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.
It just got even more difficult for EU nationals to get British citizenship
Deprivation of 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.
FAQs: British Citizenship
In accordance with the operation of the EU Settlement Scheme following the recent Brexit procedure, it is stated that EU, EEA or Swiss nationals and their family members granted indefinite leave to enter or remain (settled status) under the EU Settlement Scheme must show and provide documentary evidence for the past five years of EU, EEA or Swiss nationals exercising their treaty rights in the UK prior to making the naturalization application.
Such requirements can be met by providing documents showing that they have been complying with requirements concerning them exercising treaty rights, such as having comprehensive medical sickness insurance for those who have been self-sufficient, or on the basis of having been residing in the UK as employed, self-employed or in the capacity of student.
Failure to provide such documentary evidence for the past five years may lead to the naturalization application being refused by the Home Office.
A. Immigration requirements
There are a number of requirements that one has to fulfil in order to make a successful application for British citizenship:
- Minimum age of 18
- ‘Full capacity’ (sound mind)
- Intention to have his/her home in the UK (or principal home if more than one)
- Sufficient knowledge of English Language
- Sufficient knowledge of Life in the UK
- Good Character
- Residence requirements
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.
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.
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.
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. To show that the applicant has met this requirement, they must submit the following documents as part of their application:
- A valid B1 (intermediate) or higher level of English language speaking and listening qualification. The Home Office will only accept qualification from their approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) provider list; or
- A degree taught or researched in English; or
- A valid identification to confirm that you are a national of Majority English Speaking countries
When applying for naturalization, you can also use the previous English language certificate at the B1 level, which has already expired (two years or more have passed), and this English language certificate was already accepted by the Home Office when you applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain status, and you received it.
For a number of applicants, exceptions have been made regarding passing of the "Life in the UK" test and the English language test:
- those aged 65 or over;
- whose physical or mental condition severely inhibits their ability to communicate or take the test;
- child below the age of 18
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Sufficient knowledge of life in the UK
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 fulfil 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.
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.
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:
- If the absences are up to 730 days the applicant would be expected to have been resident in the UK for the last 7 years;
- For absences exceeding 730 days the applicant would be expected to have been resident in the UK for the last 8 years unless the absences were a result of one of the following reasons:
- a posting abroad in Crown service;
- husband, wife or civil partner of a British citizen serving abroad in Crown service;
- nature of the applicant’s work. For example, someone working for a UK based business which requires frequent travel abroad;
- exceptional reasons such as having a firm job offer for which British citizenship is a genuine requirement.
Only very rarely the absences in excess of 900 days would be disregarded. If the absences are more than this limit the application is likely to fail and fee will not be fully refunded.
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. 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:
- they must not be related to the applicant
- they must not be related to the other referee
- they cannot be the applicant's solicitor or representative in relation to the naturalization application
- they must not be employed by the Home Office
- they must not have been convicted of an imprisonable offence during the past 10 years for which the sentence is not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
Additional requirements for EEA nationals who have been students or self-sufficient in the UK in the ten years preceding their application for British citizenship
The current immigration rules double the period of time, from five years to ten years, during which certain EU citizens in the UK must have held comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) or a European health insurance card (EHIC) issued by an EU country, in order to qualify for citizenship.
Below are some important points in this regard:
- This only affects applicants for British citizenship.
- This generally only affects EEA and Swiss citizens (and dependants) who have been students or self-sufficient in the UK in the ten years preceding their application for British citizenship.
- Employed and self-employed workers were not required to hold CSI or an EHIC and are not required to under this policy either.
- Family members (within the meaning of the EEA Regulations) of workers were not required to hold CSI or an EHIC either.
- The good character assessment does not introduce a ten-year residence requirement. If a person moved to the UK less than ten years ago that’s fine; the caseworker will just examine UK residence back to the date they first arrived.
- The new guidance does not say that everyone without CSI will be refused citizenship. The problem is it doesn’t say they will be granted either.
B. Appeals (for applications submitted inside the country)
Applicants whose applications are refused will be granted full rights of appeal, provided that at the time of the decision they will not be granted any other permission to stay in the UK. However, in these appeals, applicants are not allowed to use new evidence to challenge the decision of the Home Office, which were not initially provided as part of the submitted and refused visa application. The applicant will have 10 working days from the date of delivery of the decision to lodge an appeal against this decision.
It is strongly recommended to seek professional help when appealing against any decision.
- We can advise on the procedure for making an application for naturalisation as a British citizen, the process and the timescale
- We can assess the merits of your application and advise as to how to improve your application to maximise success
- We can advise on the good character requirements
- We can advise on the residence requirements
- We can advise on the acceptable profession of referees
- We can advise on the merits of lodging an appeal in the event of any refusal
Whatever the case, we are here to help, assist, advise and represent our clients in relation to any aspect of the immigration matters of our clients.