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About: Getting British Citizenship

For many, becoming a British citizen is the culmination of a long road of immigration applications and recognises the strong ties and home they have built in the UK. For others, such as those registering to become British, it is a recognition of the inherent Britishness they hold, whether it be by birth or through their parentage.

We at Winckworth Sherwood understand the significance of obtaining British citizenship has. Offering clear, concise and honest advice from the outset, we aim to provide a clear answer on an area of law that can in some cases be very complex. Drawing on the team’s years of experience and success making various citizenship applications, we offer a free 30-minute consultation in order to confirm the requirements and whether you satisfy the rules. We will then advise of your options, the costs and anticipated timescales.  Any potential issues will be highlighted from the outset so that you know what the prospects of success are before commencing the process

Whether you are exploring options, looking to imminently make an application or seeking a second opinion, contact us now for your free 30-minute consultation.

The requirements for getting UK citizenship:

 

Naturalising as a British citizen – for those who hold Indefinite Leave to Remain and wish to become British

Naturalising is the process of an adult (Applicant aged 18 or over) becoming a British citizen when they hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’). There are two grounds upon which an Applicant can become British in these circumstances  – on the basis of a five-year qualifying route (s.6 (1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (‘BNA 1981’)) and on the basis of a three year qualifying period (s.6 (2) BNA 1981).

Five-year qualifying period – s.6(1) BNA 1981

This route is the most commonly used as it relies solely upon the Applicant’s circumstances.

The requirements for this are as follows:

  • Be aged 18 or over. For those under 18 years of age, they must register.;
  • Satisfy the good character requirement;
  • Not have been outside the UK for more than 450 days in the last five years ending on the date of application;
  • Not have been outside the UK for more than 90 days in the last year ending on the date of application;
  • Satisfy the Knowledge of Language and Life (‘KoLL’) requirement;
  • Hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’) and have held ILR for at least one year ending on the date of application.

Three-year qualifying period – s.6 (2) BNA 1981

This route is in reality for most one which is five years. This is because Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’) is a mandatory requirement and the majority of immigration categories have a five-year route to settlement (ILR). The key distinguishing factor of this route is the requirement to be married or in a civil partnership with a British citizenship.

The requirements for this are as follows:

  • Be aged 18 or over. For those under 18 years of age, they must register.;
  • Satisfy the good character requirement;
  • Not have been outside the UK for more than 270 days in the last three years ending on the date of application;
  • Not have been outside the UK for more than 90 days in the last year ending on the date of application;
  • Satisfy the Knowledge of Language and Life (‘KoLL’) requirement;
  • Hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’). There is no minimum period this must be held;
  • Be married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen. There is no minimum period the Applicant must be married or in a civil partnership with the British citizen for.

The good character requirement

Good character is a requirement that must be satisfied in order to naturalise as British.  Good character is defined broadly by the Home Office. They state in their associated guidance that:

“… The BNA 1981 does not define good character. However, this guidance sets out the types of conduct which must be taken into account when assessing whether a person has satisfied the requirement to be of good character.

Consideration must be given to all aspects of a person’s character, including both negative factors, for example criminality, immigration law breaches and deception, and positive factors, for example contributions a person has made to society. The list of factors is not exhaustive…”

Some of the considerations the Home Office have are:

  • Criminality;
  • Non-custodial sentences and out of court disposals;
  • Other criminal and suspected criminal activity such as pending prosecutions or failure to disclose convictions or criminal proceedings;
  • International crimes, terrorism and other non-conducive to the public good activities e.g. hate preaching;
  • Financial soundness;
  • Notoriety;
  • Deception and dishonesty;
  • Immigration related issues.

Being subject to one of the above does not automatically bar an Applicant from applying to become British. For example, if they have received a criminal caution, this should not negatively effect their application if it happened more than three years after the date they apply to become British.

If the Applicant is concerned they may have an issue with the good character requirement, please contact us for a free 30-minute consultation.

Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK

As part of the naturalisation process, Applicants aged between 18 and 65 will need to prove their knowledge of the English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic languages as well as passing a Life in the UK test. In many cases, an Applicant will have already satisfied the requirement when they obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’).

With regard to the language requirement, if the Applicant is not from what the Home Office define as a majority English speaking country, they will need to satisfy the English language requirement. The minimum requirement is level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (‘CEFR’). The test must be at a Home Office approved test centre and be a Home Office approved test. Read more and find the approved tests and test centres in the UK and overseas here.

If the Applicant has a degree taught in English which is the equivalent of at least a Bachelor’s degree, they can use this to satisfy the English language requirement. If the degree was taught in the UK, then the Applicant will automatically satisfy the requirement. If the degree was taught in English outside the UK, then a certificate will need to be obtained from Ecctis (formerly known as UK NARIC) to confirm the degree was taught in English and that it is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree or above in the UK. If it was taught in a majority English speaking country, then the Applicant will only require the confirmation that the degree is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree or above in the UK.

The Life in the UK test is a requirement for all applicants and a pass certificate must be provided as part of the application process. It is highly recommended that applicants read the most recent version of the Official Handbook for Life in the UK test. Read more including how to book a test here.

Children and British citizenship

There are a number of ways that children under the age of 18 can become British. Before turning to these, it is important to recognise when a child is automatically British. The most common circumstances are as follows:

  • On the basis of being born in the UK and one of the parents holding either Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’) or British citizenship. The child will be British otherwise than by descent – Section 1 (1) BNA 1981;
  • On the basis of being born outside the UK and one of the parents holding British citizenship otherwise than be descent. The child will be considered to be British by descent – section 2 (1) BNA 1981.

If a child (and in some cases an adult) does not come under one of the automatic rights to being British, then they may have a right to register as British.

British otherwise than by descent

Generally, this is an individual who was either born in the UK or completed a qualifying period of time in the UK and has registered or naturalised as a British citizen.

This does not cover all eventualities. If you have any questions about this, please contact us.

British by descent – Section 14 BNA 1981

An individual is British by descent if they are born outside the UK after 1 January 1983 to a parent or parents who are British otherwise than be descent. The key difference between this and an individual who is British otherwise than be descent is that an individual who is British by descent cannot normally pass their British citizenship to children born outside the UK, unless they were born to a parents in Crown designated or EU service.

This does not cover all eventualities. If you have any questions about this, please contact us.

Registration as a British citizen – generally for children under 18 but in some cases for adults

Registration as a British citizen differs from naturalisation as there is a registration is a right to become British. There are a number of avenues where this is possible. The most commonly seen ones are:

  • On the basis of being born in the UK and one of the parents subsequently obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’) or British citizenship – Section 1 (3) BNA 1981;
  • On the basis of being born in the UK and having reached the age of 10 and that Applicant has not been outside the UK for more than 90 days for each of the ten years they have lived in the UK. Unlike many of other options, this application can be made by an Applicant who has subsequently become an adult – Section 1 (4) BNA 1981;
  • On the basis of being born in the UK or overseas and the Secretary of State for the Home Department exercises discretion and registers the child as British. This is the common ground for registration for a child born outside the UK whose parent or parents have obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’) and apply to become British and include their child or children with their application – Section 3 (1) BNA 1981.
  • On the basis of being born outside the UK to a father and/or mother who are British citizens by descent and have lived with their father and mother in the UK for at least three years ending on the date of application. The number of days of absence should not exceed 270 days in the three qualifying years.

Other routes to British citizenship

British citizenship can be a complex area of law for a myriad of reasons. Laws have changed over the years effecting those such as the children of British fathers who were not married to their mother not being able to automatically obtain citizenship prior to 2006 to British Commonwealth citizens who came to the UK and whose countries subsequently gained independence.

If an Applicant has some links to British citizenship through birth or family, please do get in touch.

Key Contact



Younes
Ech-Chadli

Senior Associate, London

Tel: +44 (0)20 3735 1970 | Mob: +44 (0)7815 634 083

Key Contact