Naturalisation is the official term used in reference to the legal process that results in an individual being awarded citizenship of a country that is not their nation of origin. In the United Kingdom, naturalisation refers to the process of a non-British individual achieving formal British status – aka becoming a British citizen.
There are various pathways by which an individual can be awarded British citizenship, of which naturalisation is a common example. Those who pursue British citizenship by way of ancestry are typically required to apply for naturalisation.
In order for an individual to be eligible for naturalisation, they must have first resided in the United Kingdom as an EEA national for a specified period of time, or been granted indefinite leave to remain. After which, they may choose to formalise their naturalisation and apply for a British passport.
Eligibility for naturalisation is dependent on several key requirements, which include:
- The applicant must have resided legally in the United Kingdom for a minimum of five years prior to applying; and
- They have already received indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom.
- The applicant has been married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen for a minimum of three years.
Irrespective of the period of time you’ve spent living continuously and legally in the UK, you cannot apply for naturalisation until you have been granted indefinite leave to remain. After which, you will be required to demonstrate the following to the Home Office:
- That you have lived legally and continuously in the United Kingdom for at least five years or 10 years.
- That you were granted indefinite leave to remain at least one year ago.
- That you have not spent more than 450 days outside the UK within the last five years, 90 of which must not have been within the past 12 months.
- That you are of generally good character.
- That you have completed the official Life in the UK Test.
- That you have a sufficient grasp of the English language.
Naturalisation Based on Six Years of Continuous Residency
If the applicant has been living legally in the United Kingdom for a minimum of six years and is not married to a British National, it may be possible to qualify for naturalisation in accordance with the following requirements:
- The applicant is aged 18 years or over
- The applicant is considered of good character and has no criminal background or history of attempting to deceive the UK immigration service
- The applicant has not breached any immigration rules to date
- The applicant has sufficient English language skills to communicate effectively with British citizens (exemptions apply for elderly and/or handicapped individuals)
- The applicant can prove their intention to continue living in the United Kingdom
- The applicant has been living legally in the United Kingdom for at least six years by the date their application is received
- The applicant has not spent more than 450 days in total outside the United Kingdom during this residency period.
- The applicant has not been absent from the UK for more than 90 days during the past 12 months
- The applicant was granted indefinite leave to remain at least one year prior to the date of their application
Naturalisation as a Spouse of a UK Citizen
It’s also possible to qualify for naturalisation as the spouse of a UK citizen. Formal requirements that must be met are as follows:
- The applicant must have resided legally in the United Kingdom as the spouse or civil partner of a UK citizen for a minimum of three consecutive years
- The applicant must have been granted indefinite leave to remain before submitting their application
- The applicant must not have been absent from the United Kingdom for more than 270 days within the past three years
- The applicant must not have spent more than 90 days outside the United Kingdom within the past 12 months
- The applicant must not have breached any UK immigration rules or guidelines throughout the entirety of their residency
English Language Skills
The Home Office expects the vast majority of individuals applying for British citizenship to demonstrate competent English language skills to a certain level. The applicant must therefore score a B1, B2, C1 or C2 in a formal English Test from an approved test centre, or possess a degree taught at a UK university, or elsewhere if taught exclusively in the English language.
Please note that exemptions apply for individuals under the age of 18 and over the age of 65, along with applicants whose mental or physical health issues may affect their ability to take and pass the English language test.
Applicants who previously scored a B1 as part of their indefinite leave to remain application may still use their qualification in their naturalisation application, even if it has expired.
Exemptions by Way of Recognised English Speaking Nations
Applicants from overseas territories that are formally recognised as English-speaking nations are not expected to take an official English language test. The UK Home Office currently lists the following countries as exempt:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Where an applicant is deemed ineligible for naturalisation on the grounds of language skills alone, they may be able to apply for an extension to their current period of leave to work on their English language skills.
Life in the UK Test
Most individuals applying for permanent or long-term residency in the UK are required to pass the official ‘Life in the UK Test’. Comprised of a series of 24 or more questions to be completed within 45 minutes, the test is designed to gauge the applicant’s understanding of British culture, heritage and society.
All applicants must demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of life in the UK, in order to be eligible for British citizenship. The Life in the UK test only needs to be passed once – after which is can be used to support any future immigration application.
Of Sound Mind
Applications for British citizenship are considered exclusively from individuals who are deemed to be of sound mind. Roughly defined, sound mind means that the individual is fully aware of what they are doing, along with their obligations, their responsibilities and their rights, should they be granted British citizenship.
UK Naturalisation Lawyers in London
The Home Office receives an avalanche of naturalisation applications every week, of which the vast majority are immediately rejected. Government officials are constantly reiterating the fact that citizenship of the UK is not a right, but a privilege. As a result, grounds for naturalisation will always be heavily scrutinised – even the slightest oversight could invalidate your application.
Here at Artistone Solicitors, we’re proud to offer the region’s most committed and capable legal support for individual immigration cases. With our help, your application will be backed by all the evidence needed to ensure a prompt and positive outcome. In the event that your application is rejected, we’ll present the available options and provide complete representation throughout your appeal. Contact the team at Artistone Solicitors to book your obligation-free consultation with a member of our legal team.