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Step-by-step Guide to Acquiring Citizenship

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 22 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Step-by-step Guide To Acquiring Citizenship

This article is a guide to the stages that a foreign national will ordinarily have to go through before they may acquire British citizenship. This guide generally assumes that an adult foreign national is applying for citizenship in their own right rather than through any relationship they may have with a British citizen or resident. The requirements also differ for citizens of the European Economic Area.

1. Entering the UK Legally

The first step in the process is to enter the UK legally. Foreign nationals may need a visa or entry clearance to come to the UK. Whether a visa is required will depend on: the foreign national’s country of origin; the purpose of their visit; and, the length of their proposed stay.

People coming to the UK must ensure that they satisfy all immigration requirements before they make travel arrangements. A mistake at this stage could mean that the foreign national will never be eligible for citizenship. Some visas do not allow the holder to extend their stay once the initial period of validity expires and so will not provide a path to citizenship.

2. Remaining in the UK Legally

Once a foreign national has entered the UK legally it is vital that their stay in the country remains legal. A breach of immigration rules will almost certainly mean that any subsequent application for citizenship will be refused.

Foreign nationals who have temporary leave to remain in the UK must ensure that they obtain indefinite leave to remain before their temporary leave expires. Any period spent in the UK without permission from the immigration authorities will not be counted towards the residence requirements for citizenship.

3. Satisfying Residence Requirements – The Five-Year Qualifying Period

To qualify for citizenship, foreign nationals must have been legally resident in the UK for at least five years. During that five-year period the foreign national must not have been out of the UK for more than a total of 450 days and must not have been out of the UK for more than 90 days during the final twelve months of the five-year period. This five-year period is known as the residential qualifying period.

It is a further and vital residence requirement that an applicant for citizenship was physically in the UK exactly five years before the date on which their application is received by the UK Border Agency. If they were not in the UK on this exact date, the application will fail.

4. Satisfying Other Requirements

In addition to satisfying the residence requirements prospective UK citizens must also:
  • Be at least 18 years of age and of “sound mind” – for immigration purposes this means that the applicant must be capable of making decisions for themselves;
  • Intend to continue living in the UK;
  • Be able to communicate in a UK language – which will usually be English – and have knowledge of life in the UK; and,
  • Be of “good character” – this means that the applicant must have no relevant criminal convictions.

5. Taking the UK Citizenship Test

In order to satisfy the language and knowledge of UK life requirements prospective citizens must now either take a citizenship test – the Life in the UK test – or take a course of combined English language and citizenship classes. Whether applicants must take the test or the classes will depend on their existing English language skills. Applicants who are already able to communicate to an acceptable level in English take the Life in the UK test.

The test or classes must be successfully completed before making an application for citizenship.

6. Completing the Application Form

Once all the above requirements have been satisfied the foreign national is now ready to apply for citizenship. The application is made using form AN - great care should be taken to read the guide on completing the form. Supporting documents must be attached and a non-refundable fee must be paid at the same time. Applicants applying within the UK are also required to pay a fee to cover the cost of the citizenship ceremony. This part of the fee is refundable if the application fails.

7. Attending a UK Citizenship Ceremony

If the application is successful, the applicant will receive a letter inviting them to arrange attendance at a Citizenship Ceremony, which must take place within 90 days of receipt of the invitation. At the ceremony all new British citizens are required to take an oath (or affirmation) of allegiance to the Queen and give a pledge of loyalty to the UK and its values.Finally, the new citizen will be handed a certificate of citizenship confirming that they are now a UK citizen.

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[Add a Comment]
ELLA - Your Question:
I AM a 77YR OLD RETIRED GERMAN CITIZEN, MARRIED TO a BRITISH RETIRED DOCTOR,who has worked for the Uk Ministry Overseas Development and NHS, WE HAVE BEEN MARRIED IN UK 46 YRS AGO AND HAVE LIVED PERMANENTLY IN THE UK FOR PAST 35 YEARS,OUR TWO CHILDREN ARE bRITISH PASSPORT HOLDERS AS ARE OUR 3 GRANDCHILDREN, I RAN MY OWN CATERING BUSINESS IN UK FOR 25 YEARS AND AM IN RECEIPT OF A UK OA PENSION. I clearly must meet the criteria to apply for citizenship though I see on the internet that a dutch citizen who had been in UK for 24 yrs and was married to a UK citizen was told by Home office to make plans to leave!!! I speak perfect English without an accent. What form to use to apply ? Thanks Ella

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk here which should help you further.
AboutImmigration - 23-Mar-17 @ 11:30 AM
I AM a 77YR OLD RETIRED GERMAN CITIZEN, MARRIED TO a BRITISH RETIRED DOCTOR,who has worked for the Uk Ministry Overseas Developmentand NHS, WE HAVE BEEN MARRIED IN UK 46 YRS AGO AND HAVE LIVED PERMANENTLY IN THE UK FOR PAST 35 YEARS,OUR TWO CHILDREN ARE bRITISH PASSPORT HOLDERS AS ARE OUR 3 GRANDCHILDREN, I RAN MY OWN CATERING BUSINESS IN UK FOR 25 YEARS AND AM IN RECEIPT OF A UK OA PENSION. I clearly must meet the criteria to apply for citizenship though I see on the internet that a dutch citizen who had been in UK for 24 yrs and was married to a UK citizenwas told by Home office to make plans to leave!!! I speak perfect English without an accent. What form to use to apply ? Thanks Ella
ELLA - 22-Mar-17 @ 5:35 PM
Cli - Your Question:
My daughter is a British subject living in UK. I am a 64 year old holder of a Cypriot passport. I would like to know if I can become a British citizen should my husband pass on. He is 86 years old and I have no other family

Our Response:
You cannot become a British citizen on the back of your daughter being one. British citizenship can only pass downward to children, not upward to parents.
AboutImmigration - 15-Mar-17 @ 12:03 PM
My daughter is a British subject living in UK. I am a 64 year old holder of a Cypriot passport. I would like to know if I can become a British citizen should my husband pass on. He is 86 years old and I have no other family
Cli - 14-Mar-17 @ 3:49 PM
My husband is Jamaican and I am british. He has had permanent residency for 5 years. How can he become a british citizen? He has done the life in Britain testas part of the residency app so surely doesn't have to do that again? Thanks
Eharris - 13-Mar-17 @ 3:04 PM
jim - Your Question:
I am in love with a British citizen. He has not popped the question, butif he did I would say yes. I am a US citizen. I can enter the UL for 6 months as long as I don't work. What would be the right way to go about getting engaged, married and becoming a British citizen so we can work and live there together?I am a medical professional and I know that is a whole separate complication in terms of my ability to work in the United Kingdom. I will have income and resources from the US as well.Thank you!

Our Response:
Unless you applied for a work visa independently of a marriage visa, you and your partner would have to fulfil all the requirements laid out in the spouse visa link here, in order to be allowed to be able to apply.
AboutImmigration - 10-Mar-17 @ 12:45 PM
Sharpi - Your Question:
My nephew (South African) has been trying to get into UK at great expense and disappointment. His fiancé (British) gave birth to their daughter this week and he couldn't be there because his visa was declined. Is there a precedent for this situation. It is inhumane to keep this young man from being with his fiancé and their FIRSTBORN.

Our Response:
I'm afraid to say that unless your nephew qualifies for the spouse visa, there is little he can do. Only recently this very issue was taken to the supreme court, and upheld, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 10-Mar-17 @ 12:11 PM
My nephew (South African) has been trying to get into UK at great expense and disappointment. His fiancé (British) gave birth to their daughter this week and he couldn't be there because his visa was declined. Is there a precedent for this situation. It is inhumane to keep this young man from being with his fiancé and their FIRSTBORN...
Sharpi - 9-Mar-17 @ 5:25 PM
I am in love with a British citizen. He has not popped the question, butif he did I would say yes. I am a US citizen. I can enter the UL for 6 months as long as I don't work. What would be the right way to go about getting engaged, married and becoming a British citizen so we can work and live there together? I am a medical professional and I know that is a whole separate complication in terms of my ability to work in the United Kingdom. I will have income and resources from the US as well. Thank you!
jim - 9-Mar-17 @ 2:20 PM
If we have the permanent residency card from Home Office, do we still have to fill the form with all the dates we entered and leaved UK ? as we don't know all of the from the last 6 years
gaby - 3-Mar-17 @ 8:10 PM
After taking the life in Uk test how long time we have to send the AN form ?
gaby - 3-Mar-17 @ 7:16 PM
del - Your Question:
My daughter who is uk born is moving back to the uk and bringng her children age 5 and 3 who both have american passports although they were born in japan they would like uk citizenship for the children what is requried please

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here which should tell you all you need to know.
AboutImmigration - 3-Mar-17 @ 2:08 PM
my daughter who is uk born is moving back to the uk and bringng her children age 5 and 3 who both have american passports although they were born in japan they would like uk citizenship for the children what is requried please
del - 2-Mar-17 @ 4:46 PM
Hi, my husband is a british citizen(born in the UK) I wonder whether I can apply for UK citizenship immediately after I've got my indefinite leave to remain, that means without the need to wait for one more year. Many thanks
CC - 1-Mar-17 @ 2:28 AM
I have a question regarding my right to work and Nationality. I was Born in South Africa in 1976 British citizen Mother South African Father We moved to the UK in 1987 when I was 12. At that time my South African passport was stamped with Indefinite to Remain. The passport expired in 1997, as I had no desire to travel and the cost I didn't renew it. I have now lived in the UK for 30 years. In 2004 I married my now wife (British Citizen/born in the U.K.) We now have x2 children both born in the UK. I have been asked by my employer to provide right to work/proof of UK residency. They are doing the entire company and I've worked this company for 6 years now. So I guess that my current expired passport is not the correct document to show them. Can you advice? I'd rather get a British passport etc... but as my situation is not standard I'm not sure the correct course of action.
elton3d - 21-Feb-17 @ 11:47 AM
Jo - Your Question:
Hi. I'm EU citizen married to British man and living in the UK for the last 13 years. Do I still have to go through all steps stated above or is there a short cut?

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which gives you further information on this.
AboutImmigration - 16-Feb-17 @ 2:28 PM
Hi. I'm EU citizen married to British man and living in the UK for the last 13 years.Do I still have to go through all steps stated above or is there a short cut?
Jo - 13-Feb-17 @ 10:25 PM
I am a dual UK and Australian citizen Born (UK). I am thinking about returning to live in the UK with my Australian citizen wife.What are the requirements for my wife to become a dual UK and Australian citizen.? And are these the same requirements for her to eventually obtain a British passport..? Thanking You
Gren - 11-Feb-17 @ 9:32 AM
What routes are there for an EU national married to a British citizen who doesn't comply with the requirements for permanent resident status? My wife is Spanish. We married and have lived in the UK for over 20 years, but she has been mainly a student or looking after our home & son, and so doesn't have 5 consecutive years of employment. Is it really necessary to first get a spouse visa, then Indefinite leave to remain and then finally apply for citizenship?
Don - 5-Jan-17 @ 11:48 PM
I am EU national. Single, never married. I hold a BEng and MSc degree received from one of the EUnon-UK university approved by UK NARIC. I study a PhD now in the UK. I have lived, worked and studied in the UK for over 12 years. Do I need to apply for registration certificate, when applying for naturalisation?
mwz - 3-Dec-16 @ 8:46 AM
Needed advice Please !!! I am british citizen also my partner is on indefinite .One of my child who was born abroad and is under 15 year is on dependant visa.His legal stay is more than 10 year.Do I need to apply for indefinite stay of my childorapply for british nationality (naturalisation ).I read MN1 guidance but I am still confused. If any onehave know,Please guide me .
mhs - 2-Dec-16 @ 9:21 PM
I am from Rkt ,Kashmir. I am Pakistani national .My question is that if I marry to my Czn who is british born then i got the marriage visa of UK .
bhai - 12-Nov-16 @ 12:52 PM
ukanswer - Your Question:
I am a UK citizen. my partner is from the US. He is already in the UK on a visitor visa. We want to get married in the UK then move to the US. He doesn't need to work while he is in the UK and will be here a max of 6 months. I know there will be paperwork involved for me to live in the US, But what do we need to do, to be legally married here in the UK? Change his visa from a visitor.? Please help

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here for more information.
AboutImmigration - 13-Oct-16 @ 1:59 PM
I am a UK citizen. my partner is from the US. He is already in the UK on a visitor visa. We want to get married in the UK then move to the US. He doesn't need to work while he is in the UK and will be here a max of 6 months. I know there will be paperwork involved for me to live in the US, But what do we need to do, to be legally married here in the UK? Change his visa from a visitor...? Please help
ukanswer - 12-Oct-16 @ 11:55 PM
I'm an EU citizen and have just received my permanent residency card proving my stay here 5 years back. However, I have actually lived here for the last 12 years. I am also married (civil partnered) to a a now British citizen (who got the citizenship by being married to me, exercising our EU treaty rights). The rules state that if I'm married to a British citizen then I don't have to wait 12 months after getting the residency card. But would that still apply in my case? i.e. if my partner became a British citizen (2years ago) thanks to being with me.
Dom - 12-Oct-16 @ 5:40 PM
Edy - Your Question:
Hi, I am married to a British Citizen and have been living and working in the UK for 12 years. Do I have to apply for indefinite leave to enter/remain card before I apply for naturalisation?

Our Response:
If you are from the EU (which I assume you are) please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 10-Oct-16 @ 1:41 PM
ask - Your Question:
Hi,i stayed in london frm 2004 to 2010, but some family problem had to com back to india. Since then I am in india now I want to go back to london start again my life. where I left My question is I am eligible to go back again Thank Q! Help me

Our Response:
You don't say whether you have ILR or not. If you did not have ILR, then you would have to make a fresh application for a new visa. However, likewise if you did have ILR, then your time limit to be out of the country is two years. If you have exceeded the time limit you need to re-apply, please see link here .
AboutImmigration - 10-Oct-16 @ 11:20 AM
Hi, I am married to a British Citizen and have been living and working in the UK for 12 years. Do I have to apply for indefinite leave to enter/remain card before I apply for naturalisation?
Edy - 9-Oct-16 @ 10:20 PM
Hi,i stayed in london frm 2004 to 2010, but some family problem had to com back to india. Since then I am in india now I want to go back to london start again my life.. where I left My question is I am eligible to go back again Thank Q! Help me
ask - 9-Oct-16 @ 2:23 PM
paul - Your Question:
Hi, I am a EU citizen that has been living here for 12 years. I attended primary school, secondary school, sixth form, university and am now completing my masters here as well. Do I need to apply for permanent residence before applying for a UK passport? and would I need to do any of the tests i.e. life in the UK?

Our Response:
Yes, you would have to apply for a permanent residence card, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 6-Oct-16 @ 2:01 PM
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