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Step-by-step Guide to Acquiring Citizenship

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Jun 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]
@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
Maria V - Your Question:
Hello, I was born in Italy in 1958 to an Italian father and English mother. We moved to England in 1966, I have lived here continuously since then. Do I apply fir dual nationality in the usual way,e.g.Life in uk test etc or is there a different way, as my mother was a British citizen? Many thanks

Our Response:
EU nationals who have lived continuously and lawfully in the UK for at least six years are eligible to apply for British citizenship if they would like to do so. The eligibility requirements can be found here.
AboutImmigration - 4-May-17 @ 2:14 PM
Hello, I was born in Italy in 1958 to an Italian father and English mother. We moved to England in 1966, I have lived here continuously since then. Do I apply fir dual nationality in the usual way,e.g.Life in uk test etc or is there a different way, as my mother was a British citizen? Many thanks
Maria V - 4-May-17 @ 9:15 AM
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?
Meme - 4-May-17 @ 1:00 AM
Steve - Your Question:
Hi,I am a British citizen since birth, and in 2013 I met an Indonesian woman and we formed a relationship together, I have visited her once per year since then, and she has visited the UK last year but only for 2 weeks at a time and only once per year. We are in love, we talk every day without a single day missed, she wants to live here, I want her to live here. We would like to marry, and are fed up of being apart. Where on earth do we start in order to be together? The visa's seem to be complicated, such as the family visa for joining a fiance, there seems to be a requirement of living together for 2 years but how can we when we be when both live in different countries?Any advice on what path we can follow would appreciatedmany thanks

Our Response:
In a bid to limit immigration, I'm afraid the Home Office doesn't plan to make it easy to bring people to the UK. By applying for a visitor visa, your partner may be able to spend sometime with you and you would have to spend some time in her country in order to make up the two years. I'm not sure how people manage to get around this issue, but it is one that is a bone of contention for many already married couples.
AboutImmigration - 3-May-17 @ 2:35 PM
My partner is South African and has lived in uk since 2000 with his family, he has Indiffinate leave to remain, we have travels for 5 years returning every xmas, and have now lives here without leaving for 3 years, my question is do we need to wait another 2 years to complete his citizenship? He has completed the written test.
Pam - 3-May-17 @ 10:15 AM
Hi, I am a British citizen since birth, and in 2013 I met an Indonesian woman and we formed a relationship together, i have visited her once per year since then, and she has visited the UK last year but only for 2 weeks at a time and only once per year.We are in love, we talk every day without a single day missed, she wants to live here, i want her to live here. We would like to marry, and are fed up of being apart. Where on earth do we start in order to be together? The visa's seem to be complicated, such as the family visa for joining a fiance, there seems to be a requirement of living together for 2 years but how can we when we be when both live in different countries? Any advice on what path we can follow would appreciated many thanks
Steve - 29-Apr-17 @ 6:40 PM
Leslie - Your Question:
I am married to a British citizen who was born in and has lived his entire life in the US. In three years, we are planning to move to England to live indefinitely with our six-year old son. What type of visa(s) will be required for this? Trying to discern the correct scenario/situation is proving to be quite confusing. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Our Response:
You would have to be living in the UK in order to be able to apply to bring your husband and child to the UK, and satisfy the requirements laid out in the gov.uk link here.
AboutImmigration - 26-Apr-17 @ 2:34 PM
I am married to a British citizen who was born in and has lived his entire life in the US. In three years, we are planning to move to England to live indefinitely with our six-year old son. What type of visa(s) will be required for this? Trying to discern the correct scenario/situation is proving to be quite confusing. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Leslie - 25-Apr-17 @ 10:10 PM
Me and my child live in England an i live on benefits, I want to bring my husband to the uk. My question is how many years will it take for him to become a british citizen and how long after that can he apply for a british passport.Thank you.
mima - 22-Apr-17 @ 10:46 AM
Me and my child love in England an i live on benefits, I want to bring my husband to the uk. My question is how many years will it take for him to become a british citizen and how long after that can he apply for a british passport.Thank you.
mima - 22-Apr-17 @ 10:45 AM
Jonny - Your Question:
I was raised in London from 2 year old till I was 24 then came back to spain on a pension for a sickness. This pension was stoped in 2012. I have my british nacional insurance number and would like to go back to London as my job permits me to live there if I want. Can I get a british citizenship?

Our Response:
If you are a Spanish national then you still have freedom of movement in the UK for the moment. However, you cannot register as a British citizen unless you have lived in the UK continually for a period of six years to date, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 13-Apr-17 @ 1:48 PM
I was raised in London from 2 year old till i was 24 then came back to spain on a pension for a sickness. This pension was stoped in 2012. I have my british nacional insurance number and would like to go back to London as my job permits me to live there if i want. Can i get a british citizenship?
Jonny - 12-Apr-17 @ 10:17 PM
I have been resident in Holland for 17 years but still hold a British passport. My husband is Dutch and we married (in Scotland) in 2015. We have been considering moving to the UK but I'm a little concerned to read on the site, that as I have been out of the country for longer than 2 years, my ability to reside there may not be automatic and I may have to prove I have close family here etc I still study in England (distance learning) for a specific qualification which does show I have always been planning to return as this is a qualification I am unable to use in the Netherlands (Law). I had always presumed that as I am a British passport holder, I would never have to qualify my intention to return & would be free to do so although my husband would likely need to be 'processed' so to speak. I'd be grateful for more detailed information on this. Many thanks.
Jane - 6-Apr-17 @ 11:53 PM
BobB- Your Question:
I am a 70yr old British citizen and I married in UKmy wife who is Portuguese in 2015'. What dowe need todo to get her British citizenship. Thank/you.

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which should answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 27-Mar-17 @ 2:49 PM
I am a 70yr old British citizen and I married in UKmy wife who is Portuguese in 2015'. What dowe need todo to get her British citizenship. Thank/you.
BobB - 27-Mar-17 @ 1:15 PM
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
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