The Ultimate Guide On How To Become A British Citizen

  • by
The Ultimate Guide On How To Become A British Citizen

A complete guide to the application process to become a British citizen, including the tests, prices, and forms required during the process 

A huge Passport stamped as approved

If you are living in the UK then becoming a British Citizen will open up a bunch of new opportunities for you. From voting, to work rights, and even access to the NHS – there are many benefits to becoming a British Citizen. 

You can get British Citizenship through birth or via an application. The application process involves completing a number of tasks (such as passing the Like in the UK test) and providing the Home Office with some information about yourself. You will need to prove how long you have been living in the UK and that you have no criminal record. 

Once you have your citizenship you will be able to travel outside of the UK again, without fear of any immigration complications. You will have a right to vote in the country, and your worker’s rights will have changed too. 

We are not going to say that applying for citizenship in any country will be a simple process. However, by preparing properly you can reduce a lot of stress involved in the process. In this guide, we will be talking you through everything you need to know about the application process for becoming a British Citizen.  



Requirements to Apply For British Citizenship

Requirements to Apply For British Citizenship

Before we take a look at the application process for becoming a British Citizen, we need to make sure you have the right to apply. To be able to apply for citizenship in the UK you must meet the following requirements: 

  • You must be over 18 
  • You must have no criminal record 
  • You must be currently living in the UK 
  • You must be competent in both written and spoken English 
  • You must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years 
  • You must not have spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last year 
  • You must have a permanent UK residence OR you must have been granted Indefinite leave to stay in the UK 

In the sections below we will go into more detail on each of these requirements. You will not be able to apply for UK citizenship until you have met all the requirements listed above. 

You Have To Be Over 18 Years Old

Everyone applying for British citizenship must be over the age of 18. 

There is no upper age limit for citizenship applications. 

There is a different process for under 18s – more information on this can be found here. Parents must make the application on behalf of their children. 

Have No History Of Criminal Activities (Good Character) 

This requirement is officially referred to as showing that you are of good character

What this means is that you have never been accused of committing a severe crime and that you have no recent criminal record. This is not just limited to the time you spent in the UK. Any criminal charges you received in other countries will be taken into account. 

The good character section also allows you to be reviewed for the contributions you have made to the UK. Examples of this are your job, charity work, and being engaged with the local community. 

Are Currently Living In The UK

You cannot apply for British citizenship while you are living in another country. You will notice that applying while living in another country will mean that you will not meet multiple requirements on this list. 

If you do live in the UK, you will be required to prove that you have a permanent residence here. More on this later. 

Be Able to Understand Spoken English And be Able to Read English

You will need to prove that you have a good grasp of the English language. To do this you will need to get a qualification to prove your proficiency. 

The one exception is that you come from a majoritively English speaking country – like the USA or Australia. 

Here are the Home Office approved qualifications: 

  • You have a degree that was taught in English (this can be from anywhere in the world) 
  • Using the CEFR (the Common European Framework of Reference from languages) exam system, you must acquire a B1 award (intermediate level). Many schools in the UK offer this as a qualification 
  • Using the ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) exam system, you must gain levels 1-3 for listening and speaking in English. The school you get your qualification at must be accredited and teach from the citizen-based curriculum.   

If you need to get an updated qualification then you will have no problem finding a course. Most cities have both ESOL and CEFR courses. 

You will need to get any of the above qualifications before starting your application for citizenship.  

Have Lived For At Least 5 years In the UK

This is the most complex set of requirements. So we will spend a little longer focusing on it. 

The requirements for British citizenship states that you must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, without breaking any of the following rules: 

Without an absence longer than 450 days

If you have lived in the UK for more than 5 years but left the country for more than 450 days in one go – then you will not be able to apply for citizenship until you have done so. 

450 days is well over a year. This is to make sure that you have actually lived in the UK, rather than visited briefly. 

Most applicants will not need to worry about this requirement. Although this is a cumulative amount of time. It averages out as not spending more than 90 days away per year. 

Travelled Outside of The UK For No More Than 90 Days In The Last Year

If you have been outside the UK for more than 90 (cumulative) days over the last year (365 days) then you will not be able to apply for UK citizenship.

The one exception is that you are required to travel as part of your job that is based in the UK.  

You will find applying for your application easier if you start planning for it at least a year in advance. So that you do not fall foul of this rule. 

Have a UK Permanent Residence (for EEA nationals) 

If you are from one of The European Economic Area (EEA) states, then you will need to have a permanent residence in the UK to apply for citizenship. 

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are the main countries these rules concern. However, UK residents from Switzerland have the same rights as EEA nationals

OR 

 Have Been Granted Indefinite Leave to Stay In The UK 

You must have had this for at least 1 year

Also known as the right to settle, this is a visa that gives you the right to live and work in the UK. 

There is no longer a separate application for EU residents, so they will have to apply for a general visa. 

Married to a British citizen? there are different requirements 

If you are married to a British citizen then the rules are slightly different for you. Your requirements are as follows: 

  • are 18 or over
  • are married to, or in a civil partnership with, someone who is a British citizen
  • have lived in the UK for at least 3 years before the date of your application

Once you have one of the following you can apply for citizenship: 

  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK
  • ‘settled status’ (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme’)
  • indefinite leave to enter the UK (permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad)
  • a permanent residence document to prove you have permanent residence status

More information can be found here

It May Be Harder To Apply As An EEA Citizen Depending On The Circumstances:

A man Holding his Passport

BREXIT has made the UK citizenship process for EEA, Swiss, and EU citizens a lot more complicated. Most notably, in September 2020 the rulers were changed requiring these citizens to have been living self-sufficiently (or as students) in the UK for 10 years. Rather than the 5 years, it had previously been.  The 10 years must be completed for them to begin to apply for citizenship. 

On top of this, there was also a rule change that means that during these 10 years the resident must have had comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) or European health insurance card (EHIC) issued by an EU country while not working. If this was not the case then they cannot apply for citizenship. This means students and unemployed (even if just temporarily) EEA, EU, and Swiss nationals must have either of the two types of health insurance. 

Not having CSI or a European Health Insurance card while being a student or self-sufficient is considered by the Home Office to be an immigration violation. This can lead to the application being refused citizenship because they do not fit the ‘good character’ qualifications. 

The Home Office is notoriously harsh when it comes to what they see as immigration violations. These rules have only got harsher after the 2020 rule change. If you are concerned about your own situation, you should get in contact with Citizens Advice.   

How To Prepare Your Application for British Citizenship

How To Prepare Your Application for British Citizenship

If you are confident that you meet all the requirements for citizenship that we listed above. Then you are ready to prepare your application for citizenship. 

There are two main ways that you can prepare your application – you can do it yourself or you can apply for citizenship through an agent. 

This page has links to all the important forms you will need throughout this process. 

Submit an individual application

Submitting an individual application simply means that you are submitting your application on your own behalf. Rather than applying through an immigration agency. 

You will be required to collect all of the data and fill in all the forms by yourself. Submitting an individual application means that you will be doing more work than you would if you were working with an agency. 

However, submitting an individual application means that you will be able to save money on agency fees. There are also many charities that will be willing to give you advice and help when putting together your individual application. 

If you are making an individual application then you will need to complete the AN application form. This can be found here. This application form can be handed in at an immigration office or be submitted by post. The government also offers a guide to this form (which can be found here) and there are many other online resources to help you through the process. 

Apply through an agent or representative

You are looking for help when applying for UK citizenship then you may want to consider hiring an agent or representative to handle your application for you. 

These are private companies (usually law firms) that will help you through the process. The government has a list of approved representatives that are registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). 

This is the list of some of the other non-OISC firms that you may use to represent you during your application process: 

  • General Council of the Bar
  • Law Society of England and Wales
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
  • Faculty of Advocates
  • Law Society of Scotland
  • General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland
  • Law Society of Northern Ireland 

Applying with the help of a representative can remove a lot of the stress from the process. It means that you will have someone on your team that understands the process and who is there to support you. 

You will still be required to gather most of the information yourself, however, your representative will help you to present it in the best way possible. 

Hiring a representative can cost you a lot of money, but the average citizenship application costs over £1300. Making one application with a representative may be cheaper than making multiple failed applications. 

Depending on your situation, you may find that there are legal charities that are willing to take on your case pro bono

Documents You Will Need to Register For British Citizenship?

Documents You Will Need to Register For British Citizenship?

The quickest way to apply for British citizenship is to present the Home Office with an extensive portfolio of documents with your first application. In this portfolio, you should include all the evidence they require to prove that you are eligible to apply for citizenship in the UK. 

In this portfolio you will need to include the following documents: 

  • Depending on your immigration status, proof that you have exercised treaty within the last 3 or 5 years. Evidence of this should include a letter from your employer or place of education. As well as your bank statements. 
  • Documentation showing that you have never breached immigration laws and that you meet the good character requirements set by the Home Office 
  • Documentation showing that you have the right to remain in the UK and that you do not have a time limit on your via (this can be your right to settle documentation) 
  • Details of any of the travel that you did outside the UK in the last 5 years. As you will need to prove both: 
    • You have not spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last year 
    • And you have not spent more than 450 days outside of the UK in the last 5 years (this averages out as 90 days a year) 
  • Evidence that you have been a lawful resident for the 5 years that you have lived in the UK. Proving that you have not breached any immigration laws. This can include evidence of your past vias. 
  • Proof that you have an approved English language qualification from the ESOL or CERF. 
  • Proof that you have passed the Like in the UK immigration test. You only need to pass this test once, and do not need to resit it when upgrading your right to settle status. 
  • A copy of any of the following – Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), identity card, IRL visa, or EUSS status. If you have evidence of more than one, include all that you have. 
  • Your passport or birth certificate as evidence of your identity. As well as your current visa, travel documents, or other status documentation. 

Citizenship Tests

Citizenship Tests

Part of your citizenship application will involve passing the following two tests: 

  • Life in the UK test 
  • Either an ESOL or CERF language test 

Here is some more information on these tests.  

You Have To Pass Life In The UK Test

Life in the UK test government paid handbooks

The Like in the UK is a 45 minute test. During this test, you must answer 24 questions about life in the UK and the history of the country. 

To pass the test you must score 75%. If you fail the test then you must wait another 7 days before sitting the test again. Once you have passed the test you will not be required to sit it again. 

When attending the test you will be required to bring a valid ID. 

The following topics are covered in the test: 

  • “The Values and principles of the UK”
  •  “What is the UK?”
  •  “A long and illustrious history”
  •  “A modern, thriving society”
  •  “The UK government, the law and your role”.

There are courses that will help you to prepare for the test, or you can use the government’s most recent handbook for guidance. 

You Must Pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) In At Least CEFR Level B1 in Speaking and Listening

There are two types of tests that you can take to prove that you have to require English Language skills to be a British citizen. 

You can either take a test with CERF (the Common European Framework of Reference from languages). If you wish to take this test then you must pass the LEVEL B1 award. This is the third highest award in English (A1 being the highest). It covers intermediate level. 

The test has three parts 

  • English communication (B1)
    • Describing experiences and events
    • Expressing hopes and ambitions
    • Describing feelings
    • Giving reasons
    • Giving opinions
    • Expressing preferences
    • Stating obligations
    • Expressing certainty
    • Describing events in the past
    • Describing events in the future
  • English vocabulary (B1)
    • Feelings and emotions
    • Travel and transport
    • Entertainment
    • Leisure activities
    • Sport, health and fitness
    • Education
    • News and media
    • Technology
    • Time expressions for the past
    • Time expressions for the future
  • English grammar (B1)
    • Adverbs for time, degree, manner
    • Past habits and states (used to)
    • Present perfect simple
    • Modals: should have, might have etc
    • Present continuous (future)
    • Future simple: will
    • Future: going to
    • Present perfect continuous
    • Past continuous
    • Past perfect simple
    • Conditionals (first and second)
    • Future continuous
    • Passives

You can also take the ESOL tests Levels 1-3. More information on this can be found here

UK VCAS portal 

UK VCAS portal

Before we look at the final part of the application process, below are the key addresses and URLs that you will need during your application process. 

Important addresses: 

https://www.ukvcas.co.uk/home-internal for online applications 

Postal application address for mainland UK residence: 

UKVI

Department 1

The Capital

New Hall Place

Liverpool

L3 9PP

Postal application address for overseas UK residence: 

Department 1

UK Visas and Immigration

PO BOX 306

Liverpool

L2 0QN

Fees

When you post or upload your application, you will be required to pay an application fee. This fee is £1300 for mainland citizenship and £1000 for those looking to live in overseas territories. 

On top of this, there is a £25 processing fee, and a £19.20 fee for biometric checks*. And a ceremonial fee of £80 if your application is accepted. 

*You will be asked to book an appointment to have your biometric checks done officially. 

Uploading or posting your application 

Once you have gathered all the information for your application you will need to upload your documents and forms or post them to the addresses above. 

Once you have done this, you will need to wait to see if your application has been approved. If you are applying through a representative then they may have a different process of doing this that they will guide you through. 

After Application 

The wait time for application approval can be up to six months. So do not worry if you do not hear back from the Home Office immediately. Having applied for many vias already, you are probably well aware of how slow the process can be. 

Once you have been granted British Citizenship you will be invited to a ceremony. You will be asked to make an oath of allegiance to the UK. After this, you will be an official citizen of the UK. 

Complete Biometrics

Complete Biometrics

You will have part of the required documentation for your application includes a complete set of Biometrics. Acquiring these biometrics will cost you £19.50. 

You will need to fill out a BID (biometric information document) for each kind of application made. But you will need to get a new set made for each new visa if there is a gap of 5 years between your applications.  

This document requires you to include a photograph of yourself and a set of your fingerprints. These are used to verify your identity. 

Your fingerprints will also be checked against all police databases as part of your ‘good character’ check. This will make sure that you have no criminal record, or that you are not wanted for questioning by any of the police forces. 

Benefits Of Being A British Citizen

Benefits Of Being A British Citizen

Finally, let’s take a look at the reasons why you would want to become a British citizen. The application process is long, complex, and sometimes very frustrating. You may find it encouraging to keep your reasons for wanting to become a citizen in mind while you apply. 

You Will Have The Right to Live Permanently In The UK

One of the major benefits of becoming a British citizen is that you won’t have to go through any more visa applications. 

Once you have citizenship, you will permanently have the right to live in the UK and enjoy all the benefits its citizens enjoy. 

You will not have to worry about applying for a new work permit and visa every few years. You will also be able to travel as much as you want without worrying about losing your right to live in the UK.  

You Will Have Access To free Medical Care

Since it was founded in 1948, the British NHS (national health service) has been a world leader in the field of social healthcare. 

All citizens of the UK have the right to free medical care from the NHS. And in Scotland and Wales, they are also given their prescription medication for free. 

UK citizens do not require health insurance and do not have to pay out of pocket for any medical treatment they get. In other places across the world, a trip to the hospital can cost you £1000s.  

The UK even offers free mental health treatments. And some of the devolved nations are trialling more extensive social healthcare including free new baby packs from all mothers, despite their means.  

You Won’t Have Any Work Restrictions

As a citizen of the UK, you will have the right to work and pay taxes. You will also be able to get a job that requires you to travel a lot. As you will no longer have to worry about losing your living status if you travel too frequently. 

You Will Live In A Stable Economic Society

The UK is one of the world’s strongest economies. The country has a high minimum wage and a robust social benefits system. 

The UK is able to offer an abundance of long term and stable employment opportunities. It has trade agreements across the world that deliver a steady supply of well priced amenities. 

The UK offers great opportunities to raise a family, with a nationalised school system and some of the most prestigious (and oldest) universities in the world. 

You Will Have The Right To Vote

As a citizen of the UK, you will have the right to vote in all elections held in your area. This includes voting for local council members, police commissioners, mayors, and MPs. If you live in a devolved nation you will also be able to vote for your local AMs. 

Voting will give you the right to choose how your new home is run. You will have a say over welfare budgets, immigration policies, and other economic policies. Local elections give you the opportunity to have your say about local resources such as schools, parks, and leisure centres. 

And You Will Also Be Able To Stand For Office

Finally, as a UK citizen, you have the right to run for office at any level of the political system. This will give you a chance to share your voice and fight for the things you think are important in your county, country, and the world as a whole. 

Summary

Passport

There are a huge number of benefits of being a British citizen. These include the right to work in the country, the right to vote, and access to the NHS and its free healthcare. 

The process of applying for citizenship in the UK can take up to a year from the start of the application to the citizenship ceremony. However, it requires at least 5 years of residence to begin the process. 10 years if you are an EEA citizen. 

This evidence includes proving that you have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, without spending excessive time outside the country. That you have no recent criminal record and that you have not breached any immigration laws while living in the country. 

You will also be required to take an English language test and the Life in the UK test, set by the government. On top of this, you will be required to supply the government with your biometrics (your fingerprints and a picture of your face). 

Once you have finished the process you will be made a full British citizen. You will have the full right to work in the country, the right to vote, and you can even run for office if you wanted to.