USA and the UK
- Routes to British citizenship for Americans
- British citizenship by naturalization
- How to satisfy ‘good character’ requirement
- Required documents for British citizenship by naturalization
- British citizenship by birth eligibility
- British citizenship by descent eligibility
- Difference between Indefinite Leave to Remain and British citizenship
- When can I apply for British citizenship
- How to apply for British citizenship
- Application process & fee
- Renouncing British citizenship
- Frequently asked questions
British Citizenship for Americans
British citizenship for Americans is available to eligible applicants via several different routes.
British citizenship by naturalization is the standard route to citizenship, but you may also be eligible for British citizenship by birth, British citizenship by descent, or British citizenship by double descent. There is also the option of British citizenship by marriage route if you are married to/in a civil partnership with a British citizen.
British citizenship is the final step on the immigration journey of many Americans who choose to make the United Kingdom their home.
As a British citizen you will have the same rights as any other person in the country, which includes eligibility to work, study and live in the UK indefinitely.
What are the Different Routes to British Citizenship for Americans?
As mentioned above, there are a number of different routes to British citizenship for Americans.
British citizenship by naturalization
This is the most common route to British citizenship for Americans. In most cases, you will be eligible for British citizenship if you have lawfully lived in the UK for at least six years (which includes one year of Indefinite Leave to Remain status).
British citizenship by birth or by decent
You may automatically be recognized as a British citizen if you were born in the UK after 1st January 1983 – this is known as British citizenship by birth. You could also be eligible if one of your parents or grandparents was a British citizen when you were born, the latter being called British citizenship by double descent. A British great grandparent can also lead to eligibility for British citizenship, this is known as British citizenship by triple descent.
British citizenship by marriage (technically a form of naturalization)
You can apply for British citizenship by marriage as the spouse or civil partner of a UK citizen if you have spent at least three years living in the UK. In these circumstances, you can apply for citizenship as soon as you have a permanent residence document, Indefinite Leave to Remain status, or indefinite leave to enter the UK.
Nationality for those who have renounced it
If you renounced your British citizenship in the past, you could eventually be permitted to reclaim citizenship.
The most optimum route to take to British citizenship for Americans depends on your individual circumstances, such as your ancestry, place of birth, and the nationality of your partner.
Contact IAS if you are unsure of the best route to British citizenship as an American, we have many years of immigration experience behind us and can assist you with regard to both U.S. and UK immigration rules.
British Citizenship by Naturalization Eligibility Criteria for Americans
British citizenship by naturalization is the most common route towards British citizenship. You could be eligible for British citizenship after you have spent a certain period of time lawfully living in the UK.
In order to be eligible for British citizenship by naturalization, you will need to meet the following conditions:
- Must be aged 18 or above
- Must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least twelve months
- Must not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK during your qualifying residency period
- Must have passed the Life in the UK test. This is a series of questions based on the culture, customs and history of the UK
- Be able to demonstrate that you meet the ‘good character’ requirement
- You must not have breached any immigration conditions during your UK residency
To find out more about your eligibility for British citizenship by naturalization and whether you qualify as an American, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our immigration legal experts on +1 844 290 6312.
How Can I Satisfy the Good Character Requirement for UK Citizenship?
A key requirement of a British citizenship application is the good character requirement. You must be able to demonstrate that you are a law-abiding member of British society.
Your criminal history will be examined, including whether you have abided by the immigration conditions pertaining to your UK immigration permission.
This requirement has a significant bearing on your application for UK citizenship. If you have committed criminal offences, even if they are spent, you might not be eligible for British citizenship.
The ‘good character’ applies to anyone over the age of 10 who applies for either registration or naturalization as a British citizen.
As well as evaluating your criminal record, the UK Home Office will also take into consideration positive contributions to society, including any charity work and your financial situation.
What Documents are Required to Apply for British Citizenship?
You will need to provide a substantial portfolio of evidence to prove your eligibility for British citizenship. Your portfolio of evidence is the most crucial part of your UK citizenship application.
All your documentation will be assessed by the Home Office, and it must adhere to all necessary administrative standards in order to be considered. UK immigration officials will assess your supporting documents to ascertain whether you meet the requirements.
Some of the documents which you will need to provide includes:
- Proof of your identity: This can take the form of your passport, your birth certificate, driving licence or other specific travel documents
- Confirmation that you were lawfully resident in the UK during your qualifying period
- Proof that you have Indefinite Leave to Remain status in the UK
- Proof of your previous immigration status (including prior to settling in the UK)
- A letter to confirm you have passed the Life in the UK test
- Details of any time spent outside the UK during your qualifying period
Eligibility for British Citizenship by Birth
British citizenship for Americans is available if you were born in the UK before 1983. In these cases, Americans are automatically eligible for British citizenship by birth.
However, if you were born in the UK after 1982, you are not automatically eligible to become a British citizen. One of your parents must have been born in the UK in order for you to be eligible for British citizenship by birth in these circumstances.
This ruling means that if you were born in the UK but both of your parents were American (or any other nationality) at the time of your birth, you will not be eligible for British citizenship by birth.
You will still, of course, be able to apply for British citizenship via the naturalization route, even if you don’t qualify for British citizenship by birth.
Eligibility for British Citizenship by Descent
You could be eligible for British citizenship by descent if one of your parents was a British citizen at the time of your birth, even if you were born outside the UK. However, there are specific rulings around the ‘British citizenship for a child born abroad‘ route, which are complex.
If you were born outside of the UK on or after 1st July 2006 to a parent who was a British citizen at the time of your birth and also had the right to pass British citizenship onto you, you will automatically be a British citizen.
Whether your parent is able to pass their citizenship onto you depends on how they acquired UK citizenship themselves. They must have been either born or adopted in the UK and acquired citizenship after applying for British citizenship themselves or, alternatively, they were working as a Crown servant at the time of your birth.
If one of your grandparents is or was British, you may be eligible for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent), also known as double descent. You will need to meet certain guidelines depending on when you and your grandparents were born.
What is the Difference Between Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship?
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a form of permanent residence and gives you settled status in the UK, enabling you to live and work in the UK without any restrictions. Typically, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after you have spent five years lawfully living in the UK.
However, even if you have Indefinite Leave to Remain, this does not mean that your rights are identical to British citizens. For instance, if you spend over two years outside the UK, your ILR status will be revoked. Also, you cannot apply for a British passport with ILR status.
As a British citizen, you are free to work in, live in, and enter and exit the UK without any restrictions. You will be able to apply for a British passport too and enjoy the full benefits of British citizenship.
UK citizenship also enables you to participate in British elections and referenda and, you could even stand for public office if you wish.
When Can I Apply for British Citizenship?
If you wish to apply for British citizenship by naturalization, you must first apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is possible after you have spent a certain period of time in the UK, typically five years.
You must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain for 12 months before you are eligible to become a British citizen, and your circumstances must not have changed significantly.
The exception to this is if you have gone down the British citizenship by marriage route. In this case, you can apply for British citizenship as soon as you receive ILR status.
Also, it is important to bear in mind that if you have spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in the 12 months leading up to your British citizenship, you will not be eligible to apply.
How Do I Apply for British Citizenship?
If you want to apply for British citizenship, you will first need to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the route you wish to go down.
It is prudent to prepare your portfolio of evidence before completing your British citizenship application form. Once your portfolio of evidence is ready for submission, you can start to complete the application form.
The form which you will need to complete for British citizenship by naturalization is the Form AN – Application for Naturalisation as a British Citizen.
The form is a comprehensive one, which includes information about your finances, UK residency, employment status and the immigration permission you have been living under. You must complete the application form to all necessary standards – failure to do so could result in an automatic rejection.
As mentioned, you must provide substantial evidence to prove your eligibility for British citizenship. Unfortunately, one of the most common reasons for applications being refused is an insufficient portfolio of evidence.
It can be difficult to establish exactly what you need to include in your portfolio of evidence if you are unaccustomed to the nature of British immigration law. This is why hiring a professional can be a prudent step.
We understand the UK immigration system and the process of British citizenship applications. We can help you to prepare your portfolio of evidence and we can also complete your application form. We will even write a letter of representation to support the merits of your case.
Call us now on +1 844 290 6312 to find out more about how we can help you to secure British citizenship as an American.
Will I Need to Provide Details of a Referee?
Yes, when you apply for British citizenship you will need to provide details of two referees. This is a requirement because the Home Office needs confirmation from a trusted source that the information you have provided is factually correct to their knowledge. Bear in mind that your referees will need to provide their signature on your application form.
You must have known your referees for at least three years prior to submitting your application and both of them must not have held any criminal convictions in the previous ten years.
At least one of your referees must hold a professional position such as a teacher, doctor, Minister of Religion, or a member of a professional body.
Also, one of your referees must be a British national and must hold a British passport, and be at least 25-years-old.
It is important to note that your referees cannot be the immigration professional who is representing you in your case and must not work for the UKVI.
Can I Hold British and American Dual Citizenship?
Yes, it is possible to apply for British citizenship and retain your American citizenship, which will make you a dual citizen.
This is a particularly attractive option that enables you to live in both the United Kingdom and the United States without any restrictions.
You do not need to apply for dual citizenship separately if you wish to keep your American citizenship. You still apply for British citizenship in the same way as you would if you were planning to renounce your American citizenship.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that if you decided you wanted to apply for citizenship in another country in the future, you may need to renounce your British and/or U.S citizenship.
How Long Does the British Citizenship Application Process Take?
As each individual application is different, it is impossible to give a specific timeframe for the processing of a British citizenship application.
The UK Home Office states that all applications will be processed within six months of the date they are received. This applies to all forms of British citizenship, including British citizenship by birth, British citizenship by descent and British citizenship by double descent (through grandparents).
As a general guideline, you can expect to receive a decision between 3 and 6 months after your application is received by the Home Office.
If your application is particularly complex, you can expect the turnaround to be longer. Also, if your portfolio of evidence is insufficient and is missing information this will, of course, delay the application processing time. In these circumstances, the Home Office will request additional documentation.
Ultimately, the processing time all depends on the particular intricacies of your application.
What is the Fee for a British Citizenship Application?
The current British citizenship application fees are as follows:
- £1,330 for British citizenship by naturalisation
- £1,206 for nationality registration
- £80 for citizenship ceremony
- £5 for the administration of a citizenship oath
Can I Renounce my British Citizenship?
Yes, it is possible to renounce your British citizenship should you wish.
It is worth bearing mind that you do not necessarily need to renounce your UK citizenship if you want to apply for citizenship in another country, in the same way that you don’t need to renounce your American citizenship when applying for British citizenship.
Indeed, it is possible to hold multiple citizenships provided that all the countries which you wish to be a citizen of permit this kind of arrangement.
If you renounce your British citizenship, this will only affect your own status in Britain. Any family members who hold British citizenship, including your children, will not be affected by your decision.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the status of any future children you have could be affected.
As an American, you can renounce your British citizenship if:
- You are over 18
- You already have another citizenship/nationality
- You will acquire another citizenship or nationality after renouncing your British citizenship
If your application for the renouncement of your status is accepted, you will receive a ‘Declaration of Renunciation’ certificate. This can be used as evidence that you are no longer a citizen of the United Kingdom.
It is also possible for you to apply for the resumption of your status if you change your mind in the future. You will need to prove that you still have substantial connections to the UK and the Home Office to be eligible.
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To apply for British citizenship, there are many requirements you will need to fulfill. What follows are a few things to think about before your application for Naturalization:
Immigration Time Restrictions – to apply you will need to have no immigration time restrictions on your leave. This usually means applying for British Citizenship after you have received settled status.
Good Character Requirement – all applicants over 10 years of age will need to prove their good character. This means that you must show respect for the rights and freedoms of the UK, that you will follow the laws, and have fulfilled your duties as a resident. The Home Office will assess this through criminal and financial record checks.
Sound Mind Requirement – applicants must be of full capacity when they apply (although in some cases this may be overlooked). You will need to show you are able to make your own decisions and understand the application you are making when you apply for British citizenship.
Dual Nationality – Many countries will allow you to hold Dual Nationality when you apply for British citizenship. If your country does not, they may not recognize your new citizenship or take away your previous nationality. If you are a British citizen, you will not normally need to renounce your British citizenship unless the country you have moved to requires it.
Read more on the British citizenship requirements
It is the term used to describe the process whereby a non-citizen of a country becomes a citizen of that country. The standard route towards British citizenship – living in the UK for a certain period of time in line with your immigration permission – is what the term naturalization refers to.
You must be over 18 years-old to apply for British citizenship through this route, and you must have lived in the UK for at least 12 months under Indefinite Leave to Remain status.
Also, the term naturalization is often used when describing the British citizenship by marriage route, which applies to those who wish to become a British citizen on the basis of their marriage/civil partnership with a British citizen. Typically, a person in these circumstances can apply for British citizenship after three years of UK residence.
To find out more about the British citizenship by naturalization process, including the full requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our immigration legal experts today on +1 844 290 6312.
We understand that it can be devastating news to receive a rejection on your British citizenship application.
Applications can be rejected for a number of reasons, including not providing a sufficient level of supporting documentation to support your application, or errors in the completion of your application form.
The reason/s for the refusal will be highlighted on your rejection letter. If you believe that your application was rejected unfairly, you could choose to challenge the Home Office’s decision.
If you decide to appeal against the Home Office’s decision, it is highly recommended that you hire the services of experienced immigration legal professionals who can support you through the process.
We can support you through the entire process of an appeal, whether that is through an administrative review of a full legal appeal.
To find out more about how we can help you in your appeal against a British citizenship application refusal, please call us now on +1 844 290 6312.
A child is entitled to British citizenship by birth if he/she was born in the UK to at least one British parent. If this is the case, they do not need to register as a British citizen.
The most common route for children under 18 to apply for British citizenship is through registering as a British citizen. If you are British and your child was born outside of the UK, they will need to be registered to receive the same rights as British citizens.
There are a number of examples where you may be able to register as a British citizen instead of naturalizing. Some of the categories included are for:
- British Overseas or Overseas Territory Citizens
- If you have previously renounce your citizenship
- Stateless people
- Children under 18 (this includes children in the UK on a Dependent Child Visa)
Each category has varying requirements to be met.
British Citizenship will mean that you are no longer subject to immigration controls and can travel as a British Citizen. Once you have been granted citizenship, you will be able to apply for a British passport.
This is the most common form of identification for UK citizens. You may also be able to apply for a Nationality Status Document if you do not have the necessary documents for a passport.
Applications for British Citizenship can be extensive and complex. Seeking advice from an experienced UK immigration lawyer is highly recommended to ensure the best chance of success.
Find out more about applying for a British passport.
Previous convictions are likely to affect your British Citizenship application. The seriousness will depend on the type of conviction or offense.
In this situation, it is advisable that you seek the help of a professional immigration expert. One of our lawyers will be able to discuss with you how any convictions may affect your application for British Citizenship.
There are some circumstances in which you can get British citizenship by descent from a grandparent. This is more commonly called British citizenship by double descent.
Whether you are eligible for this varies depending on several different factors, including where and when your British grandparent was born and what gender they were/are.
IAS has experience advising and assisting clients when they apply for British citizenship.
Your dedicated lawyer will:
- Check your documents to ensure that they are sufficient;
- Assess your eligibility for the application from British Citizenship;
- Maintain contact with the Home Office throughout the process;
- Write a Letter of Representation to accompany your application;
- Complete every part of your application form(s) to a professional standard;
- Advise you on preparing and taking your ‘Life in the UK test’;
- Advise you on taking the IELTS test if you are from a non-English speaking country.
If you are not eligible for the British Citizenship route but you would like to explore other options such as a UK residence visa, please take a look at the information on this page ‘UK Immigration Advice for U.S. Citizens‘.