A non-British national must make an application to the Home Office for Naturalisation to become a British citizen. There are several different ways to apply for naturalisation and the route which applies to you will depend on your individual circumstances but there are certain core criteria which applies in all applications. If the criteria set out in the British Nationality Act 1981 are met, then the application will be granted and you can attend a ceremony to become a British citizen and obtain a Certificate of Naturalisation.
In order to be eligible for naturalisation, you must meet the following criteria:
- be over 18
- prove you were in the UK exactly 5 years before the day the Home Office receives your application
- prove your knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic
- have passed the life in the UK test
- intend to continue living in the UK
- be of good character
Continuous residence in the UK
Most people will need to live in the UK lawfully for at least five years before they can apply for naturalisation as a British citizen. There are different rules in the British Nationality Act 1981 for those who are married to a British citizen and those who are not.
If married to a British citizen, you can apply for naturalisation after three years of living lawfully in the UK. However, before being able to apply for Naturalisation you must have permanent immigration status (indefinite leave to remain). It usually takes around five years for a spouse of a British Citizen to qualify for a permanent residence. Additionally, you are required to have indefinite leave to remain for at least one year before applying for naturalisation. So, the earliest you can apply for naturalisation under this route is after you have lived lawfully in the UK for 6 years.
However, if a person married to a British citizen managed to get permanent status within three years of beginning residence in the United Kingdom, he or she would be eligible to apply for naturalisation at the end of that three-year period.
Absence from the UK
There are also rules on the maximum amount of time that a person can spend outside the UK during their qualifying residence period. These are referred to as absences from the UK.
The maximum permitted number of full days absent from the UK for those married to a British citizen is 270 days in total during the three years leading up to the application for naturalisation, no more than 90 of which can fall during the final qualifying year.
The maximum permitted number of full days absent from the UK for those not married to a British citizen is 450 days in total during the five years leading up to the application for naturalisation, no more than 90 of which can fall during the final year.
In either case, if a person has overstayed or otherwise broken their period of lawful residence, the clock is usually reset and the countdown to qualifying for naturalisation will begin again.
Knowledge of language and life in the UK
All applicants for naturalisation must show sufficient knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic, and “sufficient knowledge about life in the UK”.
To pass the English language requirement, applicants will need to come from an English speaking country, have a degree taught in English, or pass an approved English language test. For the life in the UK element, the applicant must have passed the Life in the UK test.
There is discretion to waive the language and life in the UK requirement where it would be unreasonable to expect the applicant to fulfil it because of age or physical or mental condition. The language and life in the UK requirement will normally be waived where the applicant is aged 65 or over.
Intention to live in the UK
Those not married to a British citizen have to demonstrate an intention for their principal home to be in the UK. Evidence of a home in the UK will generally be enough to discharge this requirement, though the Home Office may investigate further.
The Home Secretary will only naturalise a person of “good character”. There is detailed guidance to Home Office caseworkers on what this means. Checks will be made in relation to criminal offences and financial solvency. Certain immigration and nationality decisions are now exempt from section 4 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that it does not matter whether a conviction is “spent” when assessing good character.
You must also take an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen at a formal citizenship ceremony.
At time of writing this article the application fee is £1,330 of which £80 applicable to the administrative costs of the ceremony will be refunded should you application be refused. Please click on the following link for further information on fees. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fees-for-citizenship-applications/fees-for-citizenship-applications-and-the-right-of-abode-from-6-april-2018
Challenging refusal of nationality decisions
There is no right of appeal to a court against refusal to grant nationality. There is however, a mechanism similar to administrative review where a formal reconsideration request can be made on Form NR. An application for reconsideration carries a fee.
Ultimately, if that is refused, the only remedy would be judicial review. Our immigration solicitors are experienced in public law and judicial review work and can advise if this is appropriate in your case to challenge a refusal decision.
Contact our specialist immigration solicitors for advice on 01622 541054 or email@example.com , as we can talk you through the process and assist you in completing your application. Alternatively, please get in touch using our contact us form and we will give you a call within 24 hours.