Gaining British citizenship can be a great final step towards living in the UK as it marks the end of many long and difficult visa processes and grants you the same rights to live, work and study in the UK as other British citizens. Most people born in the UK are British citizens, although being born in the UK doesn’t automatically grant you citizenship, and not everyone who has lived in the UK for many years wants to apply for citizenship.
So what is British citizenship, why might you want it and how can you apply for it? Let’s take a look.
What are the Requirements for British Citizenship?
Normally, you can apply for British citizenship if you’ve been living in the UK for at least 5 years on valid visas. It’s also worth noting that not all visas allow you to apply for British citizenship, so make sure you know how long you can be in the UK on which visas before you begin any application.
In most cases, however, you need to be in the UK on a valid visa for at least 5 years, and have had indefinite leave to remain (ILR), also known as permanent residency, or settled status under the EU settlement scheme, for at least 12 months. If you have ILR or settled status, you no longer need to apply for visas and can live, work and study with no restriction in the UK. However, you don’t have exactly the same rights as British citizens and will not have a British passport.
To gain British citizenship, you must:
- Be over 18
- Prove you have had valid visas to be in the UK for the last 5 years
- Prove your knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic
- Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ Test.
- Demonstrate your intention to continue living in the UK
- Be of good character i.e. not have committed any immigration crimes or serious crimes
You will need to prove each of these points with documents from reputable sources as well as any necessary translations into English.
During the 5 years that you have lived in the UK before your application, you must also have spent no more than 450 days outside of the UK, or more than 90 days outside of the UK during your last 12 months. If you plan to apply for British citizenship later, you should ensure not to break these regulations, as you will have to wait longer before you’re eligible to apply.
Who is Eligible for Permanent Residency?
So to get British citizenship, you need permanent residency, or ILR – but how can you get permanent residency?
Most people need to have been in the UK on valid visas for at least 5 years to apply for ILR, although, for certain visas, you can apply after just 2 or 3 years.
Valid visas include long-term visas such as:
- Family visas (Spouse, Parent, Child Dependent and Adult Dependant Relative visas)
- Work visas
- UK Ancestry visa
If you have been in the UK on an Entrepreneur visa, although no longer existent, you can apply for ILR after 2 years, while people with Innovator Founder or Global Talent visas can apply for ILR after 3 years.
Your time spent in the UK on the following visas does not count towards ILR:
- Student visas
- Graduate visas
- Working as a diplomat or staff of a diplomat
As well as meeting the visa requirements, you will also have to meet financial requirements and English language requirements (unless they are exempt) to support your application for permanent residency.
How Do You Apply for British Citizenship?
With all visas for the UK, you, the applicant, must apply online. If your relative is applying for British citizenship and they struggle with technology, you are allowed to help with their application or employ the assistance of a visa agency.
When you submit your application online, you’ll also have to upload your supporting documents, unless you’re able to have them scanned at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) appointment. You’ll be required to pay an application fee of £1580 when submitting your application, and will not receive a refund if your application is rejected or withdrawn.
It will take up to 6 months to receive a decision from the Home Office, so you need to ensure you have the right to remain in the UK for this time. If not, your application will be withdrawn and you will be asked to leave the country. However, since most applications require ILR to apply for citizenship, you should have no problem remaining lawfully in the UK.
Documents You’ll Need to Apply for British Citizenship
There are several documents that you’ll be asked to provide when you submit your application for British citizenship, including:
- Identification (passport, driving licence or birth certificate)
- 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
If the Home Office requires more information from you they will contact you for more evidence, and if you have any criminal convictions, they will likely call you in for an interview to assess your character. If you have lied or given false documents with your application, you will be refused citizenship.
Is there a Quicker Route to Get British Citizenship?
There is no fast track to British citizenship, however, you can apply for citizenship sooner if you have been in the UK on certain visas which allow you to get permanent residence sooner than others.
People born in the UK are not automatically British citizens, and need at least one British citizen-parent in order to apply for citizenship. Similarly, you won’t get British citizenship by marrying a British person, nor will you automatically get permanent residence.
If you are married or in a civil partnership with a British or Irish citizen who is living in the UK, you can apply for a Spouse visa, which will allow you to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years and 9 months. You can then extend your Spouse visa for another 2 years and 6 months, which will enable you to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
You may also be able to apply for British citizenship if you were born in a British colony before 1983, or if your parent or grandparent was born in a British colony and you have been living in the UK with a UK Ancestry visa.
Benefits of Having British Citizenship
Since you can live, work and study with no expiration date on a visa with ILR, it may seem unnecessary to get British citizenship. But with British citizenship, you’re granted exactly the same rights as UK nationals. You can begin to vote in parliamentary elections, work as an MP, have access to the UK public service system including receiving benefits, and crucially, you can apply for a British passport.
You don’t automatically receive a British passport when awarded citizenship, and you aren’t obliged to change your passport, however, UK passport holders are granted visa-free entry into 153 countries and territories across the world, so it may make travelling easier for you to have a British passport. When living in the UK with ILR, you can travel freely with your original passport, however, if you spend more than 2 years outside of the UK, your ILR will be withdrawn. With British citizenship, there are no restrictions on your travel to and from the UK.
Synergy Immigration Solutions – Here to Help
If you’d like to apply for British citizenship, contact Synergy Immigration Solutions for more information. Our team of immigration and visa experts are ready to help you with every UK visa and citizenship process.