There was a 12% increase in applications for British citizenship last year. In our experience this trend is continuing in 2019. So why apply for British citizenship and how easy is it to obtain?
For some people their goal has always been to get a British passport. A precious commodity, it not only allows the holder to live in the UK, but also opens the door to visa free travel to numerous countries. Others who have been happy holding settled status or ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR) in the UK, are now suddenly nervous that the rug may be pulled from under their feet. ILR may be lost if you leave the UK for over two years, or commit a serious criminal offence. British nationality is much harder to revoke. In many cases nationality is a question of identity. You only have the right to vote in general elections or a referendum if you hold British or Irish nationality or are a qualifying Commonwealth citizen.
Since 1 January 1983, being born in the UK is not enough to make you British. You must show that one of your parents was settled in the UK at the time of your birth. Children born in the UK to migrants who later achieve settled status may apply for registration as British nationals at a cost of £1,012. Many parents are willing to accept settled status for themselves, but see getting a British passport for their child as a priority.
Adults who wish to naturalise as British citizens have to fulfil a range of requirements. Applicants must be of good character, demonstrate a certain level of English and pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test – an exam which one in three candidates fail. They must also meet a residence requirement.
This means you must have lived legally in the UK for at least five years and have held ILR for at least a year. In practice most applicants will have lived here for at least six years but slightly different rules (with a reduced period ) apply if you are married to a British national. Evidence of residency must be provided and you must demonstrate your intention to continue living in the UK. You must also provide a detailed list of absences from the UK – a challenging request for many which often involves checking diaries and email accounts for records of flights, ferries and Eurostar journeys. You cannot have spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the last five years, or more than 90 days in the last 12 months. Thankfully only days spent wholly outside the UK are counted, so the day you leave and the day you return from each trip are excluded. You must have been in the UK exactly five years before the day when you submit your application, so accurate information regarding absences is crucial.
Once the application is submitted and the £1,330 fee paid, you are required to enrol your biometrics. Following the UK Government’s decision to outsource this service to a private company, Sopra Steria, this usually means further cost. Even a successful application does not make you British. You must attend a citizenship ceremony and make an oath of allegiance and a pledge to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK, before being awarded your certificate of British citizenship. This will finally allow you to apply for a British passport.
This article is from the summer 2019 issue of Private Lives, our newsletter covering the key legal and tax issues that individuals face.