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How to obtain UK citizenship

Guidelines on applying for British citizenship and getting qualified legal support

Why does British citizenship require careful planning?

When you apply for naturalisation and a British passport, it means that you are at the final stage of becoming a British citizen. Normally, it takes several years of serious effort and careful planning to be able to apply for British citizenship.

If you obtain British citizenship, you can live, work, study and run a business in the UK without any restrictions, as well as cross British borders freely. The status of a British citizen is prestigious and is revoked only in exceptional cases, so your and your family’s position will be secured.

British legislation that allows to obtain British citizenship through naturalisation is rather strict. It often happens thatrefusal from British immigration authorities crashes the hopes of a migrant who has long lived in the UK and was sure that their dream was about to come true. To avoid this turn of events, it’s better to get support from qualified immigration advisors. They will help you to gather all the necessary documents and fill in the application form correctly.

How to obtain British citizenship by naturalisation

Naturalisation allows immigrants who have lived and successfully worked in the UK for several years to get British citizenship. Normally, by this time, they already have permanent residence.

10 steps to obtaining British citizenship

  1.  Determine whether you meet all immigration requirements: have you lived in the UK for the required period of time? Do you have a good reputation? etc.
  2. Gather all necessary documents to confirm your right to obtain British citizenship. Pass a Life in the UK test and prove your knowledge of English.
  3. Find two referees who meet the requirements of the Home Office and vouch for you.
  4. Fill in and submit an online application form and pay an application fee.
  5. Upload scanned copies of all evidence to the government website.
  6. Make an appointment with one of the immigration centres in the UK to submit your biometrics.
  7. Make sure you are easy to get in touch while your application is being processed in case the Home Office officials have some additional questions for you.
  8. Get an approval letter and an invitation to a citizenship ceremony. You can choose from several available dates. You must remember that:
    • A Home Office approval letter doesn’t grant you the right to get British citizenship unless you pledge your allegiance/swear an oath;
    • You must swear an oath/pledge your allegiance not later than three months after getting the approval, so you need to hurry.
  9. Swear an oath/pledge your allegiance and get a certificate of naturalisation.
  10.  Apply for a British passport with your certificate of naturalisation and pay a passport fee.

When can a permanent resident apply for British citizenship?

Most migrants who come to the UK on work and business visas must spend at least 12 months there as permanent residents before they can apply for British citizenship.

To obtain a British passport, you must spend six years in the UK: five years on a long-term visa and 12 months as a permanent resident. The only exception applies to spouses of UK nationals. They can apply for British citizenship after three years of living in the UK and after obtaining permanent residence.

Applicants mustn’t spend outside the UK more than:

  • 450 days – in five years of staying in the UK;
  • 270 days – in three years of staying in the UK.

Required duration of stay in the UK before naturalisation

Visa type

Time period

Most long-term visas, except for Global Talent

6 years

Global Talent visa

5 years

Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa

5–6 years

Innovator visa

5 years

Sole Representative visa

6 years

Investor visa

5–6 years

Spouse, Marriage and Partner visas

5 years*

Other legal routes

10 years

*Note: to get permanent residence, you need to stay in the UK for five years. You can apply for citizenship immediately after becoming a permanent resident, and only last three years in the country will be counted.

Requirements to migrants applying for British citizenship by naturalisation

Applicants who aren’t married to a UK national

If you aren’t married to a UK citizen, you need to fulfil the following requirements to obtain a British passport:

  1. Legally stay in the UK for at least five years and be absent from the country for not more than 450 days;
  2. Be a permanent resident for 12 months prior to applying for British citizenship. Remember about the 90-day rule: the number of days of absence mustn’t exceed 90 days in the last year;
  3. Prove that the UK is going to be your home after the obtaining of citizenship;
  4. Prove that you speak English well enough. To meet this requirement, you need one of the following
    • Be a citizen of an English-speaking country;
    • Have a higher education diploma proving that you studied in English, for example, a diploma from a British university;
    • Pass an English test;
  5. Pass a Life in the UK test;
  6. Be of good character and have no criminal record;
  7. Prove to the immigration authorities that you plan to live in the UK.

For spouses of British citizens

If you are a spouse of a British national or a UK settled person, you need to fulfil the following requirements to obtain a British passport: 

  1. Legally stay in the UK for at least three years and be absent from the country for not more than 270 days.
  2. Apply for British citizenship without spending 12 months in the UK as a permanent resident. Remember about the 90-day rule: the number of days of absence mustn’t exceed 90 days in the last year.
  3. Prove that the UK is going to be your home after the obtaining of citizenship.
  4. Prove that you speak English well enough. To meet this requirement, you need one of the following:
    • Be a citizen of an English-speaking country;
    • Have a higher education diploma proving that you studied in English , for example, a diploma from a British university.
    • Pass an English test;
  5. Pass a Life in the UK test.
  6. Be of good character and have no criminal record.
  7. Prove to the immigration authorities that you plan to live in the UK.

To prove that you have a clean criminal record, an applicant needs to have no criminal convictions, traffic fines, violations of administrative and immigration legislation and financial issues (bankruptcy, illegally acquired public benefits, tax debts), etc. If you have any of these violations on your criminal record, you need to mention this in your application. You also need to consult your legal advisor to find the best way to act under these circumstances.

What documents do you need to get British citizenship?

Here is the list of the documents that are necessary to get British citizenship:

  1. Your current and expired passport and a valid biometric card (if you have one).
  2. Documents proving that you have an accommodation.
  3. Confirmation of good knowledge of English.
  4. Life in the UK test results.
  5. Marriage certificate, if any.
  6. Tax reports for 5–6 years prior to naturalisation.
  7. Payslips and the letter from your employer.

Imperial & Legal advisors will help you to gather, translate and notarise all necessary accompanying documents.

How should an application for British citizenship be filled in?

For most immigration categories, you can use an online application form. At first, you need to choose the required form type, then carefully fill in the form by answering all the questions. The application fee can also be paid online.

After you submit your application and pay the application fee, you will receive your reference number. Use it to upload all the accompanying documents to the official portal and make an appointment in one of the immigration centres to submit biometric data.

How long does it take to obtain British citizenship?

It can take up to six months for the Home Office to process an application, but it usually happens quicker. The processing depends on whether you submitted all the documents. To avoid any issues, it is important to get support from qualified immigration advisors.

If the Home Office is happy with all the evidence, you will receive a letter of approval and an invitation to a citizenship ceremony. Only after swearing an oath/pleading an allegiance, you will get a certificate of naturalisation.

What are other grounds, apart from work, business and family visas, for a migrant to become a British citizen?

You can obtain British citizenship if:

  1. You were born in the UK before 01 January 1983.
  2. One or both of your parents are UK nationals or UK permanent residents.
  3. You are an officially recognised refugee.
  4. You are a stateless person.
  5. You have legally stayed in the UK for the last ten years.
  6. You get settled status more than 12 months ago under the EU settlement scheme.
  7. Your parents are citizens of one of the British Commonwealth countries and moved to the UK before 1973, and you have lived in the UK for more than two years (you were born in the UK or you moved to the UK before you turned 18 years old).
  8. You are a British national.
  9. You lost your British citizenship for some reasons.

What to do if your application for British citizenship is refused?

The most common reasons for a refusal are incorrectly filled applications and absence of some accompanying documents. It is less often that your application is refused because of the Home Office caseworker’s mistake, but they are also humans and can make mistakes.

Imperial & Legal advisors can guarantee that there will be no issues with filling in your application and preparing thedocuments with their help. If your application has been refused, our experts will analyse your case and work out aplan of action. Possible solutions:

  •  Re-apply, if you initially applied for citizenship yourself and made mistakes that cannot be fixed;
  • Ask for an administrative review, if a mistake was made when the initial application was being processed;
  • Appeal to an independent court if the Home Office doesn’t want to reach a compromise and violates the applicant’s civil rights. Out advisors are ready to defend your interests in a British immigration tribunal.

FAQ about obtaining British citizenship

What is the difference between settled and UK national statuses?

At first glance, a settled person has the same rights as a national. What’s more, migrants often choose to remain permanent residents, especially if it is forbidden in their homeland to have multiple nationalities.

Permanent residents don’t have to obtain additional permits to live, work, do business and study in the UK. Just as citizens, they have access to healthcare services, social benefits and voting during local elections. Besides, settled people can sponsor their foreign relatives for them to join them in the UK. Children of permanent residents becomeBritish citizens automatically if they are born on the UK territory. However, British settled people can lose their status if they are absent from the UK for too long. Migrants coming from countries outside the Schengen Area can leave the UK for not more than two years.

The main difference between a permanent resident and citizen is that your nationality has no expiration date and cannot be annulled. What’s more, as a citizen, you get an opportunity to travel around the world visa-free.

Who can become my referee when I apply for British citizenship?

According to the immigration rules, your referees can be chosen from two groups of people:

  1. Qualified specialists of any nationality, for example, doctors, priests or lawyers. If your referee is a lawyer, they can’t represent your interests in your citizenship application.
  2. Any British citizen of good character older than 25 years old.

Is it possible to obtain British citizenship by investment?

Unfortunately, British government doesn’t offer any citizenship by investment programs that allow foreign investors toget second passport under accelerated scheme. To become a British citizen, you must stay in the country for a long time, prove your good knowledge of English and local customs.

However, British immigration rules allow migrants on Tier 1 Investor visa, who invested at least £5,000,000 into theUK business, to apply for citizenship one year earlier, i.e. after five years, with two or three years of stay in the countryas permanent residents.

Is it necessary to revoke your first citizenship to get a British passport?

No, it isn’t. In the UK, it isn’t forbidden to have multiple nationalities, so you won’t have to revoke your first citizenshipto get a British passport unless it’s required in your home country.

How much does it cost to apply for British citizenship?

There are three types of costs:

  1. Application fee – the exact amount depends on the immigration category;
  2. Biometrics fee – £19.80;
  3. Costs of the citizenship ceremony – £80. All applicants over 18 years old must pay for the official ceremony.

You can also pay to accelerate the application process. Normally, application fee and ceremony costs are addedtogether for convenience. There are two most common scenarios:

  • Naturalisation costs £1,330. The amount includes ceremony costs without a biometrics fee that amounts to £19.20.
  •  Naturalisation costs £1,000. This option is only available for the Commonwealth citizens. The amount includes an application fee and ceremony costs without a biometrics fee that amounts to £19.20.

If you are a child of a British citizen or permanent resident and want to obtain British citizenship by naturalisation, thecosts will amount to:

  • £1,206 for application processing and naturalisation + £19.20 for biometrics for an adult applicant;
  • £1,012 for application processing + £19.20 for biometrics for a child who is younger than 18 years old.

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