British citizenship gives you the right to live and work in the UK permanently, without any immigration restrictions. You will be able to vote in parliamentary elections and travel the world on a British passport.
You need British citizenship before you can apply for a UK passport.
But you may be wondering what the answer is to the question: can you gain British citizenship?
The answer is yes.
We will outline everything you need to know about this topic and hopefully answer any questions you may have.
Can you gain British citizenship?
Yes, you can become a naturalised British citizen after living in the UK for 5 years.
Or, you can have dual citizenship, which allows you to be a citizen of both Britain and another country.
Some people have British citizenship because they were born in the UK to at least one British parent (or long-term resident of the UK).
However, just because a person is born in the UK, that does not mean they have British citizenship.
Babies born on UK soil are not automatically entitled to British citizenship.
How do I know if I am already a British citizen?
People who are already British citizens don’t have to apply to gain British citizenship. They can apply for a UK passport immediately.
You are already a British citizen if:
- you have a British parent
- were born in the UK or a British overseas territory
- were born in a British colony before 1983
To check if you are a British citizen, visit the Gov.UK website here.
What are the requirements to gain British citizenship?
To gain British citizenship, you must meet the following requirements:
- be over 18.
- prove you were in the UK exactly 5 years before the day the Home Office receives your application.
- prove your knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic.
- have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test.
- intend to continue living in the UK.
- be of good character – e.g. you have not committed immigration fraud or serious crimes.
Additionally, there are residency requirements which you have to meet if you want to gain British citizenship.
You should not have broken any UK immigration laws.
You must have had one of the following for 12 months:
- indefinite leave to remain in the UK
- ‘settled status’ (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme’)
- indefinite leave to enter the leave (permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad)
You cannot include time spent in the UK when you’re exempt from immigration control as a:
- member of a diplomat’s staff or household
- member of visiting armed forces
If you want to gain British citizenship, there are rules on any time you may have spent outside the UK.
You should not have:
- spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the 5 years before your application
- spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
- broken any UK immigration laws (e.g. living illegally in the UK)
How can I apply to gain British citizenship?
The Home Office processes all applications.
It usually takes around 6 months for a decision to be made on your application. Some applications may take longer, depending on the circumstances.
You must have valid permission to be in the UK while you are waiting for your decision.
Moreover, you must have been physically present in the UK exactly 5 years before the Home Office receives your application.
Your application may be rejected if you were not in the UK exactly 5 years before the Home Office received it.
This depends on the reason why you were not in the UK. The Home Office will consider if there are special circumstances, for example:
- you were not able to live in the UK at the start of the 5-year period because of health reasons or travel restrictions.
- you were told to leave the UK during the 5 years but this decision was later overturned.
How to apply for British citizenship if you have indefinite leave to remain, or ‘settled status’:
You can submit an application yourself, or you can use an agent or representative.
You can also apply by post, but this process will take much longer.
You will have to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to supply your biometric information (your fingerprints and a photo).
You don’t have to send your documents anywhere, you can either upload copies into the online service or have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.
How to apply for British citizenship through an agent or representative:
A private company or individual can help you with your application and advise you on any aspects of the application process.
Check if an agent or representative is registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
You can also use a solicitor or barrister that are not registered with the OISC but is registered with an approved body instead.
How much does it cost to apply for British citizenship?
- The application fee is £1,330 for adults and £1,012 for children.
- It costs £50 to do the ‘Life in the UK’ Test
- £19.20 to send your fingerprints and photo to the Home Office
- It costs around £150 if you have to do an English test
- You will not get most of your money back if your application is refused – for example, if you’re not eligible or you sent the wrong documents.
- There is also an £80 citizenship ceremony fee if the applicant is an adult.
My spouse is a British citizen. Can I apply for British citizenship?
If you marry a British national, this does not automatically qualify you for British citizenship.
If you are married to a UK national (or in a civil partnership with them), then you can apply for British Citizenship by Marriage.
You must have lived in the UK for at least 3 years before the date of your application.
Can I apply for British citizenship for my child?
Yes, if your child has lived in the UK, then you can apply to register them as a British citizen – this is a way of applying for British citizenship.
If your child is over 10 years old, they must be of ‘good character’ (not have a criminal conviction).
If your child is 18 years old or older, they will need to apply as an adult.
If your child was born in the UK or has lived in the UK until they reached 10 years old, they will be eligible for British citizenship as long as you or their biological father is British or settled in the UK.
Click here to view guidance from Citizens Advice on getting British citizenship for children in England.
Can my application for British citizenship be rejected?
The Home Office may reject your application if:
- You do not meet the eligibility requirements.
- Your details are incorrect, falsified, or fraudulent.
- You have not spent enough time in the UK.
- There is no evidence that you were born in the UK or that you have a British parent.
- You have failed the ‘Life in the UK’ test.
- You do not have the correct English language requirements.
- You are applying for British Citizenship by Marriage but your partner has died.
- The Home Office requests further information and you fail to provide this information in time.
- You fail to disclose important information.
What happens after a British citizenship application is refused?
If your application to become a naturalised British citizen is rejected, you may be entitled to a partial refund of the application fees.
You may be able to put in a request to the Home Office to reconsider their decision. To do this, you will have to fill in Form NR and discuss your reasons for disagreeing with the refusal decision.
Your rejection letter from the Home Office will contain the reason why your application was refused.
You can also undergo a judicial review, but this is a lengthy, expensive process.
Can you be stripped of British citizenship?
Yes, the UK Government can deprive someone of their British citizenship. This comes with a right of appeal.
This is usually done to those who have obtained citizenship by fraud, or for the most dangerous people such as terrorists, extremists and serious organised criminals.
What happens at a citizenship ceremony in the UK?
The citizenship ceremony takes place at a venue approved by your local authority.
You can opt for an individual ceremony or a group ceremony.
You can bring 2 guests with you to the ceremony.
You will make an oath of allegiance to His Majesty the King and a pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom, promising to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK.
You will be presented with a certificate of British citizenship and a welcome pack.
Your certificate is legal evidence of your acquisition of British citizenship, so it should be carefully preserved.
It must not be unofficially altered or laminated, as it will not be accepted as evidence of citizenship by His Majesty’s Passport Office.
We hope we have answered the question ‘can you gain British citizenship?’
Read more articles about visas and immigration-related enquiries on our blog here.