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Naturalisation in the UK: how to obtain British citizenship?

The British Isles have always been an attractive immigration destination for scientists, writers, philosophers, athletes and rich entrepreneurs from all parts of the world. The UK citizenship is now a dream for many people, despite British peculiar climate, high living costs and quite strict immigration rules. The UK citizenship is so popular for several reasons:

  1. TheUnited Kingdom offers comfortable and secure living conditions as well as high-quality medical care and strong social welfare system. Under these circumstances, citizens can concentrate their efforts on business, arts, improving the well-being of their families and self-development.
  2. The UK provides favourable business and investment environment. British economy is resilient to crises, and its market is vast. The judicial system in the UK isn’t controlled by the government, and corporate law is convenient. Besides, the government supports small and medium-size enterprises directly and through subsidies.
  3. British passport gives freedom of movement. As of the start of 2021, British citizens can visit 185 countries, including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, visa-free or under a simplified scheme.
  4. The UK is often chosen for tax benefits and incentives. British foreign-born citizens can optimise their taxes through British tax legislation.
  5. In the UK you can secure a better future for your children. British universities and colleges are well-known around the world as they give students qualitative and modern education that will allow them to build a good career or found a successful business.

Как получить гражданство Великобритании?

How to obtain British citizenship?

Nowadays, there are two possible ways to become British:

  • through registration of citizenship;
  • through naturalisation.

This article doesn’t cover registration procedure. Registration is possible only for children up to 18 years old who for some reason didn’t become citizens by birth and had to be registered through a special procedure. For example, if parents didn’t have the right for British citizenship when the child was born and applied for naturalisation in a few years, the minor will obtain British citizenship together with their parents.

Naturalisation in the UK: what is it?

Naturalisation is a conscious decision to become a British citizen after the fulfilment of certain requirements that include living in the UK for several years. As a rule, before applying for naturalisation, you must be a permanent resident in the UK for at least a year.

In order to get British passport through naturalisation, you must spend in the UK at least 5 years. To date, there is no quicker way. The length of the required stay in the UK depends on 2 factors:

  • immigration status;
  • type of activity.
Required stay in the UK (years)Applicant’s immigration status

Spouses or partners of British nationals and settled people

Investors who contributed £5,000,000 or more to the UK economy

Individuals with Innovator visa or Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa


Workers on Skilled Worker visa who have spent 5 years in the UK and have been permanent residents for 1 year

Entrepreneurs and investors with Tier 1 visa who have spent 5 years in the UK and have been permanent residents for 1 year

11All other individuals who have legally spent 10 years in the UK and have been permanent residents for 1 year

There is one more rare case of naturalisation that this article doesn’t cover. It happens when a person spends 10 years in the UK illegally (in hiding, without official deportation order and forced deportation), then turns themselves in, obtains residence and spends another 10 years in the UK legally. Such cases may still exist, but global digitalisation and electronic payment systems have significantly reduced their number.

Что такое натурализация в Англии?

What requirements must be met by an applicant for British citizenship?

Anyone applying for UK passport must:

  1. Be at least 18 years old.
  2. Be psychologically healthy. In other words, an immigrant must be of sound mind and memory.
  3. Show their intention to stay in the UK/ have enough ties in the UK.
  4. Speak good English (at least B1 level according to Common European Framework of Reference) and pass Life in the UK test.
  5. Be of good character. This means:
    • no criminal convictions or criminal proceedings in the UK and other countries;
    • no violations of immigration law, for example, illegal stay in the UK 10 years prior to the application.
  1. Comply with the number of days of absence. If you have a spouse visa or Tier 1/ Skilled Worker visa, you must not spend outside the UK more than 450 days during 5 years before applying for naturalisation. Besides, you must not spend more than 90 days outside the country during the last 12 months before naturalisation application.
  2. Obtain referee forms from 2 people who have known them well for the last 3 There is a whole list of requirements that such referees must meet. For example, they must not be your relatives, your advisors or individuals who have unspent criminal conviction in the last 10 years.

Требования иммиграционных властей к заявителям на предоставление гражданства Великобритании

Naturalisation for workers, entrepreneurs and investors

Most people in these categories will be able to obtain British passport only 6 years after moving to the UK.

For such a long stay you must have a long-term visa. Experienced advisors of Imperial & Legal will help you to obtain residence of the following types:

  1. Skilled Worker category – includes work visas for qualified employees who are invited to the UK for work and intra-company transfer visas for employees and interns of an international company that has a branch in theUK. There are also visas for special work categories such as athletes and ministers of religion.
  2. Sole representative visa – combines the features of a work visa and an entrepreneur It is issued to the managers who are going to run British subsidiaries or branches of foreign companies in the UK (hired top managers or co-owners who are not majority shareholders).
  3. Tier 1 Investor visa – as its name suggests, this visa is granted to business people who invest into real sectors of the UK economy. An investor status brings many benefits to an immigrant.
  4. Innovator visa and Start-up visa – are granted to business people who have a good business idea (in case of an Innovator visa, not only a good idea, but also money to invest into it) and plan to implement it in the UK after endorsement by a relative body. These visas are alternatives to the abolished Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa that also allows to apply for residence with further naturalisation.

After 5 years of fruitful work and some tests on knowledge of English and British culture, individuals with one of these visas can obtain permanent residence. A year later, they can apply for naturalisation.

Investors and innovators are the only exceptions. People with Tier 1 visas are not obliged to conduct one type of activity: run a business, work or study. They can occupy themselves with anything that doesn’t require an official licence as in some professions. Besides, if the amount of their investments reaches £5,000,000 or £10,000,000, they can apply for permanent residence after 3 or 2 years of stay in the UK, respectively, and apply for British citizenship in 5 years after arrival in the UK.

People with Innovator visas can obtain permanent residence in 3 years if their business develops to a certain level and if certain requirements are met.

Натурализация в Англии для обладателей семейных виз

Naturalisation with family visas

Foreign spouses (including same-sex partners) of British nationals and settled people who live in the UK with a family visa have a unique opportunity to apply for citizenship by naturalisation in 5 years – immediately after obtaining permanent residence. In contrast to other immigration categories, they don’t have to be permanent residents for 12 months before applying for naturalisation.

The number of days of absence still remains important if you want to get a British passport – you must not spend outside the UK more than 270 days in 3 years (90 days during the last 12 months) before applying for naturalisation.

KEY THING TO REMEMBER! A common mistake is to mix the period of time that spouses must live together in the UK (5 years) and the period of time during which the days of absence are counted (3 years).

Like other immigrants, spouses and civil partners must pass the Life in the UK test and confirm their good knowledge of English with documents or through an exam.

After many years of successful work, our advisors have become real experts in solving the issues connected with immigration to Europe and the UK. We will help you not only to obtain a visa, but also to relocate to the UK with your family: find a property near your place of work and a good nursery and school for your children.

When the time comes, qualified advisors of Imperial & Legal will help you to obtain permanent residence and apply for naturalisation. All supporting documentation will be prepared by our specialists, the application will be considered by the Home Office, and you will get your British passport within 6 months.

FAQ about naturalisation in the UK

How can applicants confirm their knowledge of English?

There are 3 ways to confirm that you have sufficient knowledge of English:

  1. Pass a qualifying exam;
  2. Provide a graduation certificate from a higher education institution that is recognised in the UK and where education is conducted in English;
  3. Be a citizen of the country where English is an official language.

If the number of days of absence during 5 years exceeds 450 days, will naturalisation be refused?

If the number doesn’t exceed 480 days, all other requirements are met and no other violations are registered, immigration authorities will allow you to obtain citizenship.

If you were absent from the UK for more than 480 days for any reason, including objective ones that don’t depend on you – for example, because of a long illness or service in the British military forces abroad – you should contact a qualified immigration advisor. You might need to provide the Home Office with additional documents and certificates to resolve the matter in your favour.

At the same time, there are immigrants whose stay in the UK is not counted as the time necessary to obtain permanent residence and naturalisation.

Which groups of immigrants can stay in the UK without “getting closer” to naturalisation?

Firstly, diplomats and their families fall into this category. It also includes service personnel of the foreign embassies and foreign military people who stay in the UK officially, for example when they take part in combined exercises or provide security for the embassy.

It is obvious that this exception is made because of a special extraterritorial legal status of the groups mentioned above.

What are the requirements for referees?

Apart from knowing the applicant for 3 years, referees must:

  1. Be at least 25 years old;
  2. Be specialists in their field and/or British

Recommendation won’t be accepted from:

  1. Applicant’s relatives;
  2. Advisors of the legal company who represent the applicant’s interests before the Home Office;
  3. Individuals who have a criminal record in the last 10 years or who are on trial.

Will I get the application fee back if my application for naturalisation isn't approved?

No, since refusal in naturalisation is a result of a close inspection of the applicant’s documents and is caused by the applicant’s mistake, the application fee won’t be returned. To avoid any such problems, contact our advisors for help.

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