If you have lived and worked in the UK for a number of years or are planning to remain in the UK on a long-term or permanent basis, you may wish to apply for British Citizenship. Some of the benefits of obtaining British citizenship are that you will be eligible to receive free healthcare from the NHS, you will be granted access to unemployment allowances, you’ll have the right to vote and you can apply for a British passport. In this article, we will shed some light on what makes someone eligible to apply for British citizenship and the requirements necessary for the application process.
There are a few different circumstances that may make you eligible to apply for British citizenship, these depend on your status within the country and how long you have lived within the UK.
You may be eligible to apply for citizenship if:
There are some requirements specific to each of circumstances listed above which will determine whether or not you’re eligible to apply, we will explain these in further detail later in this article.
No matter what your circumstances are, there are some overarching requirements that you must comply with, such as evidencing your English skills and completing certain tests. So, whether you have IRL or are married to a British citizen, you will need to adhere to these conditions.
The most basic requirements that require little explanation are:
Evidencing your English Language Skills
This should be a familiar requirement as it will have been necessary to obtain GMC Registration, and to get your Tier 2 Visa as well. In order to apply for British Citizenship, you will also be expected to prove your knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic skills, depending on where you’re hoping to settle.
To evidence your English language skills, you can either use UK NARIC, or you will need to pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT). If you passed IELTS in order to obtain GMC Registration, you will be able to use this as proof of your English language skills, even if has since expired. You will need to provide a certificate or evidence of your score.
Unfortunately, the OET is not currently accepted by the Home Office, so if you passed OET for GMC Registration and your Visa application, you will need to sit either IELTS or the Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE). It may be a relief to know that you will only need to achieve a score of 4 in IELTS in order to be eligible to apply for British Citizenship, unlike the score of 7.5 necessary for GMC Registration.
GESE, on the other hand, is slightly different to IELTS as you will be able to take tests at different grades. You will need to achieve a pass in a GESE grade 5 test in order to be eligible to apply for British Citizenship, if you pass a GESE test of a lower grade, this will not be accepted by the Home Office. You can learn more about GESE on the Trinity College website.
Life in the UK Test
Before you can apply for British Citizenship, you will also need to pass the Life in the UK Test. The purpose of this test is to ensure that anyone applying for citizenship has sufficient knowledge and understanding of British history, society and values to make them a good candidate to obtain citizenship.
The test itself is computer based, consisting of 24 questions and will take roughly 45 minutes to complete.
You can only book the test online, on the gov.uk website, and must book at least three days in advance. The fee is currently £50, which you will pay during the booking process. There are over 30 test centres in the UK, so it should be relatively easy to find one nearby. In order to go through with your booking, you’ll need an email address, credit or debit card and an accepted form of ID such as a passport, UK driving license (full or provisional), certificate of identity document, EU identity card, immigration status document endorsed with a UK residence permit that has a photograph or your biometric residence permit. It’s also important to ensure that the name you input when booking your test matches the name on the document you intend to use as identification.
On the day of the test, you must take the same form of identification you used to book your test. You will also need to provide proof of address, this can be a gas, electricity or water bill, a council tax bill, a letter from the Home Office, a UK photocard driving license (full or provisional), a bank or credit card statement. Whichever document you use as proof of address, it must not be the same document you used for proof of identity, it must be the original document rather than a copy, and it must include your name, address and postcode, and be dated within three months of the day of your test.
In order to pass and to be eligible to apply for British Citizenship, you will need to score 75%. If you pass, you’ll be sent a letter notifying you of this, and this is the document you must send to the Home Office in order to prove that you have passed this test and meet the criteria to apply. Once again, you must send the original document, not a copy.
The best way to prepare for the Life in the UK Test is to purchase the handbook, as this book covers any questions that may come up on the test. You can order the handbook here.
Good Character Assessment
The Gov.UK website states that to be eligible to apply for British Citizenship, candidates must be ‘of good character’. This essentially means that during your time living in the UK, you have abided by and been respectful of UK laws and fulfilled any relevant obligations and duties of being a UK resident such as paying income tax and making national insurance contributions.
As well as this, if you have breached any of the UK immigration laws in the past ten years, this will reflect badly on your character.
Proof that You have Lived in the UK for Several Years
One of the basic requirements to apply for citizenship is that you have lived in the UK for a number of years, usually five. The only exception to this rule is if you are applying for citizenship because you are married to a British citizen, you will only need to have lived in the UK for three years in this situation.
You will be expected to provide evidence that you have lived in the UK for five (or three) years and that you were actually in the country five (or three) years prior to your application. Documentation you can use as proof includes tax documents such as your P60 or a P45, a letter confirming your employment from the hospital you were working in at the time, council tax bills, mortgage statements, tenancy agreements, bank statements or pension statements from your employer at the time.
ILR and Settled Status have identical requirements, if you are a member of the EU, EAA or Switzerland, ILR may be referred to as ‘settled status’ or ‘indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme’. If you hold either of these, in addition to the general requirements listed, you must also have lived in the UK for five years, as mentioned previously, and have held ILR or settled status for 12 months prior to your application.
It is important to note that you won’t be eligible to apply for British Citizenship if you have:
As previously mentioned, if you are applying for citizenship because your spouse is a British citizen, you will be an exception to the five years of residency rule. In order to apply, you must be able to prove that you have lived in the UK for three years, prior to your application.
To apply for citizenship, you will also need to have one of the following:
You will not be eligible to apply for British Citizenship if you have:
Under this circumstance, you will need to prove your status by providing a permanent residence document. You can apply for this document on the Gov.UK website. As previously mentioned, you must have lived in the UK for at least five years prior to your application and must have held permanent residence status for at least twelve months.
You will not be eligible to apply for British Citizenship if you have:
The application fee is £1,330, you will also have to pay an additional £19.20 to have your biometric information, consisting of your photograph and fingerprints, taken. If you meet all of the requirements and have completed the relevant tests, you will need to fill in an application form on the Gov.UK website which can be found here.
The final step in the process of obtaining British Citizenship is attending a Citizenship Ceremony. If your application has been accepted and you have provided the Home Office with the necessary documentation, they will send you an invitation to attend a citizenship ceremony. Upon receiving your invitation, you must book to attend a ceremony within three months, and you can do this with your local council.
These events tend to be group ceremonies and cost £80, though it is possible to book a private ceremony, if you would prefer, but it will be more expensive, and the price varies depending on the local council’s rules. You will also be permitted to invite two guests, if you wish.
During the ceremony you will make an oath of allegiance to God (you may choose your religion), and a pledge that you will respect the laws, freedoms and rights of the UK. If you are not religious, you are also permitted to make an affirmation instead.
At the end of the ceremony, you will be presented with your certificate of British Citizenship and a welcome pack, so if you don’t attend the event, you won’t be granted British Citizenship.
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Gov.uk. (2019). British citizenship - GOV.UK. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/browse/citizenship/citizenship [Accessed 11 Dec. 2019].
Ukcitizenshipsupport.com. (2019). Explore the Benefits of Obtaining British Citizenship. [online] Available at: https://ukcitizenshipsupport.com/british-citizenship-info/british-citizenship-benefits/ [Accessed 11 Dec. 2019].
Citizensadvice.org.uk. (2019). Preparing to apply for pre-settled and settled status. [online] Available at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/staying-in-the-uk-after-brexit/preparing-to-apply-for-pre-settled-and-settled-status/ [Accessed 11 Dec. 2019].