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Step-by-step Guide to Acquiring Citizenship

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 21 Feb 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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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
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?
paul - 5-Oct-16 @ 11:21 PM
I live in England as a child for five and a half years (1992-1997). My family moved back to the US but I recently moved to Scotland and have been here for 12 months. Do the 5 years I spent in the UK as a child count as qualification for citizenship? Or do I need to stay in Scotland for another 4 years before I can apply?
Bryn - 22-Sep-16 @ 8:54 PM
My bf and I have been together for 5 years now. He's Indian and is currently working in the UK on a work visa (has been for the past 3 years), I am a British national. We're currently looking to get married and I would prefer him to move to a spouse visa, could you please advice us what the best way to do this is. His work visa also ends in December and we're not sure if this is going to be renewed which means he may have to go back to India - is this does happen to be the case could you please advice us on what we would do? Thank you.
Lisa - 17-Sep-16 @ 10:58 PM
Chocolate- Your Question:
My passport says I'm a British citizen, however I've not lived in the UK, just visited. My son was born in the Caribbean and we'd like to both live, work and study in the UK. What's the process for such transition?Also, I'm currently engaged and my fiancee would also like to migrate to the UK. Is it best we marry before or after the transition?

Our Response:
While you are entitled to live in the UK as a British citizen. However, with regards to your son and fiancee, then you would have to apply to sponsor them under the terms listed in the link here.
AboutImmigration - 15-Sep-16 @ 10:43 AM
My passport says I'm a British citizen, however I've not lived in the UK, just visited. My son was born in the Caribbean and we'd like to both live, work and study in the UK. What's the process for such transition? Also, I'm currently engaged and my fiancee would also like to migrate to the UK. Is it best we marry before or after the transition?
Chocolate - 14-Sep-16 @ 1:03 PM
stacy - Your Question:
I am !married to a British citizen for 7yrs we have a child together. I am from the Caribbean but would love to move to the UK to work and study. I have a British expemtion what do I need to. Do if I aam coming to work. Can I get naturalized?

Our Response:
If you and your husband are living abroad, your husband as a British citizen would have to be 'ordinarily resident' in the UK in order to be able to apply for you and your child to come to live in the UK, please see gov.uk link here.
AboutImmigration - 22-Aug-16 @ 2:17 PM
I am !married to a British citizen for 7yrs we have a child together. I am from the Caribbean but would love to move to the UK to work and study. I have a British expemtion what do I need to.Do if I aam coming to work. Can I get naturalized?
stacy - 22-Aug-16 @ 1:56 AM
I am sabaree i am from india now i lives india . I want to start business in uk then i want to lives in uk what is the legal activity for those. what I do plz help me...
Sabari - 28-Jul-16 @ 3:42 PM
emontini - Your Question:
Hi. For a British Citizenship we have to do the test B1?

Our Response:
You might need to prove your knowledge of the English language if you’re over 18 and applying for citizenship or to settle in the UK, please see gov.uk link here which will answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 18-Jul-16 @ 2:32 PM
Hi. For a British Citizenship we have to do the test B1?
emontini - 17-Jul-16 @ 9:40 PM
Viquib - Your Question:
My husband is Slovakian, we have been married for 7 years and he has lived in the UK for 12 years, we have a child together. How can he go about gaining a UK passport and citizenship? I am a UK national. Many thanks.

Our Response:
He would first have to apply for a residence card in the first instance, please see link here .
AboutImmigration - 5-Jul-16 @ 11:53 AM
My husband is Slovakian, we have been married for 7 years and he has lived in the UK for 12 years, we have a child together. How can he go about gaining a UK passport and citizenship? I am a UK national. Many thanks.
Viquib - 4-Jul-16 @ 2:54 PM
Rickie1618 - Your Question:
Hello there,I am in need of what legal and effective ways do I need to use in order for me and my soulmate( A UK Citizen) to meet and plan on our wedding or how I can be eligible to enter the UK when all the authorities are aware of my intent.Thing is, a month ago, I met this sweet and lovely LDS lady on a Singles site online and we fell for each other's personality. Now my question is, how correctly can I obtain a visa to go meet with her so that we get to spend some time with each other for the benefit of our relationship growth and we decided that any way possible, we are to do it legally or in otherwords, since we both know what we want in our relationship, in a way that will make aware the authorities of our future plan of getting married for all time and all eternities. Which tends to worry me a little bit because I would not want to do anything that the UK authorities would use to fail our meeting with my love.Please advise me on this. ( I did not get the reply the other time I left a similar comment.)Patrick

Our Response:
You can apply for a standard visitor visa, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 27-Jun-16 @ 2:57 PM
Hello there, I am in need of what legal and effective ways do i need to use in order for me and my soulmate( A UK Citizen) to meet and plan on our wedding or how i can be eligible to enter the UK when all the authorities are aware of my intent. Thing is, a month ago, i met this sweet and lovely LDS lady on a Singles site online and we fell for each other's personality. Now my question is, how correctly can i obtain a visa to go meet with her so that we get to spend some time with each other for the benefit of our relationship growth and we decided that any way possible, we are to do it legally or in otherwords, since we both know what we want in our relationship, in a way that will make aware the authorities of our future plan of getting married for all time and all eternities. Which tends to worry me a little bit because i would not want to do anything that the UK authorities would use to fail our meeting with my love. Please advise me on this. ( i did not get the reply the other time i left a similar comment.) Patrick
Rickie1618 - 27-Jun-16 @ 9:11 AM
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