British Citizenship 2024: Application Requirements & Process

by | Jun 4, 2024 | British Citizenship, Naturalisation, UK Immigration

Becoming a British citizen is a significant milestone for many individuals. Whether you’re drawn by the rich history, the diverse culture, or the robust economy, obtaining British citizenship opens the door to numerous opportunities. In this post, we will discuss the process of the British Citizenship Application in 2024, highlighting the requirements, steps involved, and important considerations. 

Understanding British Citizenship

British citizenship is governed by the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981). This legislation sets out the various ways in which a person can become a British citizen. The most common routes include naturalisation, registration, and descent. This post post focuses primarily on naturalisation, the most common path for those who are not British by birth, but have lived in the UK for a significant period of time.

Eligibility Criteria

To apply for British citizenship by naturalisation under BNA 1981, you must meet specific eligibility criteria:

  • Age: You must be 18 years or older.
  • Residency: You must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years (3 years if married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen).
  • Settlement Status: You must have held indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme for at least 12 months (unless you are married to a British Citizen).
  • Absences: During the residency period, you must not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK (270 days if married to a British citizen).
  • Good Character: You must be of good character, which generally means no serious or recent criminal record.
  • Knowledge of English: You must have a good knowledge of the English language. This can be proven through an English language test or by having a degree taught in English.
  • Life in the UK Test: You must pass the Life in the UK Test, which assesses your knowledge of British traditions and customs.

Residence Requirements for Naturalisation

One of the aspects of the British citizenship application process is meeting the residence requirements. The Home Office closely examines your travel history to ensure you have a sufficient connection to the UK. The general residence requirements differ depending on which category you fall under:

  • Five-Year Route: If you are applying for British citizenship through the standard five-year route, you must not have been absent from the UK for more than 450 days during the five-year qualifying period. Additionally, you should not have been absent for more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately preceding your application.
  • Three-Year Route: If you are applying as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, the requirements are slightly different. You must not have been absent from the UK for more than 270 days during the three-year qualifying period. Furthermore, you should not have been absent for more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately preceding your application.

You must have been physically present in the UK exactly five or three years prior to the date of applying.

Proving Absences

To accurately determine your absences from the UK, count only the days you were away. Maintaining thorough records of your travel history is essential for reporting and proving your absences. You will need to provide:

  • Travel Documents: Copies of your passports, including all stamped pages, to verify entry and exit dates.
  • Travel Itineraries: Flight tickets, boarding passes, and other travel documents that can corroborate your travel history.
  • Supporting Letters: If applicable, letters from employers or medical professionals explaining the reasons for your absences.

Managing Absences

  • Plan Ahead: If you know you will be applying for citizenship, plan your travel accordingly to ensure you stay within the permitted absence limits.
  • Keep Records: Maintain detailed records of all trips outside the UK, including dates and reasons for travel.
  • Seek Advice: If you are unsure about how your travel history might affect your application, seek professional advice from an immigration adviser.

Application Process

Step 1: Prepare Your Documents

Gather all necessary documents before starting your application. This includes:

  • Proof of identity: A valid passport or travel document.
  • Proof of residency: Documents such as bank statements, utility bills, council tax bills, and letters from government departments such as HMRC, DWP, and NHS.
  • Proof of ILR or settled status: Your biometric residence permit or confirmation from the Home Office.
  • English language test certificate or pass reference number: Unless an exemption applies.
  • Life in the UK Test pass notification letter or reference number unless an exemption applies to you.
  • Two referees: You need two referees who have known you for at least three years. One must be a British citizen and the other a professional person.

Step 2: Complete the Application Form

The British citizenship application is completed online. The form, known as Form AN, can be accessed through the UK government website. Be thorough and accurate in filling out the form, as any discrepancies or errors can lead to delays or refusal.

Step 3: Pay the Application Fee

The application fee for British citizenship in 2024 is £1,630, which includes the citizenship ceremony fee. There are no additional costs for biometric enrolment. 

Step 4: Submit Your Biometrics

You will need to provide biometric information (fingerprints and a photo). This is done at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) point. You will be prompted to book an appointment after submitting your application.

Step 5: Attend Your Citizenship Ceremony

If your application is successful, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony. This is a formal event where you will make an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the UK and receive your certificate of British citizenship. You must attend the ceremony within three months of your application approval.

Important Considerations

Dual Citizenship

The UK allows dual citizenship, meaning you can retain your original nationality while becoming a British citizen. However, you should check the laws of your home country as some countries do not permit dual citizenship.

Children’s Citizenship

If you have children, their citizenship status will depend on various factors, including their place of birth and the parents’ citizenship status. It may be possible to register your children as British citizens under certain conditions.

Applications may be submitted jointly, however, each application will be decided on its own merits. 

Timeframes

The processing time for a British citizenship application can vary. On average, it takes about 6 months, but it can be longer during busy periods. Therefore, it’s advisable to apply well in advance if you have specific timelines or travel plans.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Insufficient evidence or incorrect documents: Applicants often fail to provide adequate documentation to establish their eligibility.
  • Unable to satisfy the residence requirements: Applications will be refused in case applicant’s do not meet the 5-year (or 3-year) residence requirement or have excess absences.
  • Non-disclosure of information: relevant information relating to the applicant’s good character must be disclosed, failure to do so may result in a refusal.
  • Ineligible referees: applicants must ensure their referees meet specified criteria to endorse their application.

How We Can Help

Applying for British citizenship can be complex, but our experienced London-based immigration advisory firm can assist you throughout the process. We begin with a consultation to assess your eligibility and offer tailored advice. Our team helps with document preparation, application review, and biometric appointment booking, and provides support until your citizenship ceremony.

For assistance, contact us at 0208 757 5751 or use our contact form to schedule a consultation.

Frequently asked questions

Is there any way to speed up the application process?

The processing time for a British citizenship application typically takes about 6 months. However, this can vary depending on the volume of applications and specific circumstances of each case. Unfortunately, there is no option to shorten the process time.

Can I apply for British citizenship if I have a criminal record?

Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from applying for British citizenship, but it may affect the decision. The Home Office will consider the nature, severity, and recency of the offenses to determine if you meet the ‘good character’ requirement.

Do I need to take an English language test if I have a degree taught in English?

If you have a degree that was taught in English and is recognized by UK NARIC, you may not need to take an English language test. You will need to provide evidence of your degree and confirmation from UK NARIC that it meets the necessary criteria.

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