How to Get UK Citizenship
Becoming a British citizen is not as tough as it first seems. The hardest part is probably the fact you have to live in the UK for five years, but that is not really a hardship. This article mostly covers becoming a citizen via naturalization, which is the most common way that people get a British passport. However, the article also touches upon other methods for becoming a citizen of the UK.
Becoming a UK Citzen by Naturalization
There are many different ways you may gain a British passport. The most commonly taken route is via naturalization First, you need to know if you can apply.
Are you eighteen years old or older and are you of good character? Are you planning on living in the UK, have you met the residency requirement, and have you met the “Knowledge of English” and the “Life in the UK” requirements. There are different ways to become a British citizen. The most common is called, “Naturalization.”
Who Is A Person Of Good Character?
If you are going the naturalization route, you need to show that you are a person of good character. The good character guidelines are currently listed on a PDF that is 31 pages long. It is called the Annex D: the good character requirement.
It says that if you have been a bit naughty, you are not allowed to become a UK citizen via the naturalization route. For example, if you have been involved in immigration offences within the last ten years, then they will not consider you.
If you have been prosecuted for serious crimes in your country or another country, then they will not consider you. If you have been convicted of a crime and have spent four or more years in prison, then there is no chance they will give you a passport. If you have spent less time in prison, or no time in prison (despite being convicted), then there is a stronger possibility that they will consider your citizenship. The longer you wait between being convicted and applying for a passport, then the higher the chances are that the UK Home Office will consider your application.
If you have tried to deceive the Home Office in any way, they will not consider you. That is why you need to be bitterly honest when applying for citizenship because if they find out you are lying, you will be forever banned from becoming a citizen via naturalization.
A person of good character will also pay his or her debts. If you are in debt and you appear to pay your debts as arranged, then your debt shouldn’t hinder your application. If you have built up debt and mismanaged your finances in a reckless manner, and if you cannot show proof that you have made serious efforts to pay off your debts, then your application for a UK passport will be denied.
Dual Citizenship is Allowed
The UK does allow for dual citizenship. That is, you can be both an official citizen of your mother country and a citizen of the UK.
Further Naturalization Considerations
You must have lived in the UK for five or more years before you submit your application for a UK passport. During your five years in the country, you may only have spent 450 outside of the UK within the five-year period. During your fifth year, you must not have spent more than 90 days outside of the UK, which means during the last 12 months, you must have spent at least 275 of those days on British soil.
If you are moving from outside the EEA (European Economic Area), you must not have had an indefinite leave to remain (settlement) within the last twelve months. If you are currently a citizen of an EEA country and you have had permanent resident status in the UK for the last 12 months, then you will need to provide your “Permanent Residence Document” when you apply.
If you have been living in the UK for five years, you must not have broken any laws that lead to prosecution (e.g., speeding ticket will not void your application, but anything more serious will). You must also have not broken any immigration laws whilst you were living in the UK.
If you are a member of the armed forces, or in the UK on other business such as diplomacy work, you cannot count the time you spent in the UK as part of your 5-year residency.
The Knowledge Of English Requirement
If you are applying to settle in the UK or you are over 18 and you are applying for citizenship, you will need to prove your knowledge of the English language.
You can prove your English skills with a degree that was researched or taught in English. You may also prove it with an English qualification at the C1, B1, C2 or B2 level.
If you are already living in the UK, your permission to stay may be extended if you need a little extra time to prove your current knowledge of English. However, these circumstances are rare, such as if you have completed and passed your degree exams, but you need a little more time before you receive your degree certificate that proves you were taught and/or researched your degree with the English language.
Exemption From The English Requirement
There are only two exceptions if you are becoming a UK citizen via naturalization. The first is if you are over the age of 65, and the second is if you have a mental condition or long-term physical condition that makes proving your English skills more difficult. You will need to provide a letter from your doctor to prove your mental or physical condition.
You will not have to prove your knowledge of English if you are a citizen of:
+ Trinidad and Tobago
+ The Bahamas
+ St Vincent and the Grenadines
+ St Lucia
+ St Kitts and Nevis
+ Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
+ New Zealand
+ Antigua and Barbuda
English Language Exemptions For People Who Settle
If you are applying for indefinite leave to remain, which is another way of saying that if you are planning to settle in the UK, then there are some circumstances where you do not have to know English and/or have suitable English skills.
If you the partner or spouse of somebody who has settled in Britain, and they have committed domestic violence towards you (i.e. you are a domestic violence sufferer), you are exempt from the English requirement.
If you are the spouse or partner of a British citizen or somebody that settled in the UK and that person has died. In that case, you are exempt.
If you are an adult dependent relative between and you are aged between 18 years and 64 years. If you are the adult dependant of a person that has settled in the UK and is present, or if that person has humanitarian protection or is a refugee, then you are exempt from the English requirement.
If you are living in the UK with humanitarian protection, or with discretionary leave to remain, or you are a refugee living in the UK, then you are exempt from proving your English skills.
If you have permission to stay in the UK and you are a retired person who is self-supporting (of independent means), then you may be exempt. If you are a commonwealth citizen that has been discharged from Her Majesty’s forces, then you may be exempt (this also includes Gurkhas).
If you are applying under the HSMP (Highly Skilled Migrant Program) terms, then it is possible that you and your dependants may be exempt from the English skills requirement. People with exceptional circumstances have also been known to be exempt from the English skills requirement.
The Life In The UK Test
If you wish to get a British passport via the naturalisation avenue, you will have to complete a “Life In The UK” test. It is similar to the citizenship test you occasionally see on US sitcoms. The test lasts 45 minutes in which there are 24 questions. You need a score of 75% or more, which means you have to get 18 or more questions correct.
There is only a single book you have to study in order to pass the exam. It has 180 pages, and you will have to pay for the revision book. It gives you information on British history, culture and so forth.
Once you pass, you will receive a “Pass Notification Letter.” You are only allowed one letter, and you cannot replace it if you lose it. If you lose the letter, you will have to take the test again. If you fail the test, you may take the test again as many times as you wish, but you will have to wait seven days, you will have to book again and you will have to pay again.
The Residency Requirement
If you want to become a citizen, the UK Home Office wants you to prove that you have close links to the UK and a commitment to being British. The residency requirement guide is 35 pages long and rather in depth considering the topic.
To summarize the residency requirement article, you need to live in the UK for five years without leaving too often, and the article features 35 pages worth of exceptions, extra rules and terms.
For example, if you have entered the country and not left, and you have been detained by immigration control, you cannot count the time you were in custody as part of your five years residence in the UK.
Becoming a Citizen by Settling In The UK
The naturalization process is tricky, but it is nowhere near as complicated as settling in the UK. It may look easy from the outside, especially when you see how many asylum seekers become British citizens, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of rules and terms that go with settling in the UK.
Settling is also known as an “Indefinite leave to remain.” You become a citizen with a British passport the same way you do when you become a citizen through the process of naturalization, however, it is possible that if you leave you may not be able to return.
By simply reading this article, you will be unable to figure out if you may settle in the UK. To get a better idea, take the Home Office Visas And Immigration Settle In UK Quiz. Within the quiz, they wade through the many different terms and qualifying factors. Complete the quiz and it will guide you through to see if you are eligible to settle in the UK.
Become a Citizen By Investment?
The UK does not have an official CIP (citizen investment program) as some of the smaller EU countries like Malta, Bulgaria, and Cypress have. You can’t officially plunk down a couple million Euros / USD, or Pounds and get an insta citizenship. So this option is out. Your only option is through naturalization or settlement. You might want to look at our article about how to get a second citizenship or the cheapest citizenships you can buy.
The Citizenship Application Fees
They tend to change with each government that comes into place, and they are probably going to change again due to Britain leaving the European Union. Here are a few examples of what you may have to pay if you become a citizen of the UK.
Citizenship by naturalization will cost £1236 with a further £1121 for your registration and £80 for your ceremony. If you wish to naturalize as British overseas, it costs £925 plus £833 to register overseas.
Children that register as British citizens are charged £936, plus £80 for their ceremony. Children that wish to register as British overseas have to pay £749.
For a list of their current fees, and any further fees such as applications for a right to abode in the UK and so forth, consult their most current Master Fees Leaflet.
Other Useful Resources
Britain is truly a land where you may get a passport if you really try. In other words, the British are soft touches when it comes to immigration, and they have the highest unemployment benefits and child benefits in the world, not to mention a free National Health System. That is why Britain is stuffed to the edges with people from developing nations. If you would like to get in on the action, but you are not willing to live there for five years to complete the naturalization process, then there are other ways. Here are a few links that may help you gain a British passport with less fuss and trouble.
- Marriages and civil partnerships in the UK
- Apply to settle in the UK
- Apply to settle in the UK: long residence
- Application to naturalize as a British citizen: form AN
- Application to register child under 18 as British citizen: form MN1