British citizenship by naturalisation is one of the most common ways for individuals who weren’t born in the UK to become UK citizens. The whole process of naturalisation can be complicated and often challenging, but if you know the basic requirements and how the application process goes it will be much easier for you to apply.
Naturalisation is not the only way to obtain British citizenship. However, other ways are usually reserved for individuals who were either born in the UK or had a parent with British citizenship. Here you can find a general overview of what British citizenship is, and how to get it.
You can get British citizenship through naturalisation if you’ve lived in the UK for five years and you had one of the following in the last 12 months:
- Indefinite leave to remain (ILR).*
- Indefinite leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme.
- Indefinite leave to enter the UK.
You must also:
- Be over 18 years old.
- Be sound of mind.
- Have sufficient knowledge of the English language.
- Have passed the life in the UK test.
- Be of good character.
*Please note that you must have had your IRL for at least 12 months before you can apply for citizenship unless you apply to join your British spouse in which case you don’t have to wait.
Calculating the Period of Residence for British Citizenship
To get British citizenship, you must provide evidence that you were physically in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, at least 5 years before the date your application is submitted.
You must have not had more than 450 days of absences during those five years, but there may be allowances for absences up to 480 days. In some very specific circumstances, 900 days of absences may also be disregarded at the time of application. One year before your application you cannot have more than 90 days of absences from the country (sometimes 100 days are also acceptable).
If you are applying for citizenship to join your partner in the UK, the five-year residence requirement is reduced to three. Moreover, the 450-day period is minimized to 270 and the 900 days period is reduced to 540 days.
UK Citizenship Requirements
You need to provide the following documents when you apply for your UK citizenship:
- Current passport. You have to submit your current passport, and any other previous visas you may have held, either for the UK or other countries. Please note that you cannot submit a copy of your passport; it must be the original document.
- BRP card. BRP stands for Biometric Residence Permits, and this is a document that the Home Office issues if you stay in the UK for longer than 6 months. The BRP contains all your details, your immigration status, fingerprints and picture. You must have a valid BRP when you want to apply for British citizenship.
- National insurance number. If your NI is not stamped in your BRP, you must apply for a national insurance number- you must be in the UK to apply for a NI.
- Evidence of English language. You have to provide evidence that you have either completed a valid degree taught in English (or in the UK) or that you have completed one of the approved tests with an approved test provider in the UK:
- IELTS SELT Consortium
- Trinity College London (PSI Services- UK, Ltd- if you are out of the UK)
- Proof of citizenship test. You need to provide your test certificate, stamped and signed by the test supervisor if you passed the test before October 1st of 2019. If you passed the test after this date, provide your test reference number.
- Tax records. You need to provide your tax reference number, which is usually found in your payslip.
- Your previous employment and living history. You need to provide details of your previous employment and living situation. This includes your previous, and current address. If you spent time out of the country, please provide the dates, the length of time, and the reason for your visit.
- Evidence of freedom from immigration time restrictions. You must provide evidence that you have freedom from immigration time restrictions at the time of application. This is particularly important if you are applying to join your partner. Usually, this information is found on your BRP, but you may also submit a letter from the Home Office saying that you are free from the immigration conditions.
- Two referees. You have to provide the names, and personal details, of two referees who can prove your identity. Your referees must not be relatives, migration agents, or employees of the Home Office. Choose your referees carefully, as they cannot be a referee if they had a criminal conviction in the last 10 years. You can find more details about the eligibility criteria of your referees
British Citizenship Test
Before you can apply for your UK citizenship, you have to complete the “Life in the UK” test. The test is organised in 24 questions about British culture, traditions, and customs.
You should book the test at least three days before you intend to take it- the application fee for the test is £50. If you finished the test for your IRL, then you don’t have to take it again, just submit your test reference number or certificate.
How to Apply for British Citizenship?
The application process for British citizenship sometimes can be complicated depending on your circumstances, but the general process for naturalization is as follows:
- Step One: Fill in The Application Form
- Step Two: Pay the Application Fee
- Step Three: Attach Your Documents
- Step Four: Make an Appointment at UKVCAS
- Step Five: Submit Your Biometrics
- Step Six: Attend Your Citizenship Ceremony
Step One: Fill in The Application Form
You have to apply online for your citizenship by filling out the application form. At the end of the form, there will be a full list of supporting documents you need to submit depending on your personal circumstances. For example, if you are applying to join a partner you may be required to submit other documents related to your partner.
If you are currently in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or a British overseas territory, you cannot submit an online application. You have to prepare your supporting documents by scanning copies of the documents, filling in a paper application form, and sending your application by post or in person.
Step Two: Pay the Application Fee
When you fill in the application form you have to submit the payment for your citizenship application. Currently, the fee for UK citizenship is £1,330. After you submit your application you will receive a confirmation email regarding your payment, there won’t be a copy of the payment receipt, but the email will suffice as proof of payment.
Step Three: Attach Your Documents
Once you finish your online application, you have to submit your supporting documents on the UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services) website. After you log into your account, there will be an informative page regarding your scanned documents, this will include information about what type of format to submit your documents, the size of the file, the number of documents required and so on.
Step Four: Make an Appointment at UKVCAS
Here you must book an appointment to enrol your biometric information. There are two types of appointments you can make:
- Paid services appointment. Most of the time you have to pay to book your appointment, especially if you opt to scan your documents on the day of your meeting instead of submitting them online. Usually, the payment is approximately £70.
- Free appointment. You can book a free appointment between 9:00- 18:59, on business days at one of the core Service Points found in:
- Central London
Please note that free appointments are booked fast and you should try and book one a few months in advance.
Step Five: Submit Your Biometrics
Now, you can attend your appointment and submit your fingerprints. On the day of your appointment, bring the confirmation letter you received in your email since you will need the QR code that is printed on the letter. Moreover, you must bring your original documents with you even if you submitted them online.
During your biometrics appointment, you will be required to submit your fingerprints, have your picture taken, and submit your digital signature.
Step Six: Attend Your Citizenship Ceremony
Once you finish your biometric appointment, you will receive a decision letter on your application after a few months. Afterwards, you have to attend your citizenship ceremony. You must book your ceremony with your local authority. Usually, you have three months after you receive your decision letter to book your ceremony, but lately, due to COVID-19, this timeline has been pushed back to 6 months.
During the ceremony, you have to make your oath of allegiance and a pledge to uphold all UK laws and respect the rights of UK citizens. Here, you will receive your British citizenship certificate and a welcoming packet.
Other Ways of Obtaining UK Citizenship
Other than naturalisation, there are a few other ways you can obtain British citizenship. These ways may apply to you if you had a parent who was a British citizen or you were born in Britain.
By birth (lex soli)
You can obtain UK citizenship by birth, if:
- You were born after January 1, 1983, and have one parent who is a British citizen, or settled in the British islands or the Falkland Islands.
- You were born after January 13, 2010, to a parent who belonged to the British Armed Forces at the time of the birth.
There are specific rules to citizenship by birth if your parents were citizens of the European Union or European Economic Area or Switzerland.
By descent (lex sanguinis)
You can get British citizenship by descent if you were born abroad before 1983 and have one parent that gained citizenship by:
Citizenship by descent is transferable only one generation down from the parent who has British citizenship by one of the above-mentioned means. If you were born after 1983, you can get British citizenship only if your parents were married and your father had gained citizenship in other ways other than by descent.
Citizenship by registration is relatively similar to citizenship by naturalisation. However, citizenship through registration can only be given to specific individuals who are somehow connected to the British islands or hold a type of British nationality. This type of citizenship is the most common way for children under 18 to gain UK citizenship and is easier to obtain compared to naturalisation.
You can get British citizenship by adoption if at the time of adoption at least one of your adoptive parents had valid UK citizenship and:
- The adoption was legalized by a court in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or the Falkland Islands, on or after January 1, 1983.
- The adoption was legalized by a court in other British Overseas Territory on or after May 21, 2002.
- The adoption is a convention adoption under the 1983 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption that was in effect on or after June 1, 2003.
EU Settlement Scheme
If you are EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK after the transition period ended, you must transfer your permanent residence to the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify for UK citizenship.
Applications for the EU settlement scheme were closed on Jun 30, 2021, but if you have compelling reasons why you missed the deadline you might still be eligible for EU settlement.
How Long Does it Take to Get UK Citizenship?
Applications for citizenship are processed within 6 months. However, now due to COVID-19, citizenship applications are taking longer to finish processing.
Does the UK Allow Dual Citizenship?
Yes, the UK allows dual citizenship. Moreover, if you are a British national you can still get a British passport, even if you have dual citizenship.
Benefits of UK Citizenship
If you get your UK citizenship you can enjoy many benefits that include:
- The right to vote in elections.
- The right to work and live indefinitely in the UK.
- The right to hold a British passport.
- The right to access free NHS medical care.
- The right to leave and re-enter the country as you wish.