Gaining British citizenship will allow you to live, work and study in the UK freely, and travel to and from the UK with no restrictions, so it can be a beneficial process to go through if you’ve been living in the UK for several years.
UK visas can be expensive, so it can be a relief to get citizenship and not have to keep applying for and extending visas, paying the application fee and IHS charge each time. But how much does British citizenship cost and is it worth it? Let’s look into the application process in more detail so you know if it’s the right decision for you.
How Do You Apply for British Citizenship?
To apply for British Citizenship you need to complete an online application, pay the relevant application fee and submit supporting documents to prove your identity and demonstrate that you meet all of the eligibility requirements.
The application and fees for under-18s are slightly different than for adults.
For adults to gain British citizenship, you will need to prove that:
- You’re over 18
- You have had valid visas to be in the UK for the last 5 years
- You have sufficient knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic, unless exempt
- You have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ Test.
- You intend to continue living in the UK
- You are of good character i.e. have not committed any immigration crimes or serious crimes
Having any criminal convictions doesn’t make you automatically ineligible for British citizenship, however, the Home Office may ask you to come to a UKVCAS centre (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services) for an interview to demonstrate your good character. You may also be called in for an interview if your English language abilities are questioned.
Under 18s and over 65s are exempt from needing good English language abilities, as are those with disabilities preventing them from speaking or comprehending the language. Everyone who must meet this requirement must prove they have above B1-level English according to CEFR specifications.
What is the Life in the UK Test?
The Life in the UK test is a short, 24 question-exam that must be completed before applying for British citizenship. The exam covers several areas that the government consider to be essential information for all new residents of the UK, including:
- Values and principles of the UK
- The territories that make up the UK
- The history of the UK
- Modern life in the UK
- The government, law and rights and responsibilities of UK citizens
To pass the test you must correctly answer at least 75% of the questions, which are randomly chosen from a guide to life in the UK, so each applicant is encouraged to study the whole guide as they can face questions on any aspect of life in the UK.
The Life in the UK test can be booked online, costs £50 to take, and should be studied for with practice exams to ensure a successful outcome.
What Visa Do You Need to Get British Citizenship?
For most applicants, except for some work visas and people born in former British colonies, you need to have lived in the UK for at least 5 years before applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Settled Status for EU citizens. You then need to have ILR or Settled Status for at least 12 months before you can apply for British citizenship. You can also have lived in the UK for 10 years with a valid visa before applying for British Citizenship.
Temporary visas including Standard Visitor visas, Student visas and Graduate visas do not count towards the 5 years spent living in the UK. Visas that do count towards your time in the UK for ILR include:
- Family visas
- Long-term work visas (except for diplomats, their families and staff)
- UK Ancestry visas
Family visas include:
- Partner or Spouse visa
- Parent visa
- Child Dependent visa
- Adult Dependant Relative visa
For some visas, you don’t need to wait 5 years to apply for ILR, you can apply after 2 or 3 years to speed up your route to residency. While you don’t automatically get residency as a spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, you can apply for ILR after 3 years. You can also apply after 2 or 3 years of having an Entrepreneur visa, Innovator Founder visa or Global Talent visa respectively.
Spouse visas are usually given for 2 years and 9 months upon first application, so you can extend your Spouse visa to receive a further 2 years and 6 months, which will allow you time to apply for ILR and then British citizenship.
How Do You Get Permanent Residence in the UK?
Permanent residence is another term for ILR and Settled Status, and how you apply depends on where you’re from, as EU citizens who were in the UK before Britain left the EU will apply for Settled Status differently than those applying for ILR. However, as with all UK visas, both applications need to be submitted online.
To get permanent residency, you’ll need to submit your supporting documents and pay the application fee and the relevant IHS charge.
You’ll need to submit copies of:
- Your current passport
- Your biometric residence permit or current visa
- Every passport you’ve held while in the UK
- Your Life in the UK certificate
- English translations of any documents not originally in English
You may also be asked to provide proof of your address, financial records, English language certificates, police certificates showing any or no criminal convictions, and details about any time spent out of the UK in the time before your application.
What Documents Do You Need to Apply for British Citizenship?
When applying for British citizenship, you need to provide documentary evidence of your identity, visa status, any past criminal history and English language abilities.
The documents you will need to submit with your application include:
- Proof of your ILR or settled status
- Proof of your previous visas, such as a biometric residence permit
- Proof you have passed the Life in the UK test about British culture, history and values
- Proof of sufficient knowledge of the English language, unless exempt due to age or disability
- Proof you have been in the UK legally for the required period
- Information regarding any absence from the UK during the required period
To apply for British citizenship, you cannot have spent more than 450 days outside of the UK during the 5 years before your application, or more than 90 days in the last 12 months. If you have been outside of the UK for any length of time, you need to provide details explaining the purpose of your journeys as well as the travel dates.
How Much Is British Citizenship?
As well as paying the £50 for the Life in the UK test, you’re also required to pay an application fee for British citizenship, which will not be refunded if your application is rejected or withdrawn. The application fee for British citizenship for adults is £1580, while for under 18s, the fee is £1214. If the child turns 18 during the application process, they must pay an additional £80 for the ceremony.
Compared to the £2,885 cost for ILR, the British citizenship fee is fairly mild and will allow you to live, work, study and travel as a British national, with no need for any further fees. If you wish to then apply for a British passport – which is not essential but recommended if you wish to enjoy visa-free entry to 153 countries and territories around the world – you will have to pay £82.50. If you have dual nationality, you can keep your original passport as well as get a British passport to allow you to travel to more countries more freely.