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How do I get UK citizenship?

The UK has long been a leader among the most desirable places to live. The country is known for its quality medicine, high level of education and rich cultural scene. It is a pleasant place to live, work and bring up children. Therefore, obtaining British citizenship is the goal and dream of many foreigners. What exactly British citizenship has to offer and how to get it, we tell you below.

5 benefits of UK citizenship

A British passport opens up a wide range of opportunities for travelling, education, business and more.

  1. Freedom to travel

    British citizenship is characterised by freedom of movement around the world. Visa-free travel to more than 180 countries, including the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and Schengen countries. Even after the country leaves the European Union in 2020, British citizenship remains one of the most prestigious in the context of free movement around the world.

  2. Stable economy

    The pound sterling is a fairly strong and reliable currency. The UK economy is quite stable even during the global financial crisis. London is a major business and economic centre. The UK capital is consistently ranked among the top 10 cities with the largest number of offices of Global Fortune 500 companies.

  3. Quality health services

    All UK citizens can use medical services free of charge. The UK’s national healthcare system ranks highly in global rankings, thanks to its qualified medical staff, modern equipment and effective coordination of medical services. This approach ensures a high average life expectancy, which in 2020 was 81 years.

  4. High level of education

    The UK is leading the way in higher education, providing the world’s highest quality universities. In 2020, the country was ranked first in Europe and second in the world after the US for the quality of higher education. Here, students find a wide choice of programmes, actively participate in research, and lecturers who are experts in their fields inspire critical thinking and creativity. The British education system also supports international cooperation by offering exchange and internship programmes. This makes the UK an attractive world-class educational centre.

  5. Comfortable living conditions

    The British love outdoor walks and holidays in the countryside. The government promotes the preservation of nature – there are 15 national parks on the territory of the country, which together occupy 8% of the entire territory of the state.

What is the difference between English citizenship and permanent residence (ILR)?

ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) is a document that gives you the right to reside in the UK without a time limit.

To qualify for ILR, you usually need to have lived in the UK for a certain number of years with temporary residence (e.g. with a work or study visa) and fulfil other criteria, such as not having any serious breaches of the law and being financially stable.

Citizenship grants a higher status than ILR. A person with British citizenship becomes a full-fledged citizen of the country. Compared to ILR, citizenship usually requires extra steps and time. This may include fulfilling additional conditions such as language and social tests.

Citizenship also confers additional privileges: the right to vote, the ability to seek assistance from British consulates abroad, to travel freely to most countries in the world, and to be absent from and stay outside the country without restriction.

It is important to note that the procedures for obtaining ILR and citizenship are different and each provides different rights and responsibilities. People with ILR can live and work in the UK without restriction, but they may have restricted access to certain benefits and rights only available to citizens.

Stages of citizenship in the UK

The process of obtaining a passport follows a strict sequence as prescribed by law. This multi-step process involves three key steps that require the applicant to comply with the laws of the country.

Step 1: Obtaining a visa

Firstly, you need to obtain an immigration visa, which grants the right to temporary residence. In most cases, the applicant needs to live in the UK on a visa for at least 5 years, after which an application for ILR status is made. There are exceptions where it is possible to obtain ILR after 3 and 10 years of residence. It is important to note that for most visa types (other than spouse visas), you need to fulfil the requirement to be absent from the UK for no more than 180 days in any consecutive 12 month period. It is generally possible to apply for an immigration visa from the age of 18. Spouses and children under the age of 18, but not parents, can apply for a visa together with the main applicant.

Affordable visas for immigration:

Working Visas. Using work visas, a foreign national can reside in England for 5 years, after which they are given the opportunity to obtain permanent residence. Such visas include:

  • Scale-up Worker — this document is granted to foreign nationals who are 18 years of age or older and are planning to take up employment with a UK company. This visa requires additional conditions relating to minimum wage (and not only);

  • Health and Care Worker is a visa designed for overseas medical professionals. Medical professionals from other countries may be invited to work by a UK public health organisation. The position and visa require the necessary qualifications and an appropriate annual income;

  • Skilled Worker — a work permit for applicants with proven professional skills. In order to apply for this visa, the company must provide the employee with an invitation, a certificate of sponsorship and an annual salary not lower than the established minimum wage.

Global Talent. This visa can be obtained for special achievements in science, art, culture, IT-technology and more. Staying on this document is also considered as working, although it can be obtained without an invitation from a company or organisation in the UK. Having obtained such a visa, a foreigner can move to England to continue a project (research) in his/her field of activity or employment. In order to qualify for a talent visa, certain grounds are required: the applicant’s achievements must be recognised by one of the Global Talent programme bodies.

For example, this can be based on prizes won, grants received for research, as well as other documents and merits confirming the active development of one’s field of activity. This visa is granted for 5 years with the possibility of further extension, but after the expiry of this period it is possible to apply for permanent residence, and then — for citizenship of the country. For some spheres of activity it is possible to apply for ILR after three years.

Business Visa. Business permits require meeting strict qualification standards, as well as maintaining a chosen line of business until the naturalisation process is complete. Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

  • The Innovator visa is designed for talented entrepreneurs seeking to develop innovative ideas in the country. Holders of this visa have the right to work in the UK, as well as autonomy and control over the implementation of their innovative projects. The visa grants temporary residence with the possibility of extension, and opens the way to obtaining a permanent residence permit once the project has achieved the necessary conditions. If the project is really successful, the applicant can apply for a permanent residence permit three years after receiving the Innovator visa. Its holders can also exchange knowledge and experience with other innovators in the country, as well as work in different companies. To obtain the visa, a sound and innovative business plan demonstrating the potential for the development and implementation of new ideas is required;

  • Expansion Worker. This visa category is suitable for entrepreneurs who are expanding into the UK market and are just opening offices in England. This visa is considered as an intermediate stage and allows key employees to move to the UK to set up business in the country. This visa can be used to stay in the UK for a maximum of two years. If the business is successfully launched and operates in the UK, the employee can switch to a Skilled worker visa, which will allow them to obtain ILR in the future.

Family visa. Close relatives of foreign nationals living in the UK can move to this country on the basis of family ties and then, after 5 years, acquire permanent residency status and citizenship. Categories of people eligible to apply for a family visa include: spouses and civil partners of UK residents, fiancés and fiancées, children, parents, relatives who are travelling to the country to care for a UK resident. In order to obtain authorisation, you need to put together a package of documents that will prove many factors necessary to obtain this visa, such as financial solvency, availability of a place to live, kinship, need to relocate, etc. One of the features of this visa is that there is no requirement for days away from the UK to obtain ILR. However, if you are planning to obtain citizenship, you will still have to comply with the days away requirement for naturalisation.

Refugee Status. Foreigners who have documented persecution or persecution in their home country can claim refugee status, which in turn leads to a British ILR and then a passport.

Asylum application documents must be submitted to the immigration office. This can also be done at the border crossing point. The applicant will immediately be invited for an interview, have his/her photo taken and fingerprints taken. The authorities will issue a refugee registration card and provide the necessary assistance. The application will then be processed by the Ministry of Interior.

Step 2: Obtaining a permanent residence permit

To get an ILR, you must follow certain steps:

  • Temporary residence. Before you can get ILR you will first need to be in the UK as a temporary resident, e.g. on a work visa, family visa, student visa etc.;

  • Compliance with the terms of your visa. During the period of temporary stay, you must comply with the conditions of your visa, including work, study or other restrictions imposed by your visa;

  • Continuous residence in the country. You will usually need to live in the UK for a certain number of consecutive years to get ILR. The number of years may depend on the type of visa you have. You will usually need to stay for 5 years to get ILR;

  • Compliance. You must comply with all UK laws and regulations throughout your stay. If you are found to be in breach, you may have problems obtaining ILR;

  • Passing a language proficiency test. To qualify for a permanent residence permit, you need to have at least a B1 level of English;

  • Taking the Knowledge of Life in the UK test. This is a computerised test of knowledge of the history, political and social life of the UK. You must get 75% of the answers correct to pass the test;

  • Applying for ILR. Once you have fulfilled all the conditions of temporary stay and continuous residence, you can apply for ILR. This usually involves completing the relevant form and providing the necessary documents;

  • Application Review. Your application will be processed by the Home Office. The processing time depends on the type of visa. In most cases, urgent processing is available in 5 or 1 working day;

  • Obtaining ILR. In case of a favourable decision, you will be granted ILR status and can reside in the UK for an unlimited amount of time.

If you are out of the country for two consecutive years after receiving ILR, you will lose your status and will not be eligible to apply for citizenship until you have met the additional residence requirements set out in UK law. You will also have to make a new application to regain your status.

Step 3: Obtaining citizenship

Under current law, you can apply for citizenship no sooner than 12 months after receiving ILR.

But there are exceptions. They apply to certain situations, for example, if you are not married to a British person. Then you can apply for citizenship as soon as you get your ILR (provided you fulfil all the requirements for citizenship).

The procedure for obtaining British citizenship:

  • Collecting a package of documents: passing tests, obtaining a certificate confirming knowledge of the language, paying state fees, etc.;

  • Applying for citizenship;

  • After sending the documents, you need to book a biometric appointment, take fingerprints and a digital photograph;

  • Waiting for a response from the Home Office. The processing time is usually between two and six months;

  • If your application is successful, you will receive an invitation to the swearing-in ceremony. This takes place within three months of a favourable decision and must be booked in advance. During the ceremony you must swear an oath of allegiance to the King, country and people of the UK and then you will be presented with your naturalisation certificate. This is when you become a British citizen;

  • Handing in your biometric card. You need to cut the card into 4 pieces, pack it up and send it to the Home Office. If you do not do this, you will have to pay a fine;

  • Applying for a passport. If you want to travel the world as a British citizen, you need to get your first British passport. To do this, you need to make a separate application, submit all the necessary documents, as a result, and get your passport. The lead time for production usually takes 10 working days.

What is the difference between British citizenship and ILR?

ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and British citizenship represent different legal statuses in the UK immigration process.

ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain):

  • This is an indefinite leave to remain in the UK;

  • A person with ILR has the right to live, work and study in the UK without having to apply for separate authorisations;

  • ILR holders are not citizens of the country and do not have certain political rights, such as the right to vote in general elections (although they can vote in local elections);

  • Can be revoked in certain cases. For example, if you have been out of the country for a long time or if you have committed serious offences.

British citizenship:

  • Gives full access to all political rights, including participation in general elections and the right to apply to the British Consulate for assistance;

  • Allows you to travel freely to many countries around the world, including the US, Canada, European countries and beyond;

  • Allows you to pass on your citizenship to your descendants;

  • It involves a complex and lengthy process. The process involves obtaining ILR, fulfilling certain conditions of residence, passing a test of knowledge of life in the UK and attending a citizenship ceremony.

What is a test of knowledge about life in the UK?

The Life in the UK Test is a special test required of certain categories of foreign nationals applying for UK citizenship. The test is introduced as one of the conditions for proving knowledge and understanding of the main aspects of life and society in the UK.

The test includes questions on the following topics:

  • The history and political system of Great Britain;

  • Modern UK society, including multicultural society, education and health care;

  • Public duties and rights of citizens;

  • Principles of British law and justice system.

The test is a computer-based examination consisting of 24 multiple-choice questions. You must get 75% of the answers correct to pass the test. Preparation material is usually provided in the form of textbooks, online resources and practice tests.

Passing the UK Life Test is one of the steps in the citizenship process and is compulsory for those applying for citizenship after a certain period of residence in the UK.

How is the UK citizenship ceremony conducted?

The British citizenship ceremony is a formal event. It is where a new citizen accepts the obligations and rights of British citizenship. The ceremony goes something like this:

  • Invitation. If your application for citizenship is successful, you will be sent an invitation to attend the ceremony;

  • Selecting a date and location. You may be asked to choose the date and place of the ceremony from a selection of options. Registration centres usually have general ceremonies for multiple people. However, it is also possible to book a private ceremony just for you. It is worth noting that private ceremonies are subject to an additional fee;

  • The official part of the ceremony. The event takes place at the registration office of your municipality. During the ceremony, you are required to take the oath of office and express your allegiance to the Crown;

  • Issuance of the certificate. Once you have taken the oath of office, you will be given a certificate of naturalisation. This is when you become a British citizen.

The British citizenship ceremony is usually a symbolic act. It is designed to emphasise the importance of the citizen joining British society.

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