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Who is Qualified to Act as a British Citizenship Referee?

If you are planning to apply for British Citizenship or currently going through the process, one aspect that is often overlooked is the requirement to provide referees. As with many aspects of the UK immigration law and rules, who is qualified to act as a referee is extremely specific, hence it is important to ensure that the information you provide in your application meets these requirements. In this article, we will explain who is qualified to act as a British citizenship application referee and who is not.

What is a referee for a British citizenship application?

A referee is essentially a person that the citizenship applicant knows well. The main reason that the Home Office ask for referees is to confirm the identity of the applicant, and in some cases, as a point of contact if there are particular concerns that must be resolved.

The Home Office require two referees from British citizenship applicants.

Who qualifies as a referee for a British citizenship application?

A referee for a British citizenship application must have known the applicant for at least three years (they must be an adult – i.e., 18 or over) and be a British passport holder and either a professional person (see below for what is meant by a professional person according to the Home Office rules), or aged over 25. The rules also state that at least one referee must be a professional person.

What is an acceptable professional person?

The list of acceptable professionals is as follows:

  • accountant
  • airline pilot
  • articled clerk of a limited company
  • assurance agent of recognised company
  • bank or building society official
  • barrister
  • British Computer Society (BCS) - professional grades which are Associate (AMBCS), Member (MBCS), Fellow (FBCS) (PN 25/2003)
  • broker
  • chairman or director of limited company
  • chemist
  • chiropodist
  • christian science practitioner
  • commissioner for oaths
  • councillor: local or county
  • civil servant (permanent)
  • dentist
  • designated premises supervisors
  • director or manager of a VAT registered charity
  • director, manager or personnel officer of a VAT registered company
  • driving instructor (approved)
  • engineer (with professional qualifications)
  • fire service official
  • funeral director
  • insurance agent (full time) of a recognised company
  • journalist
  • justice of the Peace
  • legal secretary (members and fellows of the Institute of legal secretaries)
  • local government officer
  • manager or Personnel officer (of a limited company)
  • member of Parliament
  • member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces
  • Merchant Navy officer
  • minister of a recognised religion
  • nurse (RN, SEN or holder of a BA in nursing)
  • officer of the armed services (active or retired)
  • optician
  • paralegal (certified or qualified paralegals, and associate members of the
  • Institute of Paralegals)
  • person with honours (such as OBE, MBE and so on)
  • personal licensee holders
  • photographer (professional)
  • police officer
  • Post Office official
  • president or secretary of a recognised organisation
  • Salvation Army officer
  • social worker
  • solicitor
  • surveyor
  • teacher, lecturer
  • trade union officer
  • travel agency (qualified)
  • valuers and auctioneers (fellow and associate members of the incorporated
  • society)
  • warrant officers and chief petty officers

What about referees for children?

The rules as to who is a suitable referee differ between adults and children. For child citizenship applicants, at least one referee must be a person who has dealt with the child in their professional capacity – such as a teacher, doctor, or social worker. If this is not possible, Home Office citizenship caseworkers are advised, “Where a child cannot provide a referee who has dealt with them in a professional capacity and has provided documents to show that they have attempted to do so, you can accept two referees who meet the criteria for referees on adult applications”.

What if I am living outside the UK and don’t have a suitable referee?

In some cases, citizenship applicants may legitimately be living outside of the UK when they apply for citizenship, and they may not know of a suitable referee in the UK. In this situation, the Home Office will accept a referee if they are a commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the country in which the applicant is living. The rules state that the person can complete and sign the referee form if they meet all of the other requirements, and their local British consul has formally checked their signature and confirmed it is acceptable. If you are still unsure what to do in this situation, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to advise you.

Who cannot be a referee for a UK citizenship application?

The Home Office will automatically reject any referees who are:

  • related to you or the child
  • related to the other referee (i.e., they must have no family connection)
  • your solicitor or agent representing you with this application
  • employed by the Home Office

In addition, in line with the Good Character rules followed by the Home Office, they will not accept a referee who “has been convicted of an imprisonable offence during the last ten years”. The only exception to this is where the conviction can be disregarded – typically, this is based on the length of any sentence given – see the Good Character rules for more details on this.

Will the Home Office check my referees?

The Home Office case officer may check your referees, so it is always better to assume that this will happen. On this, the rules state, “Checks may be carried out to ensure that the referees do not have unspent convictions and are qualified to act for you and that their signatures are genuine. It is a criminal offence to provide false information knowingly or recklessly punishable with up to 3 months imprisonment or by a fine not exceeding £5,000 or both under section 46(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981”.

Final words

It may only be a small part of the UK citizenship application process, but selecting and providing the details of your referees should be done with care. If you are unsure if the referees you have chosen are suitable, speak to an immigration Lawyer who will be able to confirm this for you.

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