APPLYING FOR BRITISH CITIZENSHIP - NATURALISATION
An application for British citizenship is an important event that, if successful, will mean that an individual will no longer be subject to immigration control nor, in fact, would one continue to be subject to any requirement to reside either inside or outside the UK, hence enabling one to have complete freedom to live and work not only in the UK but anywhere within the ever-expanding European Economic Area (EEA).
Recent statistics on applications for British Citizenship
In order to make an application to Naturalise as a British citizen, you must have had Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 12 months. For EEA citizens and their family members, from 30 April 2006, EEA citizens who have continuously exercised ‘treaty rights’ (as a worker, self-employed person, student, self-sufficient person or a jobseeker) and their family members will automatically acquire permanent residence status upon five years continuous residence in the UK. From 12 November 2015, an EEA national wishing to apply to be Naturalised as a British Citizen will be required to submit a valid document certifying their permanent residency in the UK.Once the EEA citizens have had permanent residence status for a period of at least 12 months, they are then entitled to apply to Naturalise as a British citizen.
There are a number of requirements that one has to fulfil in order to make a successful application for British citizenship:
1. Minimum age of 18
Any person who wishes to naturalize must be 18 years or over on the date of application. Any person who is under 18 years of age cannot apply for naturalization - instead they would need to apply for registration as a British citizen, which is dependant not only on one’s birthplace but the status of one’s parents at the time of birth.
2. Full capacity
Any person who wishes to naturalize must be ‘not of unsound mind’. This simply means that an applicant should understand, ‘however dimly, the purpose of their application.’ However, this requirement can be waived if the Secretary of State considers it is in the best interests of the applicant to do so.
3. Intention to have his/her home in the UK
British Citizenship is granted only to applicants who intend to have their home (or principal home if more than one) in the UK. As it is impossible to determine the future, the Secretary of State will look at their past behaviour and ties with the UK. However, after being naturalized, it is not legally possible to maintain such a requirement. Once citizenship is granted, the requirement no longer applies and a naturalized British citizen is not constrained to live in the UK.
4. Sufficient knowledge of English language
This requirement has been introduced to help migrants integrate into society, which can only benefit the UK, and indeed the migrant, in the long term. It was realised that some British nationals do not speak the English language, which can hinder them in terms of doing business, or seeking employment, and/or enjoying the other benefits of British citizenship.
To meet this requirement, Applicants must hold a level B1 (or higher) English language speaking and listening qualification (this requirement is effective from 28/10/2013 with changes as of 6 November 2015– please see paragraph 9 below for details). To show that the applicant has met this requirement, they must submit the following documents as part of their application:
Exemption only applies for applicants:
5. Sufficient knowledge of life in the UK (Please note: From 28 October 2013 there are new requirements – please see paragraph 9 below for details)
The Life in the UK test was introduced in 2007 as a way to help foreign nationals settling in the UK integrate into British society. The Home Office has provided a list of approved tests that fulfill these requirements. Exemption applies for applicants above the age of 65 or applicants who are unable to complete this test because of long term physical or mental condition. A child below the age of 18 are also exempted from meeting this requirements if they are applying to register as a British Citizen together with their parents.
6. Good Character
Recent rule changes mean that the Home Office now has very strict guidance in respect of the way in which criminal convictions affect one’s good character. In general, depending on the nature of the offence (custodial and non-custodial sentences) the applicant may have to wait for a minimum period of 2 years or more before they can be eligible to apply. The Secretary of State has discretion to overlook very minor, one-off offences. Convictions incurred abroad will be treated as if they had taken place in the UK. Applicants are required to disclose on the application form all information relating to character, including criminal convictions. The Home Office conducts thorough checks on every applicant and failure to meet this good character requirement will result in the application being refused.
Please also note that as part of good character requirements, the Home Office will also refuse an application if within the last immediate 10 years period from the date of application, the applicant has entered the UK illegally. We advise for you to contact us for an initial consultation to assess your eligibility to apply.
7. Residence requirements
Those who wish to apply on the basis of five years’ legal residence are, in general, required to show that they have not been outside the UK for more than 450 days in the 5 year period (including no more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months preceding the application).
However, there is no rule without an exception. At the discretion of the Home Office your application can be approved even the absences are in excess of the limits. The total number of absences normally disregarded could be up to 480 days.
If applicant meets all other requirements and has established his/her home, family and a substantial part of the estate in the United Kingdom, the absences up to 900 days normally disregarded. At that the following requirements should be met:
Each application must be accompanied by two references from persons known to the applicant for a minimum of three years. One of these referees must be a person of professional standing, such as a doctor, architect or accountant or other person who belongs to a professional body (сlick here for the list of acceptable professional referees). The other referee must be a British citizen and either a professional person or over 25 years of age.
There are, however, some general restrictions on who can act as a referee:
9. Requirements for Naturalisation – from 28 October 2013 (with new changes as of 6 November 2015)
From 28 October 2013, applicants wishing to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and Naturalisation as a British citizen are required to provide: