There are many reasons that a non-British person might want to gain British citizenship. Perhaps your spouse is a British citizen; perhaps you’d like to live and work in the UK, or bring your family here to be educated…
Maybe you’ve lived here for an extended period of time already and would like to become a citizen of your adopted country.
Whatever your reason, the act of becoming a British citizen is known as “naturalization.”
The following is a guide on the process of gaining citizenship. All information is valid as of October 2015, per the official UK Government website.
Check you’re eligible to apply
In general, you can apply for British citizenship if the following applies to you:
- You’re aged 18 or over
- You’re of good character
- You intend to continue living in the UK
- You pass the Knowledge Of English and Life In The UK requirements
- You meet the Residency Requirement
In addition, it’s usually necessary that you have:
- Lived in the UK for at least the 5 years before the date of your 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
- Been granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK (or permanent residence if you’re an EEA national) – this means there’s no specific date you have to leave
- Had indefinite leave to stay in the UK for the last 12 months (or permanent residence if you’re an EEA national)
- Not broken any immigration laws while in the UK
What does “Good Character” mean?
In general, being of “good character” means that you don’t have a recent or serious criminal record. It also means that, during the past 10 years, you’ve not committed any immigration offences or tried to deceive the Home Office.
The UK Government website has a complete document that outlines everything to do with being of good character.
What is the “Knowledge of English” requirement?
In order to become a British citizen, it’s necessary to prove that you have a good command of the language. This can be done in a variety of ways.
Perhaps you have an English language qualification at levels B1, B2, C1, or C2. The Home Office has a list of approved tests and qualifications. Proof is also accepted if you have a degree taught or researched in English.
Other ways of proving your knowledge of English include an ESOL qualification at Entry 3 level or higher – this must be one that’s included on the Ofqual Register and taken in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.
An ESOL qualification at level 4, 5, or 6 awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and on the Scottish Qualifications Framework list of approved courses, will also suffice.
There are some cases in which you won’t be required to prove your knowledge of English. These are people over the age of 65, and those who’re unable to due to a long-term physical or mental condition.
If the latter is the case, you must provide a doctor’s letter confirming this.
In addition, certain nationalities also don’t need to prove their knowledge of English. These are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- Republic of Ireland
- Kitts and Nevis
- Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
What is the “Life In The UK” requirement?
This is a test taken to prove that you understand what life in the UK is like. It’s about British traditions and customs, and is a 45-minute, 24-question exam that can be taken at one of 60 test centres around the UK. The cost is £50 and can only be booked on the official Government website. Those under 18 or over 65 do not need to take this test.
The test will consist of questions taken from the Official Handbook for the Life in the UK Test.
What if my spouse is already a British Citizen?
If you’re married to, or are a civil partner of, a British citizen, then you can apply for citizenship yourself.
The first 5 points mentioned above in the “check you’re eligible” section still apply. In addition, the following will usually apply:
- You’ve lived in the UK for at least 3 years before your application is received
- You’ve spent no more than 270 days outside of the UK in those 3 years
- You’ve spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
- You’ve not broken any immigration laws whilst in the UK
How do I apply?
There are 3 ways that you can apply for British Citizenship. The first is to make an individual application. This can only be done using the official form – Form AN – on the UK Government website.
There are full guidance notes and a requirements booklet that will explain everything you need to know.
The second way is the use the Nationality Checking Service. This is run by local councils who can help you with making your application.
The third way is to use the services of an agent or representative. All such services will charge a fee, and you should satisfy yourself that any company you use is genuine.
You can do so by checking that they are registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.
What will it cost?
For an adult applying for British Citizenship the fees are as follows:
- Naturalisation – £1,005
- Registration – £913
- Ceremony fee – £80
- Biometric information (fingerprints and digital photograph) – £19.20
You have to pay these fees in full (except for the biometric information fee, which you pay when you have the information taken) at the time you send your application to the Home Office. Payment can only be made by credit card, debit card, or cheque.
If the application is refused or withdrawn, these fees are non-refundable (except for the ceremony fee).
How long will it take?
After you send your application, you’ll receive a confirmation letter within 4 weeks. On average, a decision is made about the application within 6 months, although on occasion this can take longer.