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UK Citizenship: Eligibility and the Application Process

Getting UK citizenship is a process through which eligible individuals can become citizens of the United Kingdom. Becoming a British citizen can provide a range of benefits and privileges, but the application process to get British citizenship can be time-consuming and confusing, especially if you’re submitting a citizenship application for the first time.

The guidelines and requirements for getting UK citizenship are fairly straightforward though. In this article, we will outline the eligibility requirements for becoming a citizen of the United Kingdom, the various ways to obtain British citizenship, the supporting documents you need, and the exact steps involved in the application process.

Who can become a UK citizen?

In general, if you’re born in the UK, you’ll automatically have UK citizenship (although there are some exceptions). However, if you weren’t born in the UK and you want to become a UK citizen, you’ll need to go through the naturalization process (referred to as “naturalisation” in the UK) or the registration process. There are a variety of circumstances that may make you eligible to apply for British citizenship.

Some of the circumstances that may make you eligible for citizenship include:

  • You are married to or a civil partner of a British citizen.
  • You have indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or settled status.
  • You have a British parent who was born in the UK.
  • One of your parents has citizenship in a British overseas territory.

What are the eligibility requirements for UK naturalization?

UK citizenship: 3 women happily doing the high five

When submitting your citizenship application, you’ll need to meet the eligibility criteria of the British Nationality Act 1981.

For most UK naturalization pathways, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age.
  • You must meet the good character requirement, which means that you have no criminal convictions and are not a threat to the security of the UK.
  • You must have lived in the UK for at least the past five years.
  • You must have spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those five years.
  • You must have spent less than 90 days outside the UK in the last year.
  • You must have a good knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic and pass the Life in the UK test, which is a citizenship test that includes questions on the history and culture of the United Kingdom.
  • You must be of sound mind.
  • You need to be free of immigration time restrictions and in compliance with immigration laws.
  • You must intend to live in the UK.

However, if you’re applying for citizenship because you’re married to a British citizen or are the civil partner of one, the eligibility criteria are slightly different. In this case, you will need to have lived in the UK for at least three years and not spent more than 270 days outside the UK in the past three years.

In addition to the above requirements, you may also need to meet certain eligibility conditions based on your specific circumstances. So be sure to read the requirements for your chosen naturalization pathway.

How to apply for UK citizenship

If you meet the eligibility criteria to become a British citizen, you’ll need to fill out an application for naturalisation. You can submit your application form online or via mail (called “the post” in the UK).

If you live in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or a British Overseas Territory, you’re required to apply in person or to send your application and supporting documentation in the mail. Otherwise, it’s best to use the online application because it’s faster and then you won’t need to send your documents anywhere. You can simply scan and upload them.

You can apply for UK citizenship on your own, but there’s help available if you need it:

  • Agents and representatives: If you want help submitting your application or immigration advice, you can get the help of agents and representatives registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
  • Assisted Digital support: If you don’t have access to the internet, don’t feel comfortable using a computer or need help filling out your online application, you can get support over the phone or in person. You can’t receive immigration advice through this option.

In addition to your application form, you may be required to provide support documentation, including:

  • Your Life in the UK Test certificate
  • Proof of your knowledge of the English language
  • The details of two referees who can endorse your application and prove your identity

Finally, you’ll need to pay any applicable fees. When applying online, you can pay your application fee via credit card or debit card. When applying by mail, you pay your application fee via check, credit card, or debit card.

How much you owe will depend on the type of application you submit. For the form AN (or naturalisation application form), the cost is £1,330.

Keep in mind, there may be other expenses related to your application. For example, the Life in the UK Test costs £50.

What happens after you apply for UK citizenship?

Couple holding the UK flag while hugging each other

After you apply to become a citizen of the United Kingdom, you need to enroll your biometric information. This involves providing your fingerprints and having your picture taken. The Home Office will contact you to let you know where and how to complete this step. It usually needs to be done within 45 days of submitting your application.

At this point, all that’s left to do is wait. The Home Office will contact you if they have any questions about your application. But otherwise, you should receive a decision within six months.

If your application for naturalisation is approved, you can participate in the citizenship ceremony. This is a special event that marks the completion of your application process and honors you as a British citizen.

During the citizenship ceremony, you will either recite the oath of allegiance or the affirmation of allegiance to the current King or Queen and make a pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom.

Your friends and family members can attend this ceremony, but on most occasions, you can only bring two guests. The event also includes a presentation of a certificate of British citizenship presented by a representative of the local council or government.

How does dual citizenship work as a citizen of the United Kingdom?

Dual citizenship, also known as dual nationality, is when an individual holds citizenship in two different countries.

If you have dual citizenship in the UK, you can be a citizen of the United Kingdom as well as a citizen of another country at the same time. You do not have to choose one over the other, and you are not required to renounce your citizenship in the other country to be a citizen of the UK.

However, other countries have different laws and regulations regarding dual citizenship. Some countries do not allow their citizens to hold citizenship in any other country, while others have specific eligibility requirements or restrictions.

It is important to check the laws of both countries before obtaining dual citizenship to ensure that you are able to hold both citizenships legally.

What are the advantages of UK citizenship?

Girl writing on a whiteboard

Some of the main benefits of becoming a citizen of the United Kingdom include:

  • The right to live and work in the UK indefinitely: British citizens have the right to live, work, and study in the UK indefinitely. This means you do not have to worry about immigration laws or obtaining a UK visa or other permissions to stay in the country.
  • The right to vote: British citizens have the right to vote in all UK elections and referendums, including parliamentary and local elections.
  • The right to travel: British citizens can travel freely to and from the United Kingdom and do not need a UK visa to enter the country. British citizens also have the right to live and work in other countries within the European Union (EU) without a visa.
  • Access to public services: British citizens are entitled to access a range of public services, including healthcare, education, and social security.
  • The ability to pass citizenship down to future generations: UK citizenship can be passed down to children, so the benefits of UK citizenship can be enjoyed by future family members.
  • Sense of belonging and identification: Obtaining UK citizenship can give individuals a sense of belonging and identification with the country and its culture, especially if they have lived in the United Kingdom for a long time.

Overall, becoming a British citizen can provide a range of benefits and privileges that can make living and working in the United Kingdom easier and more convenient.

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