There are different ways to become a British citizen. The most common is called ‘naturalisation’.
Before the application process for British citizenship in the UK is outlined, note that the discussion below assumes that the person applying are adult foreign nationals and that they are applying in their own right rather than through any relationship they may have with a British citizen or resident.
What is the process for applying for citizenship?
First, prospective British citizens must enter the UK legally, whether with a visa or entry clearance. However, some visas do not allow them to extend their stay once the initial period of validity expires and so will not prove a path to citizenship. On the other hand, if they have temporary leave to remain in the UK, it must be ensured that they obtain indefinite leave to remain before their temporary leave expires.
Next, the prospective citizens must satisfy residence requirements i.e. the 5-year qualifying period. Essentially, they must usually have the following:
- Lived in the UK for at least the 5 years before the date of his/her application
- Spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years
- Spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
- Had settlement (ILR) in the UK for the last 12 months if he/she is from outside the European Economic Area (EEA)
- Had permanent residence status for the last 12 months if he/she is a citizen of an EEA country – he/she needs to provide a permanent residence document
- Not broken any immigration laws while in the UK.
Further, prospective citizens must satisfy additional requirements that he or she:
- Is 18 or over
- Is of good character, for example, he/she does not have a serious or recent criminal record, and have not tried to deceive the Home Office or been involved in immigration offences in the last 10 years
- Will continue to live in the UK
- Has met the knowledge of English and life in the UK requirements
- Meets the residency requirement
Citizenship test or course
Third, the applicants must either take a citizenship test – the Life in the UK test – or take a course of combined English language and citizenship classes.
Once all the above requirements have been satisfied, the next step is to complete the application form as the prospective citizen is ready to apply for citizenship.
Ways to apply for citizenship
There are 3 ways to apply for British citizenship by naturalisation:
- Make an individual application by filling in form AN
- Use the Nationality Checking Service (NCS), which is run by local councils and they can help you make your application
- Use an agent or representative in private company or individual that can help you with your application and give you advice. Such an agent or representative must by registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OSIC). If not, the application may use some solicitors or barristers that are not registered with the OISC such as the Law Society of England and Wales.
After applicants have completed their application, a letter will be sent to applicants confirming their application and this will take up to 4 weeks. Thereafter, a decision about their application will usually be made within 6 months – some applications may take even longer.
If the application is successful, successful applicants will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony. At the ceremony, applicants will have to make an oath of allegiance (or make an affirmation) and a pledge. This means that they will promise to respect the rights, freedom and laws of the UK. At the end of the ceremony, the newly appointed citizen will then be presented with his/her certificate of British citizenship and a welcome pack.
What if an application is refused?
Applicants may resubmit an application, however it is important to understand why the application failed in the first instance and how this can be addressed or rectified, for example, an error in completing the form, the incorrect fee paid or failure on discretionary grounds.
For more information and legal advice visit Talk2Solicitors.co.uk to get expert advice from Immigration Solicitors Online.