Naturalisation as a British citizen

Have you spent 5/3 continuous lawful years in the UK? Do you have indefinite leave to remain in the UK? If so, you may be eligible for British Citizenship.

When embarking on the citizenship route it is important to remember that naturalising as a British citizen is a privilege rather than an entitlement.

The Home Secretary will exercise their discretion to naturalise you but only if you satisfy a number of statutory requirements.

They may disregard the extent to which you are unable to fully satisfy certain requirements but cannot do this in all cases.

Do you qualify?

You will on qualify if you can demonstrate that you satisfy certain legal requirements and the Home Secretary thinks fit to naturalise you.

The requirements for naturalisation as a British citizen differ depending on whether or not you are applying on the basis of marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen. 

  1. If you are married to or the civil partner of a British citizen, section 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 will apply and the legal requirements to be met will be as follows:
  • you must be aged 18 or over when you apply
  • you must be married to or the civil partner of a British citizen on the date of application
  • you must be of sound mind
  • you must be able to communicate in English (or Welsh or Scottish Gaelic) to an acceptable level
  • you must have sufficient knowledge about life in the UK
  • you must be of good character
  • you must have lived in the UK for a minimum of 3 years* before you apply and meet the following residence requirements:

The Residence Requirements

  • You must have been physically present in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands on the day 3 years before the application is received by the Home Office

For instance, if your application is received on 04/01/2018, you should have been physically present in the UK on 04/01/2015.

A lot of applications that are rejected are so because applicants have applied even though they cannot satisfy the residence requirement to be present in the UK at the beginning of the residential qualifying period.

  • You must not have had more than 270 days outside the UK in the 3-year period before making the application (but see the section on Absences)
  • You must not have had more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12-month period before making the application, (but see the section on Absences)
  • You must be free of immigration time restrictions on the date of application
  • You must not have been in breach of the immigration rules in the 3-year period before making the application

 

Some discretion may be exercised over excess absences and immigration breaches if there are special circumstances.

If you do not meet these residence requirements but believe that there are special circumstances in your case, please contact us.

  1. If you are NOT married to or the civil partner of a British citizen, Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981) will apply and the following legal requirements will have to be met:
  • You must be 18 or over when you apply
  • You must be sound mind
  • You must intend to continue to live in the UK,
  • You must be able to communicate in English (or Welsh or Scottish Gaelic) to an acceptable level
  • You must have sufficient knowledge about life in the UK
  • You must be of good character
  • You must have lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years before you apply and meet the following residence requirements.

 

The Residence Requirements

  • You must have been physically present in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands on the day 5 years before the application is received by the Home Office. For example, if your application is received on 04/01/2018 you should have been physically present in the UK on 04/01/2013.

A lot of applications that are rejected are so because applicants have applied even though they cannot satisfy the residence requirement to be present in the UK at the beginning of the residential qualifying period.

.• You must not have had more than 450 days outside the UK in the 5-year period before making the application.

  • You must not have had more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12-month period before making the application.
  • You must be free of immigration time restrictions on the date of application, and have been free of immigration time restrictions for the 12-month period before making the application.
  • You must not have been in breach of the immigration rules in the 5-year period before making the application.

 

Some discretion may be exercised over excess absences, immigration breaches, and immigration time restrictions in the last 12 months (as long as you are free of immigration time restrictions on the date of application) if there are special circumstances. If you do not meet these residence requirements but believe that there are special circumstances in your case, please contact us.

*If you are a national of a member state of the EEA and do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you will need to have been resident in the UK for at least five years even if you are married to a British citizen.

 

Breach Of Immigration Law

To meet the residence requirements, you should not have been in breach of immigration law during the residential qualifying period (3/5 years). You should have been here legally throughout the qualifying period. Your application may be refused if you have been in breach of immigration laws during the residential qualifying period.  Even if you were given indefinite leave to remain on a concession basis, the Home Office will not automatically disregard the time you were in breach of immigration laws during the residential qualifying period.

Immigration offences will also be considered as part of the good character requirement. This includes immigration breaches in the 10-year period before you apply for

Immigration time restrictions

If you are married to or the civil partner of a British citizen, you will need to be free from immigration time restrictions (i.e. be settled / have indefinite leave to remain/ILR in the UK) on the date you make your application.

If you are not married to or the civil partner of a British citizen you should have been free of immigration time restrictions (i.e. be settled / have indefinite leave to remain/ILR in the UK) during the last 12 months of the 5-year qualifying period.

Usually there is a stamp or sticker in your passport, or you have a biometric residence permit (BRP), saying that you have indefinite leave to enter or remain or no time limit on your stay.  People who obtained ILR a long time ago are likely to have been issued with a letter confirming their status rather than a stamp or sticker or even a BRP.

If you do not have a passport or letter which says this and you have lived here many years you may still be free from an immigration time restriction. If you are from an EEA member state or Switzerland for instance, you will be free from immigration conditions if you have been exercising EEA free movement or establishment rights in the UK for 5 continuous years.

Absences from the UK

To satisfy the residence requirement you should not have been absent for more than 90 days in the last 12 months.

If you are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen the total number of days absence for the whole 3-year period should not exceed 270. Otherwise, you should not have been outside the UK for more than 450 days in the 5-year qualifying period.

Unlike the rules that apply to ILT when absences are limited to 180 days for any 12 month-period, there is some discretion to disregard absences but it will be exercised on a case by case basis.

EEA nationals and Swiss nationals – British citizenship/naturalisation

If you are a national of a country which is a member state of the EEA or Switzerland, or the family member of such a person, you will automatically have acquired permanent residence status after exercising EEA free movement rights in the UK for any continuous period of 5 years ending on or after 30 April 2006. You are required to apply for a permanent residence card to prove that you hold that status before applying for citizenship.

Note: unless you are married to or the civil partner of a British citizen, you should normally have held permanent resident status for 12 months before applying for naturalisation. This means that you may need to wait until you have been in the UK for 6 years before you can apply.

For further information, please contact us.

Irish Nationals

The position of Irish citizens is different to that of other EEA nationals. Irish citizens are not normally subject to any form of immigration control on arrival in the UK because Ireland is part of the Common Travel Area. If you are an Irish national, you will be free of immigration time restrictions for naturalisation purposes. You do not need to apply for a permanent residence document before you apply for naturalisation.

Sound of mind

The Home Secretary has discretion to waive the requirement to be of sound mind if they think that would be the right thing to do in any particular case.

Knowledge of language and life in the UK

To satisfy this requirement you will be expected to have passed the official life in the UK test and either:

  • _Have a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, that is on the Home Office’s list of recognised tests and was taken at an approved test centre

or

  • _H_a_v_e_ _a_ _d_e_g_r_e_e_ _t_a_k_e_n_ _i_n_ _t_h_e_ _U_K_ _

or

  • _Have an original degree certificate that was taught or researched in a majority English speaking country and: o an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) from UK NARIC confirming the qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification
  • Have an original degree certificate that was taught or researched in a non-majority English speaking country and:

o an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) from UK NARIC confirming the qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification

and

o an English Language Proficiency Statement (ELPS) from UK NARIC showing that your degree was taught in English.

or

  • Are a national of a majority English speaking country.

 

The Life in the UK test is made up of 24 questions about British history, culture, customs and traditions.

Questions range from the roman invasion leader to the UK’s national flowers / bank holidays, the date of when women were first given the right to vote, or the number of times the UK hosted the Olympic games, etc.

The test is a multiple-choice exam, which is delivered at an official test centre and lasts approximately 45 minutes.

You can book the test on the Gov.UK website.

It is highly recommended to read the Life in the UK book before taking the test.

If you passed the test to apply for ILR you can use the same result and are not required to sit the test again.

Good character

If you have a conviction in the UK or overseas, even if it is a non-custodial offence dating less than 3 years, your application is unlikely to be successful.

Non-custodial offences or other out of court disposals that is recorded on a person’s criminal record includes:

  • Fines;
  • Cautions;
  • Warnings and Reprimands;
  • Community Sentences;
  • Civil Orders;
  • Hospital Orders and Restriction Orders and Potential Court Orders.

 

If it is found that you have used deception in your dealings with the Home Office or other Government Departments by for instance, providing false information or fraudulent documents, your application is likely to be refused. This will be of particular interest to those who obtained ILR via Tier 1 General route before the Home Office started refusing applications where they found historical discrepancies between tax declared to the HMRC and revenues declared to them.

Your application will be refused if it is found that you have attempted to deceive the Home Office within the last 10 years.

Your application will also be refused if it is found that have you have been involved in immigration offences in the last 10 years – this includes entering the UK illegally, evading immigration control or abuse of the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirement, assisting someone else in the evasion of immigration control or employed illegal workers.

Frequently Asked Questions – Citizenship applications

Q 1 – What is the processing time for naturalisation applications in the UK?

Applications tend to take between 3 to 6 months from the day of filing.

Q 2 – What is the process for naturalisation application in the UK?

Once your application has been sent to the Home Office, you should be contacted within a week. The Home Office letter will confirm receipt and that payment has been taken.

Shortly after that, you will be contacted again to invite you to enrol your biometrics – this will involve you attending a post office in person. Your biometrics must be enrolled within 15 working days from the date of the invitation letter.

Once / if your application is approved you should receive another letter asking you to book a ceremony where you will be handed your certificate of naturalisation. You will then be expected to apply for a British passport as soon as possible, in any case, prior to travelling outside the UK, as you

Q 3 – What is the date of application? The date I file online / I send my documents / I hand my documents to the nationality checking service?

The guidance provide that the date of application will be the date your form is received by the Home Office, Nationality Checking Service* or the local British government representative as shown above. It is not the date on which you send it.

*In practice, a lot of NCS centre are of the opinion that the date of application is it when it is received by the Home Office and not when the documents are handed to them

Q 4 – Do I need to take the life in the UK test again?

No, you should be able to use the test you relied on when you applied for ILR, providing the test centre that delivered the test is on the UKVI’s approved list.

Q 5 – I have just been granted ILR, can I apply for Naturalisation?

The answer to this will depend on whether you are married to a British national and how long you have resided in the UK for and whether you were physically present in the UK at the beginning at the qualifying period.

Q 6 – Can I include my dependants in my application for naturalisation?

An application for naturalisation is an individual application.

It follows that any dependants will be required to submit separate applications in their own right.

Children born in the UK whose parents are settled might be entitled to British Citizenship by Registration.

Q 7 – I have had more absences that what is allowed, can I still apply?

Yes, you could still apply but your application will be assessed on a discretionary basis. The outcome would very much depend on the number of days and the reasons for your absences.

Q5: I am an EEA national/family member of EEA national. When can I apply for naturalisation? 

Since 12th November 2015, anyone applying for naturalisation is required to submit a permanent residence card, or a document certifying permanent residence.

These can be obtained by filing a prior application which take are around 7 weeks for EEA nationals and often a minimum of 6 months for non-EEA nationals.

Under the residency requirement for naturalisation, you need to be able to show that you have had permanent residence for at least 12 months prior to submitting your naturalisation application.

As the PR card and document only show the date the document was issued, not the date PR was acquired, many applicant will assume that they need to wait 12 months before applying for naturalisation. Some members have also reported that NCS in their area have advised that submitting applications before having held the PR card or document (not PR itself) will automatically fail.

If you would like to discuss your eligibility for citizenship or if you require expert legal assistance in connection with naturalisation application, please contact us.