- What is British Citizenship?
- Who can apply for British Citizenship?
- ‘Good character’ requirement
- Routes to British Citizenship
- Documents required
- Language requirement & Life in the UK Test
- British Citizenship by Birth
- British Citizenship by Descent
- British Citizenship and ILR
- British Citizenship & family members
- When to apply for British Citizenship
- How to apply for British Citizenship
- What is Application Form AN?
- Referee to support application
- What is Naturalisation?
- British Citizenship ceremony
- Dual Citizenship
- Renouncing British Citizenship
- Frequently Asked Questions
Acquiring British citizenship is not an easy task – there can be plenty of hurdles along the way, making it ever more important to seek the most comprehensive, up-to-date legal advice.
Our team of immigration experts in Birmingham have extensive knowledge and experience when it comes to securing British citizenship for our clients; we know what makes a great application and which key errors to avoid.
Having collectively completed and submitted thousands of British citizenship applications, IAS’ immigration experts ought to be your first port of call when it comes to making your own application.
As a British citizen, you will be eligible to work, live and study in the UK indefinitely. You will also be able to access public funds as well as having the opportunity to leave the UK for an unlimited amount of time, without leaving your immigration status in jeopardy.
We know that navigating the UK’s immigration system can be an exhausting, stressful process, which is why our immigration advisors are equipped with the latest knowledge – allowing us to do the hard work for you.
What is British Citizenship?
British citizenship is often considered the final rung on the ladder to long-term residency in the UK.
British citizenship allows you to apply for a British passport and gives you the full rights of a UK citizen. It provides invaluable freedoms, allowing you to enter and exit the UK freely, without being subjected to immigration controls.
Owning a British passport also grants access to a number of countries across the globe without requiring a visa.
Additionally, British citizenship gives you the right to vote in elections and referendums, even allowing you to stand for public office.
Who can apply for British Citizenship?
Those who wish to apply for British Citizenship through naturalisation must firstly satisfy the eligibility criteria:
- You must be aged 18 or above
- You must have passed the Life in the UK Test
- You must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (settlement) in the UK for a minimum of twelve months
- You must meet the residency requirements: you must not have spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in any 12 month period and you must have been a continuous resident for at least 5 years, with no more than 450 days spent outside of the UK during that time
- You must satisfy the B1 CEFR English language requirements (unless exempt)
- You must be of good character
What does it mean to be of 'good character'?
A key requirement for those who wish to apply for British Citizenship is to be of good character.
You must establish that you will be a law-abiding, upstanding member of British society. To determine this, your criminal history will be examined; you must not hold a recent or severe criminal record.
This applies to offences committed both overseas and/or in relation to violating immigration rules.
The ‘good character’ requirement has a significant bearing on your application for British citizenship – previous criminal offences may result in the Home Office rejecting your application.
The requirement applies to anyone over the age of 10 who applies for either registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.
However, as well as evaluating any past criminal convictions or breaches of immigration law, the Home Office will also consider positive contributions to society.
This includes good behaviour such as charity work, those who have served in the armed forces, and will also assess your financial soundness.
Routes to British Citizenship
There is not one set path to securing British Citizenship, it depends entirely on your personal circumstances. The most common, however, is British Citizenship through naturalisation.
- British Citizenship by Birth/Descent: This is for those who were born in the UK after 1983, as it is no longer automatically granted upon birth. It depends on the circumstances of both you and your parents. However, the majority of those born in the UK will have British citizenship.
- British Citizenship by Marriage: This is for those who are married to a British citizen, however to qualify for citizenship via this route, you must have spent at least three years in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status.
- British Citizenship by Naturalisation: This is for those who have settled in the UK for a period of at least three years (but in most cases five years) and who have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (non-EU/EEA nationals) or Permanent Residence Status (EU nationals) for at least 12 months.
These are the key routes to British citizenship – which route you take is dependent on factors such as your ancestry, place of birth, the nationality of your partner, and your time spent in the UK. To determine which route you ought to take, our team of immigration lawyers in Birmingham are here to assist via telephone, Skype/video call, in person and online. Call IAS today on 0121 718 7022.
Documents required for British Citizenship application
Once you have satisfied the eligibility criteria, you must be able to provide the relevant documentation in order to support your British Citizenship application.
The Home Office will assess all supporting documentation within your application in order to determine whether you qualify for British Citizenship.
Some key documents required are:
- Proof of your identity: This can take the form of your passport, birth certificate, national identity card, driving licence or other specific travel documents
- A letter confirming that you have passed the Life in the UK Test and a Home Office approved qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, proving that you meet the English language requirement
- Confirmation that you were lawfully resident in the UK during the qualifying period
- Proof that you possess Indefinite Leave to Remain or Settled Status: your passport which shows permission to remain permanently in the UK and a letter from the Home Office which grants you this permission
- Proof of your previous immigration status (including prior to settling in the UK)
- Any travel details which account for absences outside of the UK
- Proof that you have been exercising your Treaty Rights in the last 3 or 5 years (if you are an EU national). This may take the form of bank statements, confirmation of employment or confirmation of studies from your educational institution.
English language requirement and Life in the UK Test
Prior to applying for British citizenship, you must meet the English language requirement and pass the Life in the UK Test. Both are crucial to achieving a successful application.
Those who have already sat and passed the Life in the UK Test whilst acquiring settlement in the UK do not need to re-sit the exam, however you must present your certificate within your application.
This similarly applies to the English language requirement; you must provide a certificate which demonstrates that you have an English language qualification at B1 CEFR or above.
The Life in the UK Test consists of 24 questions which aim to assess the individual’s understanding of British values, customs, traditions, and history in the hope that they will adapt smoothly.
The English language requirement ensures that those who wish to acquire British citizenship are able to speak English, understand spoken English and read English. There are four ways you can meet the English language requirement:
- If you are a national of a majority English speaking country
- If you have achieved a degree taught in English
- If you can demonstrate that your knowledge of English is equivalent to B1 (intermediate level) on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages
- If you can obtain a speaking and listening qualification in English for Speakers of Other Languages at Entry levels 1, 2 or 3. This must be completed at an accredited institution on a course of study which uses citizenship-based teaching materials.
Am I eligible for British Citizenship by Birth?
Since 1983, British citizenship is no longer automatically granted to those born in the UK.
To be granted British citizenship by birth, children born in the UK must have at least one parent who is either a British national or holds settled status.
This means that children born in the UK who have non-British parents will be classed as dependants and will therefore be subject to immigration controls, just as their parents are.
It is of course possible for children born in the UK to non-British parents to acquire British citizenship via a different route once they have qualified. However, they will not be eligible to acquire British citizenship by birth.
What are the requirements for British Citizenship by Descent?
British Citizenship by Descent applies to those who were born outside of the UK to parents (either one or both of them) who were British citizens at the time of birth. Those with British Citizenship by Descent are not able to automatically pass on British citizenship to any child who is also born outside of the UK.
If you were born outside of the UK on or after 1st July 2006 to a parent who was a British citizen at the time of your birth and had the right to pass on their citizenship to you, you will automatically be a British citizen.
However, for your British parent to be able to pass on citizenship to you, they must have either been born/adopted in the UK, have acquired citizenship after applying for it themselves, or must have been working as a Crown servant at the time of your birth.
What is the difference between British Citizenship and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?
While Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) allows you to live and work in the UK and means that you are no longer subject to immigration controls, there are some key differences between ILR and British Citizenship.
ILR is often thought of as a stepping stone to Citizenship, as there are still some important things you cannot do with ILR. For example, if you spend over two years outside of the UK whilst holding ILR, you will have your settled status revoked.
British Citizenship, on the other hand, is rarely revoked. You are able to work in, live in, enter and exit the UK freely forever.
Citizenship also gives you the right to vote in elections and referendums, something you cannot do with ILR. With British Citizenship, you are even able to stand for public office if you wish.
Additionally, British Citizenship, unlike ILR, gives you access to a British passport. This is an attractive factor for many, as having a British passport allows you to enter several countries without having to firstly obtain a visa.
Can I pass on my British Citizenship to my spouse and child?
There are some circumstances whereby you are not permitted to automatically pass on British Citizenship to your child.
For example, those who have acquired British Citizenship by Descent are not able to automatically pass citizenship on if their child is similarly born outside of the UK.
The rules surrounding British Citizenship by Descent are extremely complex and change depending on when you were born.
Your spouse may be eligible to qualify for British Citizenship through Marriage, however they must meet all the relevant criteria and specific requirements.
For example, they must have lived in the UK for at least three years before applying for British Citizenship through Marriage, and must have secured settled status.
Marriage to a British Citizen does not grant automatic British Citizenship; this is a process of naturalisation which must be applied for.
When can I apply for British Citizenship?
It is essential that those who wish to apply for British Citizenship have firstly acquired settlement in the UK, whether this is in the form of Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), Permanent Residence or Settled Status.
You must have held settled status for at least 12 months before being eligible to apply for British Citizenship, unless you are married to a British national – in which case it is possible to naturalise (gain British Citizenship) as soon as ILR is obtained.
Some key considerations regarding the time that you choose to make your British Citizenship application should be how long you have spent outside of the UK during your time with settlement.
For example, if you have spent more than 90 days outside of the UK during the 12-month qualifying period, you will not be granted British Citizenship. Similarly, if you are an EU citizen who holds Settled Status, you will not be eligible to naturalise as a British Citizen if you have spent more than five years abroad.
Those with ILR will not be able to acquire British Citizenship if they have spent more than two years outside of the UK, as this will result in the loss of their ILR status.
You will be required to provide details of any absences from the UK within your British Citizenship application, so it is important to note this prior to submitting an application.
How do I apply for British Citizenship?
The application process for British Citizenship can be time-consuming, costly and challenging.
You will have to complete an application form provided by UKVI and must provide sufficient supporting documentation in order for your application to be successful.
Your biometric details (photograph and fingerprint scans) must be taken at your nearest UKVCAS centre.
This may sound straightforward, however there can be many obstacles along the way. IAS’ team of immigration lawyers in Birmingham provide comprehensive, up-to-date legal advice on all areas of immigration, including nationality law.
We have a proven track record of securing British Citizenship for many of our clients.
The Home Office is stringent; inconsistencies within your British Citizenship application can cost you a successful result.
Here at IAS, we can complete and submit your application to the Home Office on your behalf for those who purchase our application package.
To enquire about this, contact our client care team today on 0121 718 7022.
What is the Application Form AN for British Citizenship?
To apply for British Citizenship, you are required to complete and submit what is known as Form AN – Application for Naturalisation as a British Citizen.
This can be completed by either yourself or by an OISC accredited agent, such as IAS’ team of immigration lawyers in Birmingham.
The form has many sections which must be completed thoroughly and accurately.
Inconsistencies and/or a lack of sufficient supporting documentation are commonly cited as grounds for refusal.
Form AN requires detailed information to assess your personal eligibility for British citizenship, such as information regarding your employment and residency.
For those who are applying to naturalise as the spouse of a British citizen, you must provide evidence of your relationship. Similarly, you will need two referees to sign the form and must provide their information.
Do I need a referee to support my British Citizenship application?
Yes, your British Citizenship application must include the details and confirmation of two referees as part of the process of British naturalisation. The reason for this is that your referees ought to verify that the information you have provided to the Home Office is factually correct and honest. Your referees must sign your Form AN, as without these signatures your application will be deemed invalid.
You are required to have known both of your referees for at least three years prior to submitting your British Citizenship application and at least one of your referees must hold a professional role such as a teacher, doctor, Minister of Religion or is a member of a professional body.
This individual does not have to be a British citizen however at least one of your referees must be of British nationality and must hold a British passport, while also being at least 25 years old and deemed a professional.
Your referees cannot be the solicitor or legal professional representing you in this case and they must not work for the UKVI.
It is important to note that your referees must not have held any criminal convictions in the previous ten years.
What does it mean to Naturalise as a British Citizen?
Naturalisation is simply the name given to the process whereby non-citizens of a country acquire citizenship. It is just one way of becoming a British citizen, since – as mentioned previously – there are different routes, such as British Citizenship by Birth and British Citizenship by Descent.
To qualify for Naturalisation in the UK, you must be over the age of 18 to apply and must have been a settled person in the UK for a minimum of 12 months. This can take the form of either ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain), permanent residence or Settled Status.
It also applies to those who are married to a British citizen and wish to become British citizens themselves. Those with a British spouse are eligible to apply for Naturalisation after three years of continuous residence as a settled person.
An essential aspect of the Naturalisation process is submitting Form AN to the Home Office; your application must provide supporting documentation and proof that you meet the English language requirement and have passed the Life in the UK Test.
Failure to provide any of these documents will jeopardise the likelihood of a successful application. Another reason your application may be refused by the Home Office is if you have spent too much time outside of the UK within a specific timeframe. For example, you must not have spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in the final year of your qualifying period.
Once you have completed and submitted your application for Naturalisation to the Home Office, it typically takes between three and six months to be processed.
This can vary, so it is crucial to submit your application with this in mind; it can be a lengthy process. Those who are successful will be granted British Citizenship and will also be invited to a citizenship ceremony where you will be given a certificate of Naturalisation.
What is the British Citizenship ceremony?
Those whose applications for British Citizenship are successful will be invited to a citizenship ceremony.
Under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, all applicants over 18 years of age who are accepted as naturalised citizens in the UK must attend a Citizenship ceremony.
This is a necessary part of the process and is a way of making new citizens feel welcomed into the British community.
You are able to take one guest to your British Citizenship ceremony however these ceremonies are not open to the public and are typically attended by the Mayor or Deputy Mayor of your specific council.
You must book your British Citizenship ceremony within three months of the date you received your invitation from the Home Office.
When you attend your Citizenship ceremony, it is essential that you bring along both written confirmation from the Register Office and your Home Office letter of invitation.
During the ceremony, you will take an Oath of Allegiance and pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom.
After this, you will receive your British nationality certificate and information on your new status and rights as a British citizen.
For those living outside of the UK, you may ask the embassy or consulate in your country of residence to hold your ceremony there.
If you are due to return to the UK within three months of the date you received your invitation from the Home Office, however, you may be able to postpone the date of your ceremony.
For help and assistance with your British Citizenship application, contact our immigration lawyers in Birmingham on 0121 718 7022.
As a British Citizen, can I hold dual citizenship?
The UK permits individuals to obtain dual nationality in the UK, meaning that you are not required to renounce any other citizenship you may hold when applying for British Citizenship. You are able to be a citizen of the UK while simultaneously being a citizen of a different country.
UK law also permits multiple citizenships meaning that it is in fact possible to acquire British Citizenship even if you already hold dual citizenship. This will not hinder your chances of becoming a British national.
From the UK’s perspective, you can acquire dual nationality without having to apply for this separately. You can simply apply for foreign citizenship while maintaining your British citizenship. However, the same rule may not apply within other nations – if you hold British citizenship, you are able to apply to become a national of a different country yet you should ensure that this country allows you to maintain your British nationality.
Some countries do not permit dual nationality and therefore would require you to renounce your British citizenship prior to applying for citizenship of that nation. You can find out whether a particular country allows for you to retain British citizenship while acquiring dual nationality by contacting the country’s embassy or consulate.
A key condition of dual nationality in the UK is that once you have been granted citizenship of a different country, you cannot receive any diplomatic assistance whilst in a different nation whereby you hold permanent residence.
Another important condition to consider is that if you apply to become a citizen of a country that does not allow dual citizenship, you will be required to give up your status as a British citizen. The same applies vice versa; if you are already a citizen of a country which does not permit dual nationality and you choose to apply for British citizenship, this may lead to losing your previously held citizenship.
You ought to inform the country from which you first obtained nationality that you intend to apply for citizenship in a different country.
Can I renounce my British citizenship?
You are certainly able to renounce your status as a British national if you wish to. This may be a route you wish to take if you are applying for nationality of a country that does not permit dual citizenship.
However, you should note that it is not necessary to renounce your British citizenship if you are applying to become a national of a country that does allow dual citizenship.
In this case, you can be a national of both countries and therefore do not need to renounce your British nationality.
Applying to renounce your British nationality will only impact your status as a British national and therefore will have no impact on the nationality of your family members. However, crucially, renouncing your British citizenship may affect the status of any future children you may have.
You are only eligible to renounce your status as a British national if:
- You already have another citizenship/nationality
- You are going to acquire another citizenship or nationality after renouncing your British citizenship
- You are over the age of 18
You must also meet the ‘sound mind’ requirement to demonstrate that you are deemed capable of making your own decisions in the eyes of the law.
If your application for the renouncement of your status in the UK is accepted, you will receive a ‘Declaration of Renunciation’. This certificate can then be used as evidence that you are no longer a citizen of the United Kingdom.
After you have renounced your British nationality, it is still possible for you to apply for the resumption of your status if you change your mind in the future.
However, in order to do so, you will be required to prove that you still have substantial connections to the UK and the Home Office will assess you in relation to the ‘good character requirements’, regardless of having previously been a British national.
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Once you have submitted form AN and have paid the necessary fees, the Home Office will begin to process your application. As a guideline, the application process can take up to six months to process but no longer than this meaning you can expect to receive a verdict within this timeframe.
Regardless of which route to British citizenship you have embarked on – whether British citizenship by marriage, descent, birth or otherwise – you will receive a decision in the same six-month timeframe. Those with Settled Status or permanent residence will not receive a quicker result than those applying for citizenship via other routes.
However, if your application for citizenship is complex, it may take longer than the six-month timeframe and therefore an individual with a more straightforward claim to British citizenship may receive a decision quicker than you. It depends on your personal circumstances and the intricacies of your case.
At present, you are unable to fast-track the citizenship process but this does not mean that you will not receive a decision quicker than the expected six-month waiting time. You may receive a decision much sooner.
While it is possible for refugees to become British nationals, there is a specific route that must be taken to do so.
There are three specific stages of this route for refugees, which is explained in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act of 2009.
These stages are as follows:
- Temporary Residence Status: You can acquire this once you are granted asylum status in the UK; it must be held for five years before applying for citizenship
- Probationary Citizenship: You can acquire this status by passing an Active Review. In order to pass the Active Review, it is essential for applicants to have passed the Life in the UK Test, to have a continued need for protection and to not hold a criminal record
- Permanent Residence status
When you submit form AN in the hope of becoming a British citizen, your application is typically processed within a timeframe of between three to six months of the Home Office receiving it.
However, for a number of reasons such as the complexity of your case and the current number of application requests received by the Home Office, you may find that your application takes longer than the expected waiting time.
Currently, there is no way to track the status of your application to become a British national online. However, you can contact the UKVI either via email or telephone and they will be able to provide information regarding your particular application and its status.
Since you do not have to provide your passport within your application for British Citizenship, you are free to leave and re-enter the country throughout the application process. You are not obliged to remain in the UK throughout this time.
Our Birmingham based lawyers are here to help with every stage of your immigration case. This includes providing legal assistance to those who do not receive the result they hoped to achieve from the Home Office.
If you have had your British citizenship application refused by the UK Home Office, our team of immigration experts are here to help.
Unfortunately, applications are often rejected by the Home Office and there are various reasons for this.
It may be that your initial application did not provide a sufficient level of supporting documentation or that there were some key inconsistencies or errors. Either way, it can be disheartening, costly and stressful to have your application rejected.
To stand the best chance of success, you need to act quickly once you have received a refusal. Your refusal letter will detail whether you are eligible to file an appeal against the decision and how long you may have to do it.
If you are eligible, one of our experienced immigration specialists in Birmingham can submit an appeal to the Home Office, while also representing you in any hearings or tribunals.
To find out more and to see how IAS can support you, call our client care team on 0121 718 7022.