Refused British Citizenship Application – What Can You Do?

by | Dec 17, 2022 | British Citizenship, Naturalisation, UK Immigration

As there is no statutory right of appeal for a refusal of citizenship applications, whether naturalisation or registration, you may request the Home Office UKVI to reconsider its refusal decision if you think it was due to an official error. This post discusses what you can do if your British citizenship application has been refused.

The requirements to become a British citizen are set out in UK law under the British Nationality Act 1981. To apply successfully, you must establish that the legal requirements are met by providing the relevant evidence. The nature of the evidence will differ from case to case, resulting in varying times to decide on each application.

Considering the time and cost of applying for British Citizenship, receiving a refusal can be frustrating. British Citizenship law is complex, and you may wish to seek legal advice to prepare your application. 

What can I do if my British citizenship application is refused?

You can request the Home Office UKVI to reconsider their refusal decision through a formal request using Form NR. As discussed below, you must use this form if you believe your application has been refused due to an official error.

The fee for a reconsideration request is £372. If the decision is reversed and the application approved, this will be refunded. The citizenship fee may be deducted where appropriate, e.g. if it was refunded after the refusal and is payable again. 

When a citizenship application is reopened

You can request a reconsideration of your citizenship application if your application has been refused and you believe the decision was not soundly based on law, policy or procedure. These circumstances are limited, and the Home Office may reopen applications where they:

  • Have not used the correct requirements or criteria to decide the application
  • Refused your application for lack of response to enquiries when a response had been received but not linked with the application
  • Decided your application without allowing sufficient time for a response or completion of enquiries
  • Refused your application on character grounds due to a criminal conviction which was either later quashed on appeal or involved a case of mistaken identity (i.e. you were not the person convicted of the offence)
  • Have failed to take account of relevant documents or information in their possession.
  • Other relevant reasons as deemed appropriate by the Secretary of State.

Points to consider before applying for reconsideration

There is no discretion to disregard the requirements for registration, so an application will be refused if the applicant’s circumstances do not match the criteria. The onus to prove eligibility for British Citizenship is on the applicant. It’s not for the Home Office to prove that you do not meet the requirements. Similarly, when asking the Home Office to reconsider a decision, a strong argument, with clear evidence in support, will need to be submitted with your application.

The Home Office caseworkers will check to ensure the relevant requirements are met. Decisions are made on applications once sufficient enquiries have been completed. These enquiries are made in all cases to ensure that the statutory requirements have been met. 

For discretionary applications, such as naturalisation and registration of minors under s.3(1), the NR Form guidance states:

Following any enquiries applications are considered on the basis of the following questions:

  • Are the statutory requirements set out in the British Nationality Act 1981 met? If not 
  • Is there discretion not to apply the requirement or to vary the extent to which it is applied? If so
  • Are the additional criteria set out in the Home Secretary’s policy on the exercise of discretion met? If not 
  • Has the Home Secretary previously granted citizenship to someone outside of the policy in the same circumstances? If not
  • Are the circumstances sufficiently compelling and different from others that have been refused to justify consideration to grant and create a further precedent?

The following consideration will be applied in answer to those questions:

  • The statutory requirements are set out in the guides that accompany application forms. These are legal requirements. They cannot be ignored by caseworkers making decisions on behalf of the Home Secretary.
  • Discretion is limited to certain requirements. The rest must be satisfied in full. We call these unwaivable requirements. Again, this is fixed in law. If requirements have not been met and discretion cannot be exercised then the application must be refused and the decision cannot be reversed.
  • Where discretion exists, it must be applied in a consistent and rational manner. Due to the large number of applications being received, which are handled by a large team of caseworkers, the Home Secretary has agreed a policy on the exercise of their discretion that covers most eventualities. Just because discretion may be allowed does not mean that it has to be exercised and many applications are refused because they do not meet the additional criteria for the exercise of discretion.

How to request reconsideration for citizenship refusal 

When applying for reconsideration of a decision to refuse British citizenship, you will need to fill out Form NR and provide the following details:

  • Your full name and address
  • Your date of birth
  • Your Home Office reference
  • Your email and telephone number
  • The name and address of any solicitor or agent representing you.

The decision letter would specify the grounds for refusing your application. You’ll also need to set out why you disagree with the refusal decision. Form NR focuses explicitly on the following questions here:

  • Was your application refused because you’d not provided the requested information, but you believe this was provided by the due date?
  • Do you believe the refusal decision was reached prematurely before you could supply all relevant documentation?
  • Do you believe that the refusal decision was incorrect according to the law?

You will need to provide evidence of when any requested information was sent or what steps you had taken to contact the Home Office to ensure that you were allowed sufficient time. 

Along with the reconsideration form, you will need to sign a declaration form confirming that the information provided is correct. Making a false declaration to gain British citizenship is a criminal offence punishable by up to three months imprisonment, a £5000 fine, or both. 

Having completed the form and signed the declaration, you must post the form and the relevant fee and documentation to the Home Office UKVI. 

Form NR refused

If your application for reconsideration of your citizenship application is not successful, you may be able to request a Judicial Review. A Judicial Review means you are challenging the legal basis for refusing your citizenship application. In some cases, it will be appropriate to submit a new application. 

Fresh application for British citizenship

Suppose your challenge is unsuccessful, or you decide not to challenge the decision to refuse. In that case, you may wish to seek advice as to whether a new application for British citizenship is likely to be successful and whether you may need to wait before doing so or if an application is unlikely ever to be successful.  

In an earlier post, we discussed why naturalisation applications are refused and how to avoid them. 

British citizenship refused – How can we help?

Most refusals could be avoided if applicants had ensured that they addressed all the legal requirements in their application. For expert advice and assistance with your citizenship application, contact our specialist immigration advisors at 02087575751 or complete our contact form.  

Frequently asked questions

Can you appeal a citizenship refusal?

There is no formal appeal process for a citizenship refusal. If you believe the decision was not soundly based on law, policy or procedure, you can ask for that decision to be reconsidered by the UK Home Office.

What happens if your citizenship application is rejected?

In contrast to a refusal decision, a rejection is where no substantive consideration of a citizenship application has taken place, for example, because you are not eligible to apply for citizenship.

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