USA and the UK
- Why should I become a British citizen?
- Who can become British citizens?
- What are the requirements for British naturalization?
- How to apply for British Citizenship?
- What type of information is required for British naturalization?
- What are the documents needed to apply for British citizenship?
- What does it mean to be ‘of good moral character’?
- Life in the UK Test
- English Language Requirements
- What are the requirements for referees?
- Citizenship Ceremony
- How much does British naturalization cost?
- How can IAS help me with my naturalization application?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I become a British citizen?
There are many benefits to obtaining British citizenship including the right to live, work and study in the UK freely for as long as you would like. In addition to gaining permanent residence status, as a British citizen, you will be able to access public funds, travel under a British passport, and no longer be subjected to immigration controls.
Furthermore, British citizens can sponsor their family members to join them in the UK, vote in British elections and referendums, and even run for public office if they choose to do so.
Who can become British citizens?
U.S. citizens who have been continuously living in the UK for at least 5 years are eligible to apply for British citizenship. Individuals who are married to a British national and have been living in the UK for at least 3 years are also eligible to begin their British naturalization application.
It should be noted that there are several pathways to becoming a UK citizen. These include the following:
Individuals born in the UK after January 1st, 1983 will automatically be considered British citizens. Children who were born abroad and have at least one parent with UK citizenship or settled status can also gain British citizenship.
Individuals who are the spouse or civil partner of a UK citizen can apply for British citizenship after having spent at least 3 years in the UK under settled status (Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status).
The 5-year route
Individuals who have lawfully resided in the UK for at least 5 years can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. After 12 months of living in the UK under Indefinite leave to remain, the settled person can then begin the British citizenship application process.
Citizenship for “stateless” individuals
Individuals who are not recognized as a citizen of any country can apply for UK citizenship if they are able to meet the eligibility criteria dependent upon their country of birth.
Nationality for those who renounced it
Individuals who have renounced their British citizenship in the past may eventually regain their nationality over time.
British citizenship by adoption
Children adopted by UK nationals will automatically acquire British citizenship if the adoption order is made through a UK court.
British citizenship as a resident of overseas territory
British overseas territories citizens or Commonwealth citizens who were born before January 1st, 1983 to a parent born in the UK may qualify as a UK citizen under the British Nationality Act and eligible for Right of Abode (ROA).
Although you can gain British citizenship in a number of different ways, it should be noted that UK naturalization is only available to adult applicants who were not born in the UK.
What are the requirements for British naturalization?
To begin the application for UK naturalization, all applicants must be able to meet the following eligibility requirements:
- The applicant is at least 18 years old
- The applicant is of sound mind with full mental capacity
- The applicant has met the residency requirements for naturalization (this includes not spending more than 450 days outside of the UK during the 5 years of lawful residence and no more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months leading to the citizenship application. If married to a British citizen, you must not have spent more than 270 days outside of the UK in the 3 years of lawful residence)
- The applicant has lived in the UK under Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status for at least 12 months before filing for naturalization
- The applicant is not in breach of any UK immigration rules or laws
- The applicant is a person of ‘good character’
- The applicant has serious and honest intentions of living permanently in the UK once they obtain British citizenship (or has the intention of living and working overseas for either a British business or the UK government)
- The applicant meets the necessary English language requirements
- The applicant has passed the Life in the UK test
How to apply for British Citizenship?
Applications for British citizenship can be submitted online or by post. Individuals who are residing in the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or a British Overseas territory will need to apply by post only. As always, when applying by post, it is highly recommended that applicants send their paper application by recorded delivery as it contains sensitive personal information.
The first step in applying for British citizenship is completing the application for naturalization as a British citizen. To do this, all applicants must fill out Form AN. This form is 30 pages long and requires the applicant to provide detailed information about themselves. There is an accompanying booklet that will provide guidance and support on how to complete the form.
What type of information is required for British naturalization?
Form AN is split into different sections, each requiring the applicant to provide detailed information about themselves in as much detail as possible regarding their background, employment status in the UK, dependents who are in the UK with you, and proof of continuous residence in the UK. Those who are applying for British naturalization as the spouse of a UK citizen will need to provide proof of a genuine relationship.
All applicants will need to provide details of two appointed referees. These referees are individuals who have known the applicant for at least 3 years personally. Referees can not be related to the applicant, work as the applicant’s solicitor or agent, and are not employed by the Home Office. In addition, referees should include a person with a ‘professional standing’ in the community and at least 1 British passport holder who is at least 25 years old or is another person with ‘professional standing’.
In general, applicants applying for British citizenship will need to provide the following information in their Form AN:
- Personal Information. Applicants will need to provide personal information such as contact details of themselves, their parents, and their partner. The form will also ask applicants to provide details of their employment and knowledge of life in the UK.
- Residence Requirements. Applicants will need to include information about their current UK residence including any details of any absences or trips outside the UK in the 5-year period leading up to their application.
- Evidence of Good Character. Applicants will need to provide information on any prior convictions or criminal background (if applicable) from both within the UK and abroad. It should be noted that this includes any cautions received.
- Referees. Applicants will need to provide the contact details and full personal information of the applicant’s designated referees.
- Biometric information. The applicant will need to submit their photograph and fingerprint scans. This biometric information will need to have been taken at a local UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point.
- Declaration. Applicants will be given the opportunity to submit any evidence or supporting documents that support or strengthen their application for British naturalization.
What are the documents needed to apply for British citizenship?
In addition to Form AN, applicants for UK naturalization will also need to submit a portfolio of evidence to further support and strengthen their application. Some of the supporting documents that will need to be submitted may include:
- Proof that the applicant has passed the Life in the UK test
- IELTS certificates (if the applicant is from a non-English speaking country)
- The applicant’s Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
- The applicant’s residence card and any proof that they hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
- All travel documents from the last five years (to prove continuous residence in the UK)
- The applicant’s original passport detailing their existing nationality
- Any evidence of previous visas
- Evidence that shows that the applicant is currently free from UK immigration restrictions (aka, has permanent residence status)
What does it mean to be ‘of good moral character’?
Individuals over the age of 10 who are applying for British Citizens must be able to meet the good moral character requirement. To do this, all applicants must demonstrate that they will be law-abiding British citizens who will be a positive influence on their local community.
The UK Home Office will therefore examine a variety of things to determine if the applicant meets this requirement including:
- Examining the applicant’s criminal history
- Examining the applicant’s immigration history to determine that he or she is not in violation of any immigration rules within the past 10 years
- Examining the applicant’s financial history. Applications can be denied if the applicant has been found to have an NHS debt, unpaid UK taxes, and/or has declared bankruptcy in the past.
In addition to past infractions, the Home Office will also examine any positive contributions to society that the applicant has made when determining if a person is of good moral character. This can include volunteering in their local community, charitable work, and any time served in the Armed Forces.
Life in the UK Test
Before applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or British citizenship, all foreign nationals must first pass the Life in the UK Test. The goal of this test is to determine if the foreign-born national can properly assimilate into the British culture and society.
The Life in the UK test consists of 24 multiple choice questions focused on British languages, history, culture, food, holidays, and any other aspects deemed important to living in the UK. This test is taken on a computer and applicants must score at least 18 questions correctly (75% or above) in order to pass.
Many applicants study ahead of time in order to pass this test. There are a number of available resources out there to help test-takers prepare such as the official handbook for the Life in the UK test. To further help prepare, test-takers are encouraged to test their knowledge ahead of time by taking practice tests online.
If the applicant passes the Life in the UK test, he or she will then receive a ‘Pass Notification Certificate’. This will need to be submitted when applying for either Indefinite Leave to Remain or UK citizenship. This certificate is valid for life and does not need to be renewed.
If the applicant fails to pass the test, he or she can re-take the test as many times as is necessary to pass, however, he or she will need to pay the testing fee for each sitting.
English Language Requirements
All foreign nationals applying for UK naturalization who are not from an English-speaking country will need to prove that they have sufficient knowledge of a British language which includes English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic.
To prove their knowledge, applicants will need to provide test qualifications from an approved test center recognized and accepted by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Therefore, applicants will need to take an IELTS test (International English Language Test System test) and achieve at least a B1 level certificate certified by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). Foreign nationals must pass both the listening and speaking tests to qualify. Other English qualifications such as NVQs and GSCEs will not be accepted. Furthermore, test qualifications that are over 2 years old will not be considered valid unless it was previously accepted for another immigration application.
Applicants under 18 years old and those who are over 65 years old are exempted from having to prove their language capabilities. For more information about what nationalities are exempt from the language requirements, visit the gov.uk website here.
What are the requirements for referees?
As part of your UK citizenship application, you will need to supply the names of 2 referees. Referees are people who know the applicant and can vouch for their identity. Referees must meet a certain set of requirements in order to be eligible. These include:
- The referee has known the applicant for more than 3 years
- The referee is not related to the applicant
- The referee is not the solicitor or agent of the applicant
- The referee is not employed by the Home Office
- The referee can not have had a criminal conviction within the last 10 years
- At least one of the referees is a person with ‘professional standing’
- At least one of the referees is a person with a British passport who either has ‘professional standing’ or is over 25 years old
For a list of what occupations classify as acceptable professions, visit the gov.uk website here.
If your application is successful and you are granted British citizenship, you will be invited to a citizenship ceremony. Under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, naturalization applicants who are over 18 years old must attend a Citizenship ceremony.
These ceremonies are not open to the public but the naturalization applicant is permitted to bring one guest to the ceremony which is normally attended by the Mayor or Deputy Mayor of the local council where it takes place.
In order to attend a ceremony, the new British citizen will need to book their place at the ceremony within three months of receiving their invitation from the UK Home Office. Those accepted for naturalization will also need to bring both the written confirmation from the Register Office and the letter of invitation from the Home Office.
During the naturalization ceremony, the accepted applicants will take an Oath of Allegiance and pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom. After doing so, the new British citizen will then receive their British nationality certificate along with information regarding their new status and rights as UK nationals.
How much does British naturalization cost?
As part of the British naturalization process, applicants will need to pay the necessary fees which may vary depending on the background of the applicant. Overall, the general costs are as follows:
- Adult citizenship: £1,330
- Citizenship when applying as a child: £1,012
- Citizenship when applying as a British Overseas Citizen: £1,000
In addition, adults who are applying for citizenship will also need to pay the following fees:
- Life in the UK Test: £50
- Biometrics (fingerprints and photo): £19.20
- IELTS English test (If applicable): £150
All fees are non-refundable regardless of the outcome of the citizenship application.
How can IAS help me with my naturalization application?
Here at IAS, we understand the significance and importance of gaining a new nationality. Making the leap to becoming a naturalized British citizen is no easy task. The process is famously known for being complicated and difficult. That’s why we are here to advise and guide you through the complicated process of becoming a UK national.
Our team of expert immigration attorneys can answer any questions you may have regarding the application process in addition to:
- Checking to make sure that your application is completed to the highest standard
- Checking to make sure that your portfolio of evidence is adequate and complete
- Providing you with an in-depth Letter of Representation to be sent to the UK Home Office
- Liaise on your behalf with the British government and Home Office
For more information regarding the services we can provide you with, contact us today at 0333 305 9375 or message us anytime via chat.
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Once the UK application has been sent off, the Home Office will then begin to process the application. As a general rule, the Home Office should take no more than 6 months to process.
Applicants with Settle Status or permanent residence status will receive a decision on their application quicker than other applicants who are applying via another immigration route.
Individuals who are applying for UK citizenship and have a complex application may have to wait longer than 6 months to receive a decision on their application depending on the complicated nature of the case.
Unfortunately, there currently is no way to expedite an application for UK citizenship.
Both the UK and US governments allow their citizens to obtain dual nationality. Therefore, you will not have to renounce your American citizenship when you become a UK citizen.
However, if you maintain another citizenship with another country besides the United States, you may not be allowed to keep both. This will depend on the country’s policy regarding dual nationality. For instance, some countries allow for multiple citizenships while others do not permit it and thus resulting in a loss of citizenship.
As always, if you are concerned about keeping your citizenship in another country, please consult with an experienced immigration attorney who is familiar with the laws and policies of your country.
Naturalized British citizens are able to pass on their British citizenship to their children if he/she was a British citizen at the time of the child’s birth.
Children acquire British citizenship when their birth is registered in the UK. Children are granted automatic UK citizenship if at least one of their parents was a British citizen or an Irish citizen living in the UK at the time of the child’s birth.
It should be noted that the rules regarding automatic British citizenship are changing all the time. For more information regarding UK citizenship to children born in the UK, visit the gov.uk website.
British naturalization applications can be refused for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons for being refused include some form of criminality on the applicant’s part. This can include:
- The applicant was found to not meet the ‘good character’ requirements due to past criminal convictions or failure to pay taxes
- The applicant has been found to not be eligible for various reasons (including the applicant has already been found to be British or fails to provide the requisite evidence)
- The applicant does not meet the residency requirements due to being abroad for too long
- The applicant fails to submit necessary evidence to the UK Home Office in a timely manner
- The applicant fails to meet the language requirements
If your UK naturalization application is refused, you may submit a Request to Reconsider. This will cost £372 and the original decision will be overturned if your application was found to be legitimate. Refused naturalization applications can not be appealed, however, some applicants may be able to try again by re-submitting a new and improved application and paying the application fee again.
To decrease your chances of a possible refusal, it is always wise to seek advice and guidance from an experienced immigration attorney who can review your case and make sure that your application is thoroughly completed with all the necessary supporting evidence.