Naturalisation is the most common way of applying for UK citizenship by adults, i.e. anyone over the age of 18. Unlike applications for registration, naturalisation involves an oath of allegiance to the Queen and requires the intention to have one’s principal home in the UK.
If you are looking for information about the acquisition of British citizenship by a person under the age of 18 you may wish to read the page on registration of children.
Statutory provisions for applications for naturalisation can be found in the British Nationality Act 1981. Policy guidance documents are published on the government portal.
How to apply for naturalisation
If you are applying online the supporting documents are uploaded to the government portal. If you are using a paper form, the supporting documents are to be posted with the form.
You have to be in the UK on the day the application is received by the government department. This will be the day you submit the online application and pay the fee or the day your registered package is delivered to the Home Office. You will need to track the package for confirmation. Normally it is received the day after it was posted if sent by first class recorded delivery.
Unlike the applicants for an extension of stay in the UK, applicants for naturalisation are not required to remain in the UK while their application is under consideration.
An application for naturalisation has to be supported by two referees who have known the applicant for at least three years. The referees are required to give their passport details and date of birth and confirm how long they have known the applicant, in what capacity, and the applicant’s good character and suitability to become a British citizen.
Who can be a referee in an application for naturalisation
One referee can be a person of any nationality who has a professional standing, such as an accountant, solicitor, barrister, dentist, chemist, travel agent, teacher, lecturer, a director of VAT registered company or a registered Charity. this is a non-exhaustive list. You can check the full list here.
The second referee has to be a British citizen and be either a professional person or over the age of 25.
Requirements for naturalisation
You have to have indefinite leave to remain (or settled status, or a document confirming permanent right of residence) before you can apply for naturalisation.
Other requirements include:
- Good Character;
- Residence requirement;
- Knowledge of language and Life in the UK;
- intention to live in the UK permanently or have the main home in the UK.
Residence requirements for naturalisation
Everyone, except spouses of British citizens, are required to:
- be settled in the UK (have indefinite leave to remain) for at least 12 months;
- have lived in the UK for not less than five years lawfully (most applicants would have been in the UK for not less than six years, having spent five years in the UK prior to obtaining indefinite leave to remain);
- have not left the country for more than 450 days (the day of departure and arrival not counting as absences) in the last five years;
- have not left the country for more than 90 days in the last 12 months;
- have been present in the UK on the day five years before the application is received by UKBA.
Spouses of British citizens have to meet the following requirements:
- be settled (or have indefinite leave to remain) on the day of the application;
- have been resident in the UK lawfully for at least three years;
- have not left the UK for more than 270 days in the last three years, and 90 days in the last 12 months prior to the application. Where absences from the UK exceed the permitted limit, the discretion of the Secretary of State may be called for if there are exceptional or compassionate circumstances;
- have been present in the UK on the day three years before the application is received by UKBA.
Discretion can be exercised where the permitted limit of absence was exceeded due to compassionate and exceptional circumstances, or due to requirements of business or employment.
Knowledge of life in the UK
This requirement applies to applicants of all nationalities, including EU citizens who do not have to take these tests for settlement and sometimes mistakenly assume they are exempt for the purposes of naturalisation as well.
Life in the UK test has no expiry date. If you took the test for your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain it remains valid. Nevertheless, you have to produce the test certificate with the application for naturalisation.
The only persons exempt from Life in the UK test are applicants over 65 years of age or those who have a long-term physical or mental condition and have confirmation from a doctor that they would be unable to take the test due to this condition.
Life in the UK test is booked online. The official handbook can be purchased online and is available in kindle edition.
English language requirement
The knowledge of English requirement is considered met by citizens of majority English speaking countries or those who have a degree taught or researched in English.
Applicants over 65 years of age are exempt.
Language test can be booked online.
Intention to live in the UK permanently
This does not mean never going abroad or not accepting a job overseas. However, if the applicant is leaving the country to take employment abroad with no clear plans of returning to the UK this may trigger a refusal of the application.
How much it costs to apply for naturalisation
The application fee is currently £1330. This does not include the fee for a biometric appointment, which is £19.20. The ceremony is included in the fee unless you wish to apply for an individual ceremony on a day convenient for you.
Passport application fee is not included.
The application process
Once the application is submitted, the standard processing time varies from two to six months. Sometimes, the Home Office takes longer to make a decision and it is difficult to pin it down to a specific timeframe. This is because, unlike some applications for registration, all applications for naturalisation are at the discretion of the Home Office.
Once the application is approved, the applicant will be invited to attend a ceremony at a nominated local authority office. This ceremony has to be booked within a given time.
Once you have attended the ceremony, you will receive the certificate of naturalisation. This document will be given to you at the end of the ceremony.
You will then be required to destroy your BRP card and return it to the Home Office by recorded delivery. Failure to return the card may lead to a £1000 fine.
It may be important for you to know that you will not be able to travel after the ceremony until you get your first British passport. Once you are a British citizen, you can only enter the UK on a British passport or an emergency travel document. Even if you have indefinite leave to remain vignette in your other passport, it cannot be used for travelling to the UK.
How we can help with your application for naturalisation
We offer a wide range of services, from acting as your representatives – and actually preparing and submitting the application on your behalf, to document checking service, or a consultation on the best application strategy and timing.
Our services can save you time in preparing the application. In more complex scenarios, with excessive or uncertain absences, any issues related to previous immigration history or any other concerns, legal representation can determine the outcome of the application. We are more than happy to discuss your concerns with you and suggest the right service for your circumstances.