Referees in British Citizenship Applications

by | Oct 8, 2020 | British Citizenship, UK Immigration

Updated on 10 November 2023

Applying for British Citizenship by Naturalisation or Registration requires two referees to confirm the applicant’s identity. Knowing what the referees need to do before applying is vital to avoid delays in processing. In this post, we discuss the rules and requirements related to referees in British Citizenship applications.

Who can be a referee on a British Citizenship application?

The referee must have known the adult applicant for at least 3 years.

One referee may be of any nationality but must have a professional standing, in other words, the referee must be working in the occupations listed below.

The second referee must be a British citizen, and either a professional person or at least 25 years of age.

As per the Home Office guidance, the list of acceptable professions is as follows:

  • Accountant  
  • Airline pilot  
  • Articled clerk of a limited company 
  • Assurance agent of a recognized company 
  • Bank or building society official  
  • Barrister  
  • British Computer Society (BCS) – professional grades which are Associate (AMBCS), Member (MBCS), Fellow (FBCS) (PN 25/2003)  
  • Broker  
  • Chairman or director of a limited company  
  • Chemist  
  • Chiropodist  
  • Christian Science practitioner  
  • Commissioner for oaths  
  • Councillor: local or county 
  • Civil servant (permanent)  
  • Dentist  
  • Designated premises supervisors  
  • Director or Manager of a VAT-registered charity  
  • Director, manager or personnel officer of a VAT-registered company  
  • Driving instructor (approved)  
  • Engineer (with professional qualifications)  
  • Fire service official  
  • Funeral director 
  • Insurance agent (full-time) of a recognised company  
  • Journalist 
  • Justice of the Peace 
  • Legal secretary (members and fellows of the Institute of legal secretaries) 
  • Local government officer 
  • Manager or Personnel officer (of a limited company) 
  • Member of Parliament 
  • Member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces 
  • Merchant Navy officer 
  • Minister of a recognised religion 
  • Nurse (RN, SEN or holder of a BA in nursing) 
  • Officer of the armed services (active or retired) 
  • Optician 
  • Paralegal (certified or qualified paralegals and associate members of the Institute of Paralegals)  
  • A person with honours (such as OBE, MBE and so on) 
  • Personal licensee holders 
  • Photographer (professional) 
  • Police officer  
  • Post Office official  
  • President or secretary of a recognised organisation  
  • Salvation Army officer 
  • Social worker  
  • Solicitor 
  • Surveyor 
  • Teacher, lecturer  
  • Trade union officer  
  • Travel agency (qualified)  
  • Valuers and auctioneers (fellow and associate members of the incorporated society) 
  • Warrant officers and chief petty officers.

Referees that do not meet the requirements 

The referee must not: 

  • be related to the applicant or the other referee 
  • be the applicant’s representative 
  • be employed by the Home Office 
  • have been convicted of an imprisonable offence in the last ten years for which the sentence is not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • If it is clear from the information provided that a referee does not meet the requirements, the Home Office caseworker must ask the applicant to provide a different referee.

What must referees do? 

Referees must provide information about themselves and sign a declaration supporting the application.

What information does a referee need to provide for a British Citizenship application?

The information a referee must provide is as follows: 

  • Full name 
  • Address(es) for the last three years 
  • Date of birth 
  • Profession 
  • Phone number 
  • Email address 
  • British passport number (if British) 
  • How do they know you? 

The referee should give these details to the applicant, who then uses the information to complete the relevant section of the online form. 

What does the referee declaration form look like?

The referee should write the name of the applicant in bold letters on the first page and then their full name, signature and date on the second page of the referee declaration form. The referee declaration form (shown below) can be downloaded at the end of the online application

British Citizenship referee form Whytecroft Ford UK Immigration Services
British Citizenship referee form Whytecroft Ford UK Immigration Services

When should the referee sign the declaration? 

As can be seen above, the referee must declare, amongst other things: 

  • That the photograph … is a true likeness of the applicant 
  • That, to the best of my knowledge, the details of the applicant given in [the] application are correct. 
  • That my details as a referee given in [the] application are correct 

As per the declaration, the referee must check the application before signing. Therefore, the whole process should go as follows:

  • Firstly identify a referee and ensure they are happy to participate 
  • Applicant completes online application but does not submit 
  • Download the PDF of the incomplete application 
  • Download and print out referee declaration form 
  • Affix a passport picture of the applicant on the referee form
  • Send the form (with your photo attached) in hard copy to the referee, along with a copy of the incomplete application
  • Considering both the application form and the picture on the declaration, the referee signs and dates the declaration. 

Where should referees send the declaration? 

As the form will be uploaded via the online application portal, the original is not needed by the applicant. Therefore once the declaration has been completed, it can be sent either in hard copy or via scanned email back to the applicant.

Referees for children applying for British Citizenship

For applicants under 18 who are applying for British Citizenship by Registration, at least one of the referees must be a person who has dealt with the child in a professional role, such as a teacher, doctor, health visitor or social worker.

Where you cannot provide a referee who has dealt with the child professionally, you will need to prove that you have attempted to find a professional referee. Further, two referees who meet the criteria for referees on adult applications may be accepted.

What if the applicant is not residing in the UK?

Where the applicant is living outside of the UK and does not know a British citizen passport holder who is a professional or over the age of 25, a commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the country in which they are residing may complete and sign the referee declaration form providing they meet the other requirements.

Can a retired person be a referee for a British Citizenship application?

Only one of the two referees needs to be a professional. The second referee can be any British citizen over 25 years of age so a retiree would be suitable. The first referee needs to be a person of professional standing, so someone who is retired would not count as they’re no longer held to the standards of that profession’s authorising body. Based on the list above, only a retired officer of the armed services may be an acceptable professional referee.

How can we help

British Nationality law can get complex; for advice or assistance from an experienced immigration adviser, call our professional team on 0208 757 5751 or use our contact form.

Frequently asked questions

Can my manager be a referee for my British Citizenship application?

Yes, if they are a manager of a limited company.

Does a referee need to provide their passport photo?

No, the referee is not required to provide their photo.

Is a referee supposed to put my full name and date of birth on the back of my photograph?

A referee must write the applicant’s name and date of birth on the back of the photo because, in postal applications, the applicant can be easily identified if the photo gets detached from the form.

How do I find a referee for my naturalisation application?

Both referees must have known the applicant for at least three years. Therefore, we recommend searching through your personal and professional network. An ideal example of two referees would be a long-term friend and an accountant.

What happens if my referee does not meet the requirements?

The Home Office may ask the applicant to provide a different referee.

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