British Citizenship by Marriage
The UK, like many other countries, offers citizenship to foreign nationals with a British spouse or partner, enabling both to live together in the UK indefinitely. Citizenship offers much more than the indefinite right to reside in the UK; it also allows those granted the ability to apply for and acquire a British passport and gives them the right to vote. For many, the idea of securing citizenship in the UK provides a strong sense of belonging, security, and long-term commitment. Each year, tens of thousands of migrants gain citizenship in the UK through marriage. According to official UK statistics, the number in 2018 was 22,488; this rose to 25,736 in 2019 and rose by a further 3,248 in 2020, representing an overall increase of 14%. If you are one of the many hopeful migrants who wish to become a UK citizen through marriage or partnership, in this article, we will explain the eligibility rules and how to apply.
Am I Eligible For British Citizenship Through Marriage Or Partnership?
Under the current UK government policy, you can apply for British citizenship by ‘naturalisation’ if you:
- are 18 years 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 three years before the date of your application – time spent as a diplomat, member of a diplomat’s staff or household, or a member of visiting armed forces will not count towards this time. The time spent in the UK must also have been continuous; this means you have not:
- spent more than 270 days outside the UK during the three years before your application
- spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
The rules also state that you “may be exempt from the residency requirements if your partner works abroad either for the UK government or an organisation closely linked to government”.
To apply, you must hold one of the following types of permanent immigration status:
- 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
Assuming you meet the requirements for age, relationship, length of time in the UK before you apply, and your current immigration status, you also need to meet the English language, Life in the UK test, and character requirements; more on these below.
What Are The English Language Requirements For UK Citizenship As A Spouse?
The English language requirements are the same for anyone who is applying to settle in the UK. This does not apply to anyone outside the age range of 18 to 65, anyone who is exempt due to a physical or mental impairment, or is from one of the following countries; Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Ireland (for citizenship only), Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA.
If the exemptions do not apply to you, you will either need to pass (and provide proof that you have passed) an English qualification at CEFR B1, B2, C1 or C2 level, or that you have a degree taught or researched in English. If you have a degree taught or researched in English, if this was from a UK university, your degree certificate is sufficient. If this was gained outside the UK, you will need to need an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) from Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) confirming your degree is equivalent to a UK qualification.
We should add that it is possible to meet the language requirement for Gaelic and Welsh also, not just English.
What Is The Life In The UK Test?
The ‘Life in the UK’ test is an official government test that prospective citizens are required to complete. It must be prebooked online and currently costs £50. There are over 30 test centres dotted around the UK, so you can select one which is closest to where you live in the UK. The test itself includes 24 questions (multiple choice) relating to different aspects of life in the UK, including the monarchy, institutions, historical landmarks, sports, and culture. The current pass mark is 75%.
If you pass, you will receive a unique reference number that proves you were successful; this needs to be added to your citizenship application. If you fail, it is possible to retake the test after waiting a period of one week (you will need to rebook and pay again, however).
How Do I Apply For UK Citizenship As A Spouse Or Partner?
The application form is completed online, and you will need to book an appointment at a UKVCAS service point to have your biometric information scanned. You can also provide your documents to be scanned at the same time. The current application fee is £1,330, and you will need to pay £19.20 to have your biometrics taken. The processing time for citizenship through marriage is currently around six months, but if your case is particularly complex or insufficient information is provided, this may take longer.
After many years of living in the UK with your partner/spouse, you will likely be looking forward to securing British citizenship to cement your future and that of your immediate family. The process of securing citizenship is quite straightforward, however, given the importance attached to receiving a positive decision, it is important to provide all of the information requested in the application fully and accurately. If you are unsure if you meet the criteria for citizenship, or if you would like to have your application checked prior to submission, speak to an Immigration Solicitor who can review your case and give you the confidence that you have a robust case with the strongest possible chance of success.