With British citizenship, you attain the right to live in the UK free from immigration restrictions. You gain the right to vote and can apply for a British passport.
But the eligibility criteria are strict and the Home Office application process is stringent on applicants. If you make a mistake and fail to submit a relevant document, your application will be automatically refused and you will lose the fee (currently £1,330 per application).
Making a British citizenship application: common pitfalls
To be able to apply to naturalise as a British citizen, you will need to satisfy the Home Office requirements:
1. You must have held UK permanent residence for a minimum of 12 months before you can apply for citizenship. Permanent residence is automatically attained after 5 years of exercising your Treaty Rights in the UK, but you must have documentary evidence of this for your citizenship application. This means making an application for a UK permanent residence card once you have been in the UK for 5 continuous years. Issues may arise relating to your qualifying activity and proving you have been exercising your Treaty rights throughout the qualifying period. To qualify, you must show you have been in employment, self-employed, studying, job seeking or financially self-sufficient.
Once the card has been issued, you have to wait a further 12 months to start your citizenship application.
The 12-month requirement is waived if you are married to a British citizen or UK settled person. You are not allowed to have been absent from the UK for a total of 270 days if married to a British citizen during the qualifying period.
Applying before the required time period will result in a refused application, and loss of your fee.
2. You must be of ‘good character’. This means you cannot have a serious or recent criminal record or have broken any immigration laws or conditions while in the UK. If you are concerned about a criminal conviction, however minor or how long ago, and wherever in the world the conviction is from, take advice to ensure you meet the disclosure requirements on you.
3. Applicants must be 18 years old or over. Applications for children work to different rules, depending for example on where the child was born and the nationality of the parents. Take advice on your circumstances to ensure you follow the required process.
4. Dual nationality. An important consideration for citizenship applicants is to check whether dual citizenship with the UK is allowed under the laws of your current country of citizenship. Some countries permit dual nationality with the UK, others may allow it where certain conditions are met. For those countries that do not permit dual citizenship, you may be giving up your original citizenship by naturalising as a British citizenship. You would need to understand the full implications of this, in terms of immigration and other rights and responsibilities such as taxation.
5. Your application will need to evidence eligibility under the residential requirement. This means proving you have been physically present in the UK five years before the date of your naturalisation application, or three years if married to a British citizen or UK settled person.
Beware excessive absences can cause issues here. You are not allowed to have been absent from the UK for a total of 450 days during that five year period (or 270 days if married to a British citizen). In the 12 months immediately before the date of application, the total number of absences from the UK should not exceed 90 days.
6. Passing the British citizenship test. For the English language requirement, you will need a language qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, or its equivalent. For the ‘Life in the UK’ test, the key is to do your homework. The Life in the UK test is multiple choice. Use the latest test book and practice, practice, practice!
If your citizenship application is refused, you can apply again but you will be charged the full fee again, so it’s important to make your first attempt successful. If you are denied citizenship and want to re-apply, the first step will be to understand why your application was denied first time and to address this in your new application.