Getting UK Citizenship: Eligibility and How to Apply

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. 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.

Our team at Remitly has created this article to explain the requirements for obtaining British citizenship, the documents you’ll need, and the precise steps involved.

How to apply for UK citizenship

The process for becoming a UK citizen can vary based on your current immigration status and other factors. However, the general steps for applying are typically the same for most people.

1. Fill out an application

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 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.

2. Provide documentation

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

  • Your birth certificate
  • 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

3. Pay the fees

Finally, you’ll need to pay any applicable fees. You can pay your application fee online via credit 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 £1,630.

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

4. Enroll your biometric information

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.

Otherwise, you should receive a decision within six months.

5. Attend a citizenship ceremony

If your application for naturalisation is approved, you can participate in the British citizenship ceremony. This special event 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 pledge 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 by a local council or government representative.

UK citizenship: 3 women happily doing the high five

Who can become a UK citizen?

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 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?

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, 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, the eligibility criteria are slightly different if you’re applying for citizenship because you’re married to a British citizen or in a civil partnership with one. 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 does dual citizenship work as a citizen of the United Kingdom?

Dual citizenship, or 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 and a citizen of another country simultaneously. 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 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 can hold both citizenships legally.

What are the advantages of UK citizenship?

Some of the main benefits of becoming a citizen of the United Kingdom include all of the following.

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 controls, laws, 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. UK citizens also can engage in political participation by running for public office.

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 generation

Future family members can benefit from UK citizenship by passing it down to their children.

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 make living and working in the United Kingdom easier and more convenient.

Couple holding the UK flag while hugging each other

British citizenship FAQs

If you have more questions about British citizenship and immigration laws, read on for answers.

What is a British Overseas Territories citizen?

A British Overseas Territories citizen is a person who was born after January 1, 1983, in one of the British Overseas Territories and has at least one parent who was either born in the territory or was a legal resident there.

The British Overseas Territories include a number of British colonies. You can find the full list of them here.

Anyone who is born a citizen of an overseas territory after May 21, 2002, is automatically a British citizen. All citizens of the territories also gained British citizenship on May 21, 2002.

What is a British overseas citizen?

A British overseas citizen is someone who has British citizenship because they live in former British colonies. You can learn more about this special UK citizenship status here.

What is a British subject?

Until 1948, most people who lived in the British Empire were considered British subjects.

After 1948, people who had close connections to the UK but were not British citizens continued to use the term British subjects to describe themselves. To learn more about what it means to be a British subject, visit this page.

What is a British national?

British nationals are people who can claim British nationality.

Under the British Nationality Act, sometimes called the British Nationality Law, the following people are considered to hold British nationality. They include:

  • British citizens
  • Citizens of overseas territories
  • British overseas citizens
  • British subjects
  • Overseas British nationals
  • British protected persons

What is a Commonwealth citizen?

Commonwealth citizens are citizens or qualified nationals of Commonwealth countries, which you can find on this list. The majority of British nationals who aren’t British citizens are considered Commonwealth citizens.

What is a foreign national?

With respect to the UK, foreign nationals are people whose citizenship and nationality are from a foreign country. Basically, anyone who isn’t a British national is a foreign national.

What is a UK national?

A UK national is someone who is a British national. People may use the terms British nationals and UK nationals interchangeably.

What does the term British citizenship by naturalisation mean?

The term British citizenship by naturalisation refers to the process of becoming a British citizen in a way other than by birth or through descent.

In most cases, people must hold permanent residence immigration status for 6 years before applying for British citizenship by naturalisation.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme?

The EU Settlement Scheme was a program that conferred a type of permanent residency called settled status to people who immigrated to the UK from an EU nation or a country that is a member of the European Economic Area.

In some cases, a family member of someone who relocated to the UK from one of these countries could also obtain settled status through the program.

The deadline for applying for the program has passed, but the UK government will still consider applications when there are reasonable grounds for a person not to apply. You can learn more about the program here.

Can you hold British citizenship and citizenship in another country?

The UK does allow for dual citizenship for people who meet a set of criteria, such as employment status. Keep in mind that your foreign nationals’ home countries must also allow for dual citizenship so that they can retain their original citizenship.

Where can I find the British citizenship application?

To obtain a UK citizenship application, visit this website.

Who can get a British passport?

British passports are available for British citizens as well as most British nationals who meet eligibility requirements. You can learn more about applying for a British passport here.

What does the right to abode mean?

The right to abode means that a person can live and work in the UK without immigration restrictions. Anyone granted citizenship has the right to abode, as do citizens of some Commonwealth countries. Find out more about the term by visiting this page.

What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legal relationship status conferred to same-sex and opposite-sex couples in the UK. Foreign nationals who enter into a civil partnership with individuals who hold British citizenship can typically apply to become British citizens, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements.

Can you get a waiver for the citizenship test if you have a disability?

Yes, people who have a physical or mental condition that might prevent them from passing the British citizenship test may be able to get a waiver for the requirement. It is a good idea to contact an immigration attorney for assistance in filing a waiver.

Will I lose my UK residence visa if my UK citizenship application is denied?

No, if your British citizenship application is denied, you typically won’t lose your immigration status.

For example, if you have permanent residency, your permanent residence permit will remain valid, and you can continue to enjoy the rights that the permit entitles you to, such as the ability to claim benefits or work in the UK.

What is a referee for a British citizenship application?

A referee for a British citizenship application is a person who can verify your identity. In some cases, you may need to name two referees on your UK citizenship application, and one of them must typically hold professional standing, such as a civil servant.

Where can I get help with my British citizenship application?

The UK immigration office can’t provide legal advice but can answer general questions about applying for British citizenship. You can visit this website for assistance.

If you have a legal question, such as whether your family members are eligible applicants for British citizenship, contact an experienced immigration attorney.