Applying for British Citizenship: what you need to know

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One way to become a British citizen is by ‘naturalisation’. The Home Office explains the criteria for naturalisation in this way:
Applying for British Citizenship: what you need to know
  • you’re 18 or over
  • you’re of good character, for example, you don’t have a serious or recent criminal record, and you haven’t tried to deceive the Home Office or been involved in immigration offences in the last 10 years
  • you’ll continue to live in the UK
  • you’ve met the knowledge of English and life in the UK requirements
  • you meet the residency requirement
  • you were in the UK exactly 5 years before the day the Home Office receives your application

And you must usually have:

  • lived in the UK for at least the 5 years before the date of your application
  • spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years
  • spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • had settlement (‘indefinite leave to remain’) in the UK for the last 12 months if you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • had permanent residence status for the last 12 months if you’re a citizen of an EEA country – you need to provide a permanent residence document
  • not broken any immigration laws while in the UK
Please note that there are different requirements to naturalise on the basis of marriage to a British citizen.

It is also possible to register as a British citizen in certain defined circumstances.  

Some reading material

Home Office website :   https://www.gov.uk/becoming-a-british-citizen

Application for Naturalisation as a British Citizen (Form AN);

Naturalisation as a British Citizen – a guide for applicants (guide AN);

Booklet AN – The Requirements ( to be read in conjunction with Guide AN).

Dual Nationality

The UK allows dual nationality, ie, that you can be a citizen of two countries.  Some countries do not. The arrangements and responses different countries have to the acquisition of another nationality vary.  You need to check yourself with your national authorities what the effect of becoming British will be. Do it and do it before you start the process of applying for British citizenship.  There is little point in revising and doing the work to pass the tests needed to apply for British Citizenship and then deciding you don’t want to go ahead because of the effect it will have on your other citizenship.

Your own national authorities are the best people to contact about the effect of dual nationality.   Alternatively and perhaps as well, lawyers with expertise of nationality law in country of origin will be able to advise.

The cost

It’s not cheap and the cost changes usually every year.  In case you were wondering if it goes up or down, most Home Office fees goes up.   The fee for registration as a British Citizenship is presently £1330.

Refunds

The Home Office state that Application Fees must be paid in full at the same time as a naturalisation application is sent to the Home Office. If the full fee or biometric data is not provided, then the  Home Office rejects the application as invalid. The application will not be processed and the fee will be refunded minus an administration fee of £25.

The fee for British citizenship has two parts which are

  1. a) Fee for handling and processing the application. None of this is refundable if the application is refused or withdrawn;
  2. b) Citizenship ceremony fee. Applicants who are required to attend a citizenship ceremony have to pay this fee. It is refunded to applicants whose applications are refused or withdrawn.

DIY or get the expert in

The form you need to complete (Form AN)  is not particularly long and complex (compared to other Home Office forms)  but you do need to provide all the information requested and all the documents required and understand fully the requirements to be met to be granted naturalisation and the Home Office’s approach to these requirements.  Some people decide to do it themselves, some people use local authority nationality checking services and some people instruct lawyers. The cost of lawyers varies. Make sure you and the lawyer are clear about what the lawyer’s fee (if it is a fixed fee)  covers, ie, just work up to submission of the application or all queries up to a decision.

It may be a good idea to use a lawyer if there are possible issues about the good character requirement or if you have been absent from the  UK for longer than the standard periods referred to in the Home Office information.

How long does the process take?

It depends.  Did you really expect any other answer?    The Home Office say they aim to deal with applications within six  months but the application processing time does depend on whether there are further documents needed, whether the applicant needs to be interviewed and  how long their queries to other agencies take.

What if I am refused

Your options are to:

  • Apply for a Nationality  Application review using Form RN  Reconsideration of decisions to refuse British citizenship;
  • Apply for Judicial Review of the refusal;
  • Make a fresh application

If your naturalisation application is refused  there is no better way forward than to get expert advice on how to proceed.   

Amarjit Ahluwalia

Amarjit is the Chief Editor of legal content and a contributor on Legafit.com . Amarjit has been practicing as a solicitor for over 20 years and is committed to making the law intelligible through her editorial work.

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