Are you an expat living in the UK or a foreign national seeking permanent residency in the country? Gaining British citizenship can be a lengthy and complicated process. Luckily, Sterling Law immigration lawyers in London are here to provide expert citizenship application assistance and guide you through the legal intricacies of the UK’s immigration system.
What is British Citizenship?
UK Citizenship is the legal status of being a citizen of the United Kingdom, which grants the individual a range of rights and benefits. These include the ability to apply for a British passport, gain access to free healthcare, and have the right to vote in parliamentary and local elections. Once a British citizen, an individual is entitled to live and work in the country for their entire life, and they can also access the same benefits that are available to other British nationals.
Additionally, British citizens are protected by the UK government when travelling abroad, and can benefit from consular assistance if they run into trouble overseas. British citizenship also exempts individuals from immigration control, allowing them to enter and depart the UK without a visa.
Naturalisation is the most common route for an adult foreign national to acquire British citizenship. This requires individuals to have lived in the United Kingdom for a set period, often three or five years, while meeting specific criteria, which include showing decent fluency in the English language and passing the Life in the UK test.
Unlike ILR, British citizenship cannot be lost if an individual spends more than two years outside of the UK. However, citizenship can be revoked if an individual poses a significant threat to the society of the United Kingdom.
Eligibility Criteria for British Citizenship
The eligibility conditions for citizenship in the UK are as follows:
- Age. Age is one of the key eligibility criteria for individuals seeking to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen. In order to be eligible, applicants must be at least 18 years of age. If an applicant is under the age of 18, they must meet the separate criteria for a child’s registration as a British citizen. The age requirement ensures that applicants have reached a level of maturity and responsibility necessary to understand and carry out the liabilities and duties of being a UK citizen.
- Residence. A person must have been living in the UK for a qualifying period of time. The qualifying period may vary depending on the route you choose for naturalisation. Typically, the qualifying period is 3 or 5 years.
- Intent to Live in the UK. To become a British citizen, it is necessary to have the intention of residing in the UK for the foreseeable future.
- Language Requirements. To obtain UK citizenship, language proficiency is mandatory. The government has specified that applicants must show proficiency in English to be eligible. This criterion exists to guarantee that citizens can communicate effectively and take part in society. The language test required for citizenship applications involves demonstrating B1-level proficiency according to the CEFR. Applicants with insufficient language skills may need to improve before applying.
- Good Character. You must exhibit good character, including that you have not contravened immigration laws.
- Life in the UK Test. To prove your acquaintance with British culture and traditions, you are required to successfully pass the Life in the UK test. This evaluates your knowledge and understanding of various aspects of British life.
- Settlement. To be eligible, individuals must have resided in the UK for a minimum of one year following the acquisition of their settlement. It is pertinent to note that this requirement does not apply to those who are making an application based on their relationship with a UK citizen, whether by marriage or civil partnership.
- Sound Mind. To qualify for UK citizenship, individuals must also demonstrate sound mind. This is to ensure that they have the capacity to understand the implications of becoming a British citizen. However the immigration authorities have discretion to overlook this requirement in certain circumstances, where it is in the applicant’s best interests to do so.
- Continuous Residence. This is one of the main criteria used to determine eligibility for UK citizenship. Under this requirement, individuals must have lived in the UK for a specified period of time without any significant breaks or absences. For example, if the minimum duration for continuous residence is five years, during this time, applicants must not be absent in the United Kingdom for longer than 450 days. This is to ensure that those applying for citizenship have a strong connection to the country and have had ample time to integrate into British society.
To successfully obtain British citizenship, it is important to meet the eligibility requirements set out by the UK government. Sterling Law, a respected legal firm, can assist with the application process and ensure that all requirements are met. It is crucial to carefully review and fulfil these requirements before tackling the UK citizenship application project.
What are Available Immigration Pathways for British citizenship?
Based on a person’s circumstances and eligibility, there are various immigration routes available for individuals looking to apply for British citizenship:
By Descent is a route to British citizenship that applies to individuals who were born outside of the UK but have a grandparent or parent who is a UK citizen. This pathway enables individuals to acquire British citizenship through ancestry. However, there are certain criteria that must be met in order to qualify for this route, including providing evidence of the relationship between the individual and their British citizen parent or grandparent, as well as, in some cases, meeting requirements for residency and good character.
Naturalisation is an important route for individuals seeking to gain UK citizenship. To qualify, candidates must have lived in the UK for a minimum of five or three years depending on their route, and have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status, in some cases for a year or more. Applicants are required to successfully complete the Life in the UK test, showcasing their knowledge of British history, culture, and values, as well as prove their proficiency in the English language.
Meeting these requirements demonstrates a commitment to the UK and a willingness to become an active and engaged citizen. Naturalisation also offers a range of benefits, including access to public services and the ability to work freely within the UK, as well as the right to vote and stand for public office.
When aiming to obtain British citizenship, it’s crucial to understand that being born in the UK does not guarantee automatic British citizenship. There are various factors that can affect an individual’s eligibility for British citizenship by birth, such as the date of birth and parents’ status. For example, individuals who were born in the UK before 1st January 1983 may qualify for British citizenship by birth. On the other hand, those born in the UK after this date may only be eligible for birthright citizenship under certain conditions, such as having at least one parent who is a British citizen or has established permanent residency in the UK at the time of their birth.
By EU Settled Status
Attaining British citizenship through Settled Status requires the process of becoming settled after residing in the United Kingdom based on EU law for a certain period which is usually five years. A successful EU application results in a grant of EU Settled Status. This is the same as ILR and the applicant may apply for naturalisation after obtaining it. Unless they are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, they must hold the Settled Status for at least one year.
In order to successfully meet this requirement for British citizenship, you must make sure that you have not been outside of the UK for more than a certain amount of time. Specifically, you cannot exceed 450 days within the 5 years prior to submitting your citizenship application, or 90 days within the 12 months preceding your application submission. If your spouse or civil partner is a British citizen, you cannot exceed 270 days of absence in the last 3 years, or 90 days within the last 12 months.
Provided that you have resided in the UK for at least three years and have entered into a marriage or civil partnership with a British national, you may be eligible to seek British citizenship if you are settled in the UK.
It is, however, crucial to follow specific regulations, including the absence requirement, which specifies that you cannot have spent over 270 days outside of the UK within the three-year duration. This is to guarantee that you have not been away from the country for a prolonged period. Additionally, you cannot have exceeded 90 days outside of the UK in the previous year before submitting your citizenship application.
What Documents Are Necessary To Apply For British Citizenship?
When applying for British citizenship, it is vital to provide the appropriate documents to avoid any delays or refusal of your application. These documents may include:
- proof of identity, such as a passport or national identity card;
- proof of permission to remain permanently in the UK, such as a Biometric Residence Permit;
- proof of your relationship with a British national, if applicable.
Additionally, you may need to show that you meet the residence and absence requirements, as well as pass the Life in the UK Test. Meeting the language proficiency criteria is also necessary and can be proven through various documents, such as a Home Office approved qualification in English or a UK degree certificate.
The above-mentioned list of essential documents needed to apply for UK citizenship is not exhaustive. Hence, depending on your chosen pathway to obtain British citizenship, you may be required to furnish extra certificates or papers.
At Sterling Law, we understand the importance of accurate document submission when applying for UK citizenship. Any mistakes in documentation can result in delays or even refusal of your application. That’s why our immigration lawyers are here to assist you with your application and ensure that all necessary documents are submitted correctly. Give us a call today to get help with your British citizenship application.
How Can You Apply For British Citizenship?
To apply for UK citizenship, you must follow a specific process based on the route you are eligible for.
The first step is to fill out the British citizenship application form, which can be done online on the Home Office website. The application fee varies depending on the route you are using. Once you have completed the application form and paid the fee, you must then make an appointment at a UKVCAS service point to provide your biometric information. Your documents must also be uploaded to the UKVCAS website.
Applicants will be required to furnish information about two referees who are British have had personal knowledge of them for a minimum of three years. One of the referees should be a British citizen or an individual with professional standing. The other referee must be either over the age of 25 or have professional standing.
If the Home Office needs any additional information about your application, they will contact you, and it is essential to provide the requested information promptly to avoid rejection.
If your application for citizenship is approved, you will receive an invitation to attend a citizenship ceremony that is closest to your location.
Tests for British Citizenship
To obtain British citizenship, prospective citizens may be required to pass two exams – the English Language Examination and the Life in the UK Test.
The Life in the UK Test is a computer-based multiple-choice exam that measures the applicant’s understanding of British politics, economics, geography, culture, history, and social customs.
The Language Exam evaluates the candidate’s competence in speaking and and comprehending English. The language exams help to ensure that aspiring British citizens have adequate knowledge of the English language, enabling them to integrate comfortably into British society.
It is possible to prove your English language competence by passing a CEFR English qualification at B1, B2, C1 or C2 level or by holding a degree taught or researched in English. There are exemptions for those under 18 or over 65, or with physical or mental conditions.
Notably, citizens from certain territories and countries do not need to fulfill the English language requirement due to English being the primary language in the area. These regions include Canada, Dominica, Barbados, the USA, New Zealand, and some others.
How Much Does British Citizenship Cost?
The fee for applying for citizenship in the UK is considerable, with adults typically having to pay £1,330 and children paying £1,012. Adding to this already substantial amount, adult applicants must also pay an additional £50 for the Life in the UK Test and around £150 if an English proficiency test is required.
It’s important to emphasise that if an application is refused for any reason, applicants will not receive a refund of most of their fees, such as when they are deemed ineligible or submitted incorrect documents. Given the significant investment involved in the UK citizenship cost, it is crucial to ensure proper preparation and submission of all required materials to minimise the chance of a rejection and ensure a seamless British citizenship process.
How Long Does It Take To Get British Citizenship?
The timeframe for obtaining British citizenship can vary depending on several factors, including the type of application and the complexity of the individual case. Applicants submitting a standard application for British citizenship can expect to receive a decision within six months, although the process can occasionally be faster or slower depending on various factors.
In some instances, the process can take longer, particularly if the case is unusual or if the Home Office needs to conduct further background checks or request additional documentation from the applicant.
While in the midst of waiting for a final decision on your citizenship application, you are still free to travel within and outside of the country, adhering to your current immigration conditions. It is crucial to inform the Home Office of any alterations in your life situation, such as moving to a new address, getting married, or experiencing an arrest.
What Does the British Citizenship Ceremony Look Like?
The formal and conclusive step in the process of obtaining British citizenship is marked by the British Citizenship Ceremony, which invites approved applicants to attend an event held at a government office or local council.
During the ceremony, which is typically headed by a local dignitary or officer, there are various components involved. Firstly, applicants pledge an oath of allegiance to the United Kingdom and its principles. Secondly, the applicants receive a certificate of British citizenship, officially recognizing their status as a British citizen and enabling them to apply for a British passport.
Apart from the certificate, applicants may receive a welcome pack, which includes information about the rights and responsibilities of British citizenship as well as other helpful resources.
Can I Appeal A Refused British Citizenship Application?
There is no right of appeal against a British citizenship refusal. However, the Home Office has a process of reviewing decisions upon request. The fee for the review request is £372. Most of this fee is refunded in case the outcome of the review leads to a grant of British citizenship.
How Can We Help?
Sterling Law immigration lawyers are dedicated to helping individuals achieve their dream of obtaining British citizenship. With years of experience and a deep understanding of UK immigration law, we have helped countless clients navigate the complex immigration process and successfully obtain citizenship. From assisting with paperwork and filing applications to representing clients in court, Sterling Law immigration lawyers offer tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of each client. We provide constant guidance and assistance to our clients throughout the entire process from start to finish. With a wealth of expertise and knowledge, Sterling Law can help foreigners become official UK citizens, giving them the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits and opportunities that come with citizenship in this country.