Naturalisation as a British Citizen is a huge step for most individuals. In practical terms, naturalisation as a British Citizen may lead to the individual automatically losing their current nationality and so an individual must check with the relevant authorities in their country of nationality of the impact (if any) of naturalisation as a British Citizen.
Currently, it is estimated that individuals carrying British passports can travel to 47 countries worldwide without having to obtain a visa prior to travelling. Please note that this is only for certain categories of visas to these countries and individuals must always check with the relevant embassy or travel agent if they require a visa to travel to a specific country, prior to making travel arrangements.
Naturalisation must follow Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), and ILR will need to have been granted at least 12 months prior to the submission of an application.
Individuals can be naturalised as a British Citizen on the basis of either:
- 5 years’ residence in the UK, or
- Marriage to a British Citizen with 3 years’ residence in the UK
These two routes above are in place in addition to and separate to the need for ILR to have been granted 12 months before submission of the naturalisation application. Even though a student would need to have resided in the UK for 10 years to obtain ILR, they would still qualify for naturalisation eventually, one year later, under the 5-year rule. Even though a person married to a British national had been granted ILR after only two years, after a further one-year they would need to show three years of marriage in addition to having held ILR for 1 year.
In practice, for individuals who have been in the UK under work-related immigration categories such as work permit/Tier 2 and/or HSMP/Tier 1(General), the period in question really becomes 6 years rather than 5. This is because it takes 5 years to qualify for ILR, and this must precede an application for Naturalisation by at least 12 months.
The term “residence” in this context means legal residence. A point to note is also that for EEA and Swiss Nationals (since 1 June 2002) conditional residence in the UK is not enough and so individuals must have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) at least 12 months prior to the submission of the naturalisation application. EEA Nationals and Swiss Nationals must apply for a residence permit before applying for ILR and then applying (at least 12 months later) for naturalisation as a British Citizen.
There are residence exceptions for those in the Crown Services or those who are married to individuals in the Crown Service.
To be able to apply for naturalisation, individuals must be aged 18 or over, be of sound mind and good character, intend to continue to live in the UK, be able to communicate in English and have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK. They must also meet the requirements listed above: ILR for 12 months plus having lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years (or 3 years if on the basis of marriage to a British Citizen).
The individual must provide proof of their ability to speak English and knowledge about life in the UK with the application and so this necessarily forms the first stage of the application for naturalisation as a British Citizen.
There are key requirements about absences from the UK in the relevant period (5 years or 3 years). There is discretion in excess of the limits below but, of course, it is in the interests of the individual not to have to rely on discretion, which may or may not be exercised in their favour.
Individuals applying under the category of having 5 years’ residence in the UK should have been physically in the UK on the day 5 years before the application date. This means that if the application was received on the 1st of June 2007, the individual should have been in the UK on the 1st of June 2002. The application date is the date that the application is received by the Home Office. The individual should also not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK in this period, of which no more than 90 days of this should have been taken in the 12 months immediately preceding the submission of the naturalisation application.
In the case of a person applying on the basis of ILR (for example gained through spending 5 years under Tier 2 or as a work permit holder) their first year would not be considered in this respect (although it would have been when they applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain).
Individuals applying on the basis of marriage to a British Citizen must show that they have not spent more than 270 days outside of the UK during the 3 years, of which no more than 90 days should have been in the last 12 months.
Once the application is approved, the individual must attend a Citizenship Ceremony within 90 days of approval. At the Ceremony, individuals will swear or affirm an oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty The Queen and pledge loyalty to the UK.
Current processing times for naturalisation applications are 6 months or so.
Once an individual has been naturalised as a British Citizen, they will then be able to apply for a British passport. To apply for a British passport, individuals would normally need to provide their current passport, the Certificate of Naturalisation and the completed form. An applicant would also need to provide the names and details of 2 referees who are British citizens. The UK Passport Agency (UKPA) offers a premium service but this is not available for applications for first passports (because further checks will need to be undertaken).
If you are interested in making an application for naturalisation or a British Passport, please contact us for initial advice on the strength of your case and the requirements. Please include a summary of your immigration history so that we can provide you with reliable initial feedback.