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Step-by-step Guide to Acquiring Citizenship

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 7 Aug 2018 | 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]
@George - To apply for British citizenship, you must have had permanent residency for at least one year. To apply for Permanent Residency you need to have lived in the UK for a continuous period of at least 5 years on ONE visa or lived legally in the UK for at least 10 years.
TJ. - 7-Aug-18 @ 11:35 AM
George - Your Question:
Hi there,Next year, February I will have 3 years since I've been living in UK. I speak English fluently and my plan was to become a British citizen even before I came in UK. I worked legally with big companies since I came in this country, I am banking with two big banks and at the moment I am learning for taking "The Life in UK Test". I left the country only 14 days for a holiday since I've been living here. Do I have any chance to apply for the British citizenship regarding to my present situation bearing in mind I have all the documents and legal papers at hand? Thank you.

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here , which will help answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 6-Aug-18 @ 11:05 AM
Hi there, Next year, February I will have 3 years since I've been living in UK. I speak English fluently and my plan was to become a British citizen even before I came in UK. I worked legally with big companies since I came in this country, I am banking with two big banks and at the moment I am learning for taking "The Life in UK Test". I left the country only 14 days for a holiday since I've been living here. Do I have any chance to apply for the British citizenship regarding to my present situation bearing in mind I have all the documents and legal papers at hand? Thank you.
George - 5-Aug-18 @ 11:11 AM
Jhanks- Your Question:
My polish wife has been living and working in the uk for 11 years full time, we have been together for 10 years now and have been married for 1 1/2 yrs. We have a 6yr old daughter together also.My Daughter has a British passport and ime British, I want my wife to become a british citizen but the process looks hard. The cost is not a problem but where do I start?Many thanksJason Hancock

Our Response:
The gov.uk link here will tell you all you need to know.
AboutImmigration - 2-Aug-18 @ 12:55 PM
My polish wife has been living and working in the uk for 11 years full time, we have been together for 10 years now and have been married for 1 1/2 yrs. We have a 6yr old daughter together also. My Daughter has a British passport and ime British, I want my wife to become a british citizen but the process looks hard. The cost is not a problem but where do I start? Many thanks Jason Hancock
Jhanks - 1-Aug-18 @ 4:43 PM
@Beni - Your wife's spouse visa must be renewed every 2.5 years until she is granted ILR
TJ. - 23-Jul-18 @ 12:26 PM
Hi can anyone help, I married my South African Wife in South Africa about a year and a half ago, we then moved to the UK, the UK Immigration said yes to her moving here however I just need to know what the next step is? I understand it's a 5year process before she gets citizenship but I think there's a review after 2 years so need to know what the steps are and the cost? She has already spent about £2000 at the start of this process when we got married. Ben
Beni - 22-Jul-18 @ 5:24 PM
Hi. I'm married to EU citizen living in UK for 8 years. He and our child just became a British citizens but when we got married he wasn't. I have PR and lived in UK for 8 years but wasn't working all the time for this period . Can I apply for naturalisation as a wife of the British husband?
Sabinaa - 21-Jun-18 @ 2:47 PM
Licia - Your Question:
I am presently in the UK studying. My husband had his PhD here in the UK. He is currently working as a lecturer in one of the university here in the UK,but he is not a permanent staff he has lived legally in the UK for at least 8 years now. Currently on a tier 4 dependent visa. Can he apply for a UK citizen visa?

Our Response:
Please see the link here, which should help answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 19-Jun-18 @ 11:56 AM
@Licia - Your husband cannot apply for British citizenship until he has held Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK for at least one year. He can apply for ILR once he has lived in the UK legally for at least 10 years
TJ. - 19-Jun-18 @ 7:12 AM
I am presently in the UK studying. My husband had his PhD here in the UK. He is currently working as a lecturer in one of the university here in the UK,but he is not a permanent staff he has lived legally in the UK for at least 8 years now. Currently on a tier 4 dependent visa. Can he apply for a UK citizen visa?
Licia - 18-Jun-18 @ 9:35 PM
Calm - Your Question:
I am from america and I have a friend who is from poland she wants to come to america and we get married how possible is it

Our Response:
Unfortunately, we cannot answer your question as we only have knowledge of UK immigration requirements.
AboutImmigration - 4-Jun-18 @ 9:58 AM
I am from america and I have a friend who is from poland she wants to come to america and we get married how possible is it
Calm - 3-Jun-18 @ 2:22 PM
Can I apply for naturalisation if I’m not in current employment but have been for the past 10 years?
JM - 16-May-18 @ 6:49 AM
My boyfriend being sentenced to 5 years he is a naturalise citizen what are the chances of him getting deported?
Riri - 26-Apr-18 @ 6:34 PM
What are the potential barriers of becoming a British citizen.
Rex - 25-Apr-18 @ 8:34 PM
Chris - Your Question:
Hi. Quick question. If I become ENGAGED to a Canadian citizen working in the UK on a sponsored work visa does that void the terms of her visa? If I were then to become MARRIED to a Canadian Citizen, would THAT void the terms of her visa?Kind regards,(and sorry for the CAPS!)Chris

Our Response:
It does not affect your girlfriend's visa. She would still have to keep to its terms.
AboutImmigration - 23-Apr-18 @ 3:49 PM
Hi. Quick question. If I become ENGAGED to a Canadian citizen working in the UK on a sponsored work visa does that void the terms of her visa? If I were then to become MARRIED to a Canadian Citizen, would THAT void the terms of her visa? Kind regards, (and sorry for the CAPS!) Chris
Chris - 23-Apr-18 @ 8:52 AM
@Mari - You need to follow the instructions on the application form. However unless you were on a work visa it is not necessary to have worked in the UK. You must remember all the times you left the country and for how long as this is highly relevant to the decision
TJ. - 13-Mar-18 @ 6:28 AM
Hello,I am married to a British citizen and have got 2 children.I have passed my life in the Uk test and I am now in the process of completing the form.Do you have to provide the last 10 years of work employment even for those married to a British citizen or just the last 3 years ? If I cannot remember all the holidays we have been over the last few years is it a problem ? Thanks
Mari - 12-Mar-18 @ 9:51 PM
@Nige4554 - if the boy is a Polish citizen and has lived in the UK for at least 5 years he is a Permanent resident in the UK. He can apply for British citizenship once he turns 18 however he will require PR document as part of the requirements to prove his current status. He can apply for the PR document now if he wishes.
TJ. - 6-Mar-18 @ 7:41 AM
Hi I am a UK citizen, now married to a Polish woman, I have a 17.5 year son which i did not adopt but lived with us for past 10 years. We have lived together in UK since Nov 2010. Polish son has been in school in UK and now wishes for British citizenship.He has a place in Oxford university and wants to know if he should apply now before he is 18 or wait until after brexit and university.His mum is Polish Citizen married to me since July 2015. thanks
Nige4554 - 5-Mar-18 @ 9:52 PM
@Diamond - If you have held ILR for at least 12 months you qualify to apply for British citizenship if you meet the other requirements
TJ. - 5-Mar-18 @ 6:56 AM
I came to the uk through back door illegally from 2007, both now I have permanent live to remain since 2016 in the uk! Did I qualify to apply for British citizenship
Diamond - 5-Mar-18 @ 12:17 AM
Hi. I have been in the uk for 20 and half years. During which i was trained as a nurse. Worked 15 years after my training. I have ILR 11 years now. I failed to apply for my citizenship. I am now in the process of applying for ill health retirement. I would also like to apply for uk citizenship. Would ill health retirement affect my application for citizenship? I would be very grateful for your response. Many thanks, Jb
Jb - 22-Jan-18 @ 11:13 PM
@TJ thank you very much for your reply. I was worried that becoming married might affect her ability to continue working here for a while.
Rob - 12-Jan-18 @ 6:56 PM
@Rob - Your marriage will not affect her stay in the UK. If her current visa is valid for 5 years she can apply for ILR (Permanent status) after completing that period. If it is valid for less than 5 years she might want to apply for a family visa once you are married which will allow her to apply for ILR after 5 years if you meet the requirements.
TJ. - 12-Jan-18 @ 4:50 PM
Hi, I hope you can help. I am a British citizen (born and bred). I have been in a relationship with a Canadian citizen for almost two years and we are moving in together this month. She was initially on a young persons working visa (teacher) and is now continuing to work here on a new visa (sponsored). I am intending to propose this year (she is hopeful too). If we were engaged and then married over the next year or two, what implications might that have for her ability to a) continue working under her current visa b) stay here on a permanent basis I believe her new visa which started Sept 2017 will last around 3-5 years (somewhere around that figure) - she's not here right now for me to confirm.
Rob - 12-Jan-18 @ 3:43 PM
@MHW since you have lived outside the UK for over 2 years, you will have to apply for a returning resident visa that will restore your permanent status. You will need to include all ties you have to the UK including property owned and family.
TJ. - 28-Nov-17 @ 9:49 PM
@Moudy you can apply for British citizenship immediately after your wife gets her UK Passport. Let me add however that EU law does not apply in the UK to British citizens. Why I say this is because if your wife alerts the Home Office that she has been a British citizen since her birth the Home Office may rule that you have never been entitled to live in the UK under EU law and might revoke your permanent residency on that basis. A recent case similar not in all ways has recently been handled by the ECJ.
TJ. - 28-Nov-17 @ 9:43 PM
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