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Step-by-step Guide to Acquiring Citizenship

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 12 Oct 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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K - Your Question:
I have a 1.8 month old son who was born in Morocco. His mother abandoned him and was given to my husband who believed he was biological dad at the time. My husband born and raised Moroccan registered our son Ismail and in his birth certificate I appear as his mother as I believe it,it's legal mother because I am his only wife married to him who has taken over mother duties. We brought to Gibraltar on a visitors visa and here they started an investigation with regards to his matwrnity/paternity after many tests it was ascertained biological mother if child has played my husband and is no where to be found. We have been through a long legal process where Gibraltar courts have accepted his Moroccan Birth Certificate although they still believe there is something not right in it as I shouldn't be named his mum and I am. I have never said I have given birth cause that would be lying but we have been through all legal battles and as said documents have been accepted by local supreme courts and also by court of appeal. Now they are making tjings hard for ISMAIL status to be ascertained and obtain his dual nationality as his visa expired during the legal process which the local authorities didn't bother to update. I have court orders to support that we have full custody and parental responsibility on Ismail which was questioned when it was found out that neither of us where his Biolgical parents. Thankfully that is now sorted and after 11 months in a children's home he was returned to his rightful home and parents. Since then we have received closed doors in order to obtain his residence and nationality and a friend suggested we should apply through the embassy in spain as I am born and bread in GIBRALTAR and have full nationality. I would like information on how I can go about requesting his documentation as it has been a very daunting and bad expirience not only for us but for the little man who gives us life everyday.

Our Response:
Unfortunately, your question is beyond our remit to advise as we are only qualified to give general guidance, your question is very specific. Is is not legal to register another person to register as birth mother on a birth certificate, meaning your child is with neither of his biological parents and his biological parents remain unknown. This is where your problem lies and will continue to lie. You would need to continue to receive professional legal help and advice here.
AboutImmigration - 13-Oct-17 @ 11:17 AM
aga- Your Question:
Hello, I received my residence card and I would like you to help me what is the next step, to become British citizen. What I need to start feeling in etc is so many things on website- I don't know where to start

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here which should help answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 12-Oct-17 @ 4:05 PM
Hello, I received my residence card and I would like you to help me what is the next step, to become British citizen. What I need to start feeling in etc is so many things on website-I don't know where to start
aga - 12-Oct-17 @ 12:17 PM
I have a 1.8 month old son who was born in Morocco. His mother abandoned him and was given to my husband who believed he was biological dad at the time. My husband born and raised Moroccan registered our son Ismail and in his birth certificate I appear as his mother as I believe it,it's legal mother because I am his only wife married to him who has taken over mother duties. We brought to Gibraltar on a visitors visa and here they started an investigation with regards to his matwrnity/paternity after many tests it was ascertained biological mother if child has played my husband and is no where to be found. We have been through a long legal process where Gibraltar courts have accepted his Moroccan Birth Certificate although they still believe there is something not right in it as I shouldn't be named his mum and I am. I have never said I have given birth cause that would be lying but we have been through all legal battles and as said documents have been accepted by local supreme courts and also by court of appeal. Now they are making tjings hard for ISMAIL status to be ascertained and obtain his dual nationality as his visa expired during the legal process which the local authorities didn't bother to update. I have court orders to support that we have full custody and parental responsibility on Ismail which was questioned when it was found out that neither of us where his Biolgical parents. Thankfully that is now sorted and after 11 months in a children's home he was returned to his rightful home and parents. Since then we have received closed doors in order to obtain his residence and nationality and a friend suggested we should apply through the embassy in spain as I am born and bread in GIBRALTAR and have full nationality. I would like information on how I can go about requesting his documentation as it has been a very daunting and bad expirience not only for us but for the little man who gives us life everyday.
K - 6-Oct-17 @ 7:37 AM
Aussie - Your Question:
My wife is a UK citizen and holds an expired UK passport. I hold an Australian passport. We have been married for 26 years and living in Australia we now both want to live and work in the UK. She will be able to renew her UK passport, will I then be able to get a visa through my wife? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Our Response:
In order for your wife to apply for you to live in the UK, as her dependent, then she would have to be living in the UK, in order for you both to be able to apply. Please see gov.uk link here, which will tell you all you need to know about the financial and other requirements. Otherwise, you would have to apply independently for a work visa etc.
AboutImmigration - 3-Oct-17 @ 11:50 AM
My wife is a UK citizen and holds an expired UK passport. I hold an Australian passport. We have been married for 26 years and living in Australia we now both want to live and work in the UK. She will be able to renew her UK passport, will I then be able to get a visa through my wife? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
Aussie - 2-Oct-17 @ 4:49 PM
Rohan - Your Question:
I would like know which form I need to use to register my child to become a British citizen.

Our Response:
Please see the gov.uk link here , which should help you further.
AboutImmigration - 21-Sep-17 @ 3:03 PM
I would like know which formI need to use to register my child to become a British citizen.
Rohan - 20-Sep-17 @ 8:12 PM
dar - Your Question:
Sir I apply for working visa in uk give me a step by step procedure thank you

Our Response:
You can see what visas you would need to apply for via the link here . This will enable you to see what working visa suits you best (as there are different types) and what type of visa you are eligible to apply for.
AboutImmigration - 29-Aug-17 @ 3:48 PM
sir i apply for working visa in uk give me a step by step procedure thank you
dar - 29-Aug-17 @ 3:55 AM
I am trying to get my passport return to me but I am stuck. My solicitor has made two request she have email but I can't seem to get it back. It's been over a year since it's been there with my son application but I need to work and can't get work because I don't have my passport what can i do?
Michelle - 16-Aug-17 @ 9:42 PM
Hello I was born and raised in The Gambia to a British National. I have many step sisters and brother in the UK with British Passport. Unfortunately I have never lived there. Now that my Dad is late, is it possible to claim citizenship? If so, how do I go about it? Thanks
Sonson - 28-Jul-17 @ 11:16 AM
@Asraf - you have to have been living in the UK legally for the past five years in order to be able to apply. You also have to go through the different stages in order to get to the point where you are eligible to apply.
Tomek - 24-Jul-17 @ 12:43 PM
I want to get citizenship in UK, how can I get it ?
Asraf - 22-Jul-17 @ 4:27 AM
Hello, I am trying to understand below indication taken from HO website: "Applying for citizenship You can use a B1 level qualification that’s run out if you’re applying for citizenship and it was accepted when you settled in the UK. It doesn’t matter if the B1 level test you took isn’t on the current list of recognised tests. You don’t need to take another test." First: when is that somebody settled in UK? My residency card is dates 15/04/2016, did I settle 5 years back: 15/04/2011? If so, what qualifications were accepted back then for citizenship? I am asking because in June/July 2011 I got the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English, higher than B1, and would like to avoid, if possible, spending another £200 for B1 test.... Thank you
Ercole - 13-Jul-17 @ 5:59 AM
Piglet - Your Question:
I am a British citizen. I moved to South Africa 14 years ago but still do not have permanent residence there. Is my South African husband entitled to a British passport? We are considering moving to uk or France in the near future.

Our Response:
Your husband is not entitled to become a British citizen on the back of your marriage. In order to apply for British citizenship he would have to live in the UK for a minimum of five years. In order to apply for your husband to live in the UK with you, you would have to be classed as being 'ordinarily resident' and meet the requirements laid out in the link here.
AboutImmigration - 27-Jun-17 @ 2:22 PM
I am a British citizen.I moved to South Africa 14 years ago but still do not have permanent residence there .Is my South African husband entitled to a British passport? We are considering moving to uk or France in the near future.
Piglet - 26-Jun-17 @ 6:58 PM
@Mihaita90 - you can but be warned the Home Office latches on to anything not to award you residency :(
MikeyP - 15-Jun-17 @ 12:55 PM
Hi, if I had a drink and drive disqualification can I still apply for citizenship?
Mihaita90 - 13-Jun-17 @ 11:15 PM
Hi, I have an EU passport and lived in the UK for 25 years (studied, worked). I moved to the US in 2012 for work reasons (transferred from London office to the NY office) and plan to move back to the UK to be near family again in 2018. How do I apply for a british citizenship?
As - 8-Jun-17 @ 3:41 PM
My question is: For a child born in UAE whose both parents have British passports but the father was born in Iran and has a dual passport of Iran. The mother was born in UK.Does the child automatically get a British passport?
Kalyani - 8-Jun-17 @ 9:56 AM
Hi, I was on leave to remain( as a father of a British child) for 2 and half years then I got married to my British wife, presently I am on 2 and half years spouse visa so I am wondering if I will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of this 2 and half year spouse visa or I still have to apply for another 2 and half years spouse visa.
Golden - 22-May-17 @ 12:28 PM
ritz - Your Question:
Just to inquire from your good office on how to apply a British Citizen.The thing is since our marriage I didn't live longer in the UK for Iam working abroad. Weve been married since 1993 and blessed with 3 children.Please need your advise the possibility to avail one that until now I am still working abroad. By the way I am on Filipino passport.Thank you and hope to hear you soon.

Our Response:
Unless you are living in the UK, you cannot become a British citizen on the back of your husband being a British citizen. If your children's father is a British citizen, you may be able to register your children as British citizens, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 17-May-17 @ 10:25 AM
Just to inquire from your good office on how to apply a British Citizen.The thing is since our marriage I didn't live longer in the UKfor Iam working abroad. Weve been married since 1993 and blessed with 3 children. Please need your advise the possibility to avail one that until now I am still working abroad. By the way I am on Filipino passport. Thank you and hope to hear you soon.
ritz - 16-May-17 @ 1:46 PM
Eric - Your Question:
My wife is a German national. She has lived her for 54years and draws her pension. Can she claim British citizen status. We have four children all English. Has we are leaving the EU will this cause us any problems. If we go on holiday abroad. We used to have to go through different entrance one for Nationals and one for foreign nationals. That's before we joined the EU. What will happen to her status. Can any one help getting worried?

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which should answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 10-May-17 @ 12:54 PM
My wife is a German national. She has lived her for 54years and draws her pension. Can she claim British citizen status. We have four children all English. Has we are leaving the EUwill this cause us any problems. If we go on holiday abroad. We used to have to go through different entrance one for Nationals and one for foreign nationals. That's before we joined the EU. What will happen to her status. Can any one help getting worried?
Eric - 10-May-17 @ 9:22 AM
@Meme if you are a naturalized British citizen and your son was born after your naturalization then he is probably automatically a British citizen regardless of where he was born and may apply for a British passport. If sons Grandparents were born in the UK he may be entitled to an ancestry visa valid for 5 years.
TJ. - 5-May-17 @ 5:21 PM
Theo - Your Question:
I'm a Filipino citizen living in Dubai as a nurse. I want to migrate to U.K with my family.what will I do first?please give me the steps

Our Response:
Unless you are a British citizen, it is difficult to move to the UK unless you have secured a job or study. You can see what visa you may be eligible for via the gov.uk link here.
AboutImmigration - 5-May-17 @ 1:36 PM
Meme - Your Question:
I am a British Citizen (born in India, grew up in UK married a Canadian Citizen) but now reside and have US citizenship. My 26 year old son (born in Canada also a US citizen), would like to go and work/study in the UK with the possibility of moving there permanently! Could any one advice me if he is still entitled to apply for a British Citizen (my understanding is I should have applied for his citizenship prior to his 16th birthday), and if not what would be the best way for him to move there, would attending university be the best option and after that?

Our Response:
You would have to check via the gov.uk link here which should tell you all you need to know. Otherwise, your son can apply for a study visa via the link here. I hope this helps.
AboutImmigration - 5-May-17 @ 9:49 AM
I'm a Filipino citizen living in Dubai as a nurse. i want to migrate to U.K with my family...what will I do first?please give me the steps
Theo - 4-May-17 @ 7:06 PM
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