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UK naturalisation:
Obtain British citizenship through residence in the UK

Naturalisation is the process of becoming a British citizen through a period of qualifying residency in the UK. The criteria will depend on your individual circumstances. Whatever your situation is, our expert UK immigration and citizenship experts can guide you through the complex processes of applying for British citizenship.

The basics: How to become a naturalised citizen of the UK

To be granted British citizenship, you will have to meet several eligibility and residential requirements.

To be eligible for naturalisation in the UK you must:

  • Be over 18 years old

  • Be of good character

  • Have the requisite language ability

  • Have passed the Life in the UK test

  • Intend to continue to live in the UK


You will also have to satisfy residential requirements. The key requirements are as follows:

  • You must have lived in the UK for five years before you apply to naturalise

  • You will have to have spent enough time in the UK over those five years

  • You need to have held indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence for 12 months before you apply to naturalise

It should be noted that the vast majority of refusals of British citizenship applications have been as a result of applicants not meeting the good character and residential requirements.

The process of naturalisation also depends on your own individual status, for instance:

  • Are you a national from the European Economic Area or Switzerland?
  • What kind of passport do you hold?
  • Are you married or in a relationship with a UK citizen?

These, and a myriad of other factors, can influence your application for naturalisation. Let our experienced team of UK nationality experts handle your application.

We’re experts in helping people from around the world

British citizenship for EU nationals

We can help with the naturalisation of EU nationals through qualifying residency in the UK. Our team in London stays at the forefront of British nationality and immigration laws and regulations to ensure your nationality goals are achieved.

How EU nationals can naturalise in the UK

As a European Union (EU) national (or the family member of an EU national), you can move to the UK to live and work. It is important that you are in the UK exercising EU treaty rights (i.e. employment, study, being self-sufficient, etc.). On 27 October 2015, a new law was passed in the UK to prevent European Union nationals (and their family members) applying for British nationality if they do not first hold a residence card.

If you have held a permanent residence card for 12 months (exceptions can apply), have lived in the UK for at least five years and if you meet the other set criteria (including the “good character” requirement), you could naturalise as a British citizen.

What about Brexit?

Given the recent Brexit vote and the likelihood that the UK will exit the European Union over the coming years, the status of those EU nationals living in the UK is unclear. It is important to secure your rights to live and work in the UK as soon as possible.

Brexit

UK naturalisation for non-EU nationals

In order to naturalise in the UK as a British citizen, you will first need to qualify for indefinite leave to remain. There are numerous requirements that will change depending on your individual situation. If you have any questions about obtaining ILR and full citizenship, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Using ILR to naturalise as a UK citizen

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is the status of permanent residency for non-EU nationals in the UK. It is possible for a person holding ILR to naturalise in the UK as a British citizen.

The requirements to be met are dependent on two factors:

  • Are you married to a British citizen?
  • Are you not married to a British citizen?

In both cases, the following criteria apply:

  • You must be over 18 years old

  • You must be of good character (see below)

  • You must pass the "Life in the UK" test*

  • You must have sufficient knowledge of the English language*

  • You must have an intention to live in the UK

*An applicant over the age of 65 is not subject to meeting these criteria.

Applicants who are married to a British citizen

There are specific requirements for naturalisation if you are married to a British citizen.

The applicant:

  • Must hold ILR on the date of application
  • Must have been resident in the UK for three years on any legal visa status
  • Must have been present in the UK on the date three years prior to the application being received by the Nationality Directorate
  • Cannot have been absent from the UK for more than 270 days in those three years*
  • Cannot have been outside the UK for more than 90 days in the 12 months before your application*

*Exceptions can apply based on individual circumstances to allow further time away outside of the UK

As a married partner, you can apply for naturalisation immediately after receiving ILR.

Applicants not married to a British citizen

The requirements for naturalisation if you are not married to a British citizen are slightly different to those set out above.

The applicant:

  • Have held ILR for at least the last 12 months
  • Have been in the UK for the last five years
  • Have been present in the UK on the date five years prior to the application being received by the Nationality Directorate
  • Not have been outside the UK for more than 450 days during those 5 years*
  • Not have been outside the UK for more than 90 days in the 12 months before your application*

*Exceptions can apply based on individual circumstances to allow further time away outside of the UK

Conditions for British naturalisation

Once your naturalisation application is approved, you will be invited to attend a British citizenship ceremony. This ceremony can only take place in your local council area in the UK. Once you have done this, you will be eligible to submit an application for a British passport.

British citizenship for Irish citizens

The process of an Irish citizen becoming a British citizen through a period of qualifying residency in the UK is distinct from the process that applies to other EU nationals.

How it works for Irish citizens

Immigration law dating back to the 1970s and pre-dating the current European Union (EU) legislation means that Irish citizens are treated differently in the UK. Upon entry into the UK, you are considered settled for immigration and nationality purposes.

After a period of five years in the UK, and if you meet the other set criteria (including the good character requirement), you can apply for British citizenship.

Unlike other EU nationals, as an Irish citizen, you:

  • Don't have to be exercising EU treaty rights to reside legally in the UK

  • Don't have to obtain a permanent residence card in order to naturalise

Given the recent Brexit vote and the likelihood that the UK will exit the EU over the coming years, the status of Irish citizens living in the UK is unclear.

Find out more about children under 18 attaining British citizenship

While we think that Irish citizens will continue to have a special status in the UK, it is important to secure your rights to live and work in the UK sooner rather than later.

Good character

The good character requirement goes beyond the scope of simply being free from criminal convictions

Includes (but is not limited to):

  • Traffic offences

  • Bankruptcy

  • Overstaying your visa (even by a single day)

  • Working when your visa did not permit it

  • Not being up-to-date with tax returns and tax payments

  • County Court Judgements (CCJ) or an overseas equivalent

Any person affected by the above should seek professional advice before attempting an application.

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