British citizenship by naturalisation

Naturalisation is the most common way of applying for British citizenship by adults, i.e. anyone over the age of 18. Naturalisation involves an oath of allegiance to the Queen and requires the intention to have one’s principal home in the UK.

In some limited circumstances persons over 18 can register as British citizens. Some forms of registration are by entitlement, others involve discretion of the Secretary of State.

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

Applications are now made online although you can still use paper form AN if you prefer.

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 naturalised British citizen. 

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 in this guidance document.

The second referee has to be a British citizen and be either a professional person or over the age of 25.

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.

General 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.

Residence requirements for Spouses of British citizens

  • 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 any tests for settlement.

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.

Applicants over 65 years of age are automatically exempt.

There is discretion to wave the knowledge of language and life requirement where the applicant has a  physical or mental condition which would make it unreasonable to expect they would meet the test. Waiver request has to be signed by a medical practitioner.

Life in the UK test is booked online. The official handbook can be purchased online and is available in kindle edition.

There are no Life in the UK test providers outside the UK.

English language requirement

English language requirement is met by:

  • speaking and listening qualification at B1 CERF level or above from an approved Secure English Language Test provider;
  • a degree taught or researched in English (NARIC has to confirm recognition of the degree and the University has to confirm that tuition or research was in English);
  • being a national of a majority English-speaking country.
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA
Note that no African and Asian countries are on the list.

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.

What happens after the application is submitted

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 time frame. This is because, unlike some applications for registration, all applications for naturalisation are at the discretion of the Home Office.

You can travel while your application is under consideration and you can apply for naturalisation from outside the UK.

Once the application is approved, you will be invited to attend a ceremony at a nominated local authority office. This ceremony has to be booked within a given time, normally three weeks.

At the end of the ceremony you will receive the certificate of naturalisation and will formally become a British citizen. 

Once the certificate of naturalisation is issued, you are required to cut up your BRP card and return it to the Home Office by recorded delivery. Failure to return the card may lead to a £1000 fine.

Although you can travel while your application is pending, it may be important to note that you will not be able to travel after the ceremony until you get your first British passport. This is because British citizens can only enter the UK on a British passport or an emergency travel document. You can apply for your first British passport from overseas but you would have to explain why you left the country without a passport and you may have to wait longer for the passport to be issued. 

Kadmos Consultants - Knowledge Hub

How immigration solicitors can help with your application for British citizenship


Last updated on August 28, 2020

Last updated on August 28, 2020 

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