A British citizen has the right to permanently live and work in the UK without any immigration restrictions, otherwise known as a right of abode. Depending on your current citizenship status or nationality, eg, if you are married to a British citizen or have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), you may be able to apply for British citizenship through either the process of naturalisation or registration.
NATURALISATION – there are various requirements you must meet to be eligible to apply for naturalisation. You must:
- Be aged 18 or over
- Be of sound mind & good character
- Intend to continue living in the UK
- Have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK
- Be able to acceptably communicate in English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic
- Meet the residential qualifying period of 5 years (3 for spouses/civil partners of a British citizen)
If you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, or you are the family member of such a person, and you have exercised EEA free-movement rights in the UK for a continuous 5 year period you will automatically have permanent residence status. However, you must hold this status for 12 months before applying for naturalisation.
REGISTRATION – you may instead be able to register as a British citizen although there are various complicated categories here including if you are a British Overseas or Overseas Territory citizen, you have previously given up your citizenship, you are a person who is stateless or a child under 18. Each category has different requirements that must be met.
IMMIGRATION TIME RESTRICTIONS – when applying for British citizenship you must be free from immigration time restrictions on the day you make your application which often means having gained settled status before you apply.
GOOD CHARACTER REQUIREMENT – any applicant aged 10 or over must be of good character to apply for British citizenship. Essentially this means that you must show respect for the rights and freedom of the UK, have observed its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident. The UK Border Agency will carry out criminal and financial checks.
SOUND MIND REQUIREMENT – applicants must satisfy the full capacity requirement when applying for British citizenship (although in some cases this may be overlooked). This means that you are able to make your own decisions and understand the step you are taking.
DUAL NATIONALITY – to become a British citizen you do not need to renounce your existing citizenship as many countries will let you have dual nationality. If you are a national of a country who does not allow this, your country of origin may regard you as having lost your existing nationality or refuse to recognise your new nationality. If you are currently a British citizen you will not normally lose this status if you become the citizen of another country unless the new country requires you to give up your British nationality.
PROVING BRITISH CITIZENSHIP – once you have obtained British citizenship you will be free from UK immigration control and you will be able to apply for a British passport. This is the most acceptable evidence of British citizenship although, alternatively, you may be able to apply for a nationality status document if you do not have the right documentation to apply for a passport.
British nationality law and applications for British citizenship can be extremely complex and using the services of an immigration expert is highly recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions – Applications for British Citizenship
I have previous convictions/offences, will this affect my citizenship application?
Yes, previous offences and convictions are likely to affect your citizenship application, although this does depend upon the type of conviction or offence. For more information, it is best to speak to a knowledgeable immigration expert. Our teams of lawyers will be able to advise as to when a conviction will become spent and when it is possible to apply for citizenship.
I am an EEA national, when can I apply to become British?
Usually, as an EEA national you will be eligible to become a British citizen once you have been living in the UK for a period of 5 years or more on the date of your application. You can apply for Permanent Residency (PR) in the UK if you have been in the UK for a period of 5 years without having been outside of the UK for more than 90 days within any 12 month period. You will then be able to apply to become a British citizen 12 months after you have been granted Permanent Residency, provided you meet the eligibility requirements, which include the English language requirement, as well as not having been outside the UK for more than 450 days during your 5 year stay. Of course there are additional requirements for an EEA national to apply to become British so it is advisable that you speak to one of our immigration lawyers who will be able to help you through the process. There are different requirements if your spouse or civil partner is a British citizen, so it is best to consult a professional immigration lawyer to discuss the best options for your application.
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