrate that in the previous years you have spent living in the UK, you have done so legally and responsibly.
Having your citizenship application approved means earning all the same rights as anyone born in the UK. Crucially, this also means being able to apply for a British passport.
For these reasons, the Home Office will scrutinise your background history, including any previous immigration status you have held, your travel history, your financial history, and any history of criminality.
British nationality law is quite strict, and these background checks are an important part of validating your legal right to seek citizenship in the UK.
Because of this, those with criminal records may find themselves considered to not have ‘good character’ and eligibility for UK naturalisation.
As a general rule, the UKVI and the Home Office will not consider applicants who have held a custodial sentence of four years or longer to be of ‘good character’, and their citizenship application will be automatically denied on these terms.
Similarly, any applicants who fail to disclose the full details of their criminal history and any relevant records with the UK authorities as part of their application will also have their application automatically refused.
You may often hear British naturalisation for non-EEA foreign national adult applicants be referred to as the ‘five-year immigration route’. This is because for this immigration route to earn full British citizenship, the naturalisation application after receiving Indefinite Leave to Remain is only the final step in earning full UK nationality. To do so, you will need to have been living legally in the UK for at least five years before applying to become a British national.
An exception to this rule is foreign national spouses of British citizens applying for naturalisation, in which case it is sometimes possible to apply after just three years of lawful residence in the UK. This process is often known as citizenship by marriage, although it still falls under applying for British nationality.
An important aspect of the residency requirements for British citizenship is that you can show that you have not only been legally residing in the UK for five or more years but that you have also spent most of this time actually in the country. Since arriving in the UK, you must not have spent 450 days or longer abroad in the five year period leading up to your application, or 270 days for the UK citizenship by marriage immigration route for naturalisation.
Further on top of this, in the 12 months/one year period leading up to your application, you must have spent no more than 90 days abroad and absent from the UK. An important criteria for the Home Office and UK immigration restrictions when applying for citizenship is that you can prove you fully intend on living in the UK after receiving your British citizenship, and if you have spent an extended period of time abroad away from the UK during your legal residence here, it may indicate to immigration controls that you actually intend to return abroad after receiving British nationality.
If you really do need to spend some significant time abroad, then you might be able to have your case evaluated by the Home Office if there are compelling grounds for your case.
Here at the Immigration Advice Service, we always recommend that people keep a thorough collection of evidence and supporting documents that detail and demonstrate the reasons for your absence each time you leave the UK. The Home Office keeps access to detailed immigration records and is capable of easily investigating the amount of time you have spent in or out of the UK, so it’s important that you are prepared to defend your case if necessary.
If you choose to submit your application to become a British citizen yourself, you’ll need to complete and submit for AN, the application for naturalisation as a British citizen.
Form AN is 30 pages long and there are also guidance notes and an accompanying supporting guidance booklet available to help assist you in completing the form.
Form An is a comprehensive form that requires detailed information about yourself. The form is split into different sections, and you will need to provide as much detail as possible to demonstrate your eligibility and improve your possibility for success. You will need to include biographical data, details about your employment status in the UK, any dependants applying alongside you, and proof of residency in the UK.
If you are applying for naturalisation as the spouse of a British citizen, you’ll need to provide plenty of evidence of your relationship. You will also need to provide details of two appointed referees. Your referees will need to sign and approve your application form AN to prove that the information is included is true and correct.
Some of the information you will need to include as part of Form AN includes:
The application for British Citizenship can be very long and complex, with a non-refundable fee. With that in mind, it’s worth making sure that you have the time to make your initial application completed to the highest standard possible before applying. A strong portfolio and application will strengthen your chances of success and help the Home Office in evaluating your case, potentially speeding the process up. Some of the documents you will need to supply include:
It can be easy to become confused or frustrated when trying to put together the full British naturalisation application. Here at the Immigration Advice Service, we always recommend that applicant seek expert legal help during this process. Fortunately, our OISC-qualified immigration lawyers have helped many naturalised citizens through their application process, helping to make sure that sufficient documentation is included.
Our application package of services is a fantastic option that will guide you through all stages of your application status and help to ensure that the Home Office is satisfied with your application.
If you have thoroughly assessed your eligibility and you feel ready and confident to begin the application process for UK naturalisation, then it’s time to begin your application. To apply for British nationality, you’ll need to complete the relevant official and certified Home Office form. This process can take between three and six months in total to complete, and upon approval, successful applicants will be invited to a citizenship ceremony at which they will be awarded their certificate of naturalisation.
To officially send your request for full British citizenship, you’ll need to complete the relevant application form AN provided by UKVI (UK visas and immigration) and submit it along with all necessary supporting documentation. You’ll also need to arrange to have your biometric information taken at a local UKVCAS (UK visa and citizenship application services) centre. This will include a photograph and fingerprint scans, and is a mandatory part of applying for British naturalisation. You don’t need to submit these documents anywhere by post, you can instead have them scanned at the UKVCAS service point you visit, or simply upload the copies into the online service.
There are two main ways to apply for British naturalisation. You can choose to either: