How to Become a British Citizen
There are several pathways to British citizenship: you can become a British citizen through naturalisation, descent, birth, or registration.
UK accepts dual nationality, so you can retain your nationality of origin as well as secure the benefits of British citizenship. For example, US citizens can become British citizens whilst retaining their US nationality. Whilst the UK recognises dual citizenship, your country of origin may not allow you to acquire dual nationality so you may need to choose whether to acquire British citizenship or retain your nationality of origin and continue to live in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain or settled status.
The benefits of British citizenship include the ability to live and work in the UK free of immigration controls and, of course, you also qualify for a British passport and have the right to vote in the UK elections.
How to become a British citizen through naturalisation
British naturalisation is the legal process of becoming a British citizen if you are not British by birth. Your rights as a naturalised British citizen are not affected by whether you applied for British citizenship as a US citizen or an EU national or from a non-EEA country. A naturalised British citizen has the same legal rights as a British citizen by birth.
You can apply to become a British citizen if you meet the residence requirement and other eligibility criteria.
The residence requirement is normally 5 years of lawful and continuous residence in the UK. The residence requirement is 3 years if you are making a naturalisation application and you are married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen (apply for British citizenship by marriage)
In addition to meeting the residence requirement, a 5-year route British citizenship applicant needs to have either held ILR status for 12 months or be an EU national or family member who has held settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme for at least 12 months.
If you are applying for British citizenship as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen you can apply to become a British citizen as soon as you obtain ILR or settled status as the 12-month rule does not apply.
The additional British citizenship eligibility criteria are:
- You are aged 18 years or over.
- You meet the lawful and continuous UK residence requirement. A 5-year applicant cannot have been away from the UK for more than 450 days in the 5 years before applying for British citizenship and cannot have been outside the UK for more than 90 days in the 12 months before making their naturalisation application. A 3-year applicant cannot have been outside the UK for more than 270 days in the 3 years before applying for British citizenship and must also meet the 90-day rule in the 12 months before making their naturalisation application.
- You meet the English language requirement – this may involve sitting an English language test or showing you are exempt from doing so. For example, because you are from a majority English language speaking country on a Home Office approved list of countries.
- You pass the life in the UK test – unless you meet the criteria for exemption of being either under 18, over 65, or suffering from a long-term disability that prevents you from sitting the life in the UK test.
- You are of good character.
- You have not breached the immigration rules.
- You intend to continue living in the UK once you become a British citizen.
The path to becoming a British citizen can be complicated if your absences from the UK mean that you will struggle to meet the lawful and continuous residence requirement for either the 5-year or 3-year routes or meet the good character test.
If you have any questions, speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at email@example.com.
Become a British citizen through descent
British citizenship by descent is based on ancestry. Some people are automatic British citizens by descent without needing to make a naturalisation application. Others will need to complete a naturalisation application, depending on where and when they were born, and their parent’s or grandparent’s circumstances.
You can claim British citizenship through descent if you were born outside the UK and one of your parents is a British citizen through birth, naturalisation, registration, or adoption.
You may be able to claim British citizenship through double decent if you were born outside the UK and, depending on their specific circumstances, your grandparent is or was a British citizen.
For more information, please contact our immigration lawyers or visit our page: British citizenship by descent
Become a British citizen through birth
You or your child may be entitled to British citizenship through birth either automatically or through registration.
The rules on automatic British citizenship by birth depend on when a child was born and the circumstances of the child’s parent/s. The British citizenship by birth rules can be summarised as:
- Born before the 1 January 1983 - anyone born in the UK is a British citizen.
- Born before 1 January 1983 as a Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of a British Overseas Territory with a parent born in the UK – the child may qualify as a British national.
- Born after 1 January 1983 – anyone born in the UK and at the time of birth, at least one parent was a British citizen or had settled status, is a British citizen.
A child born in the UK to non-British parents may be able to register for British citizenship if they did not gain this status automatically at birth. For more information, you can check our page: British Citizenship for Child Born in The UK to Non-British Parents
An adopted child will obtain British citizenship automatically if the adoption order is made by a UK court and at least one adopter is a British citizen or has settled status and lives in the UK. The citizenship status of children adopted overseas or born through surrogacy can become complicated so it is best to take British citizenship legal advice before you start the adoption or overseas surrogacy journey.
If you or your child has automatic British citizenship you do not need to do anything although you may wish to apply for a British passport.
If a child is not an automatic British citizen the procedure is to apply to register for British Citizenship by registration. The registration form required depends on whether you are registering your child who is under 18 or if you are a person who was born in the UK and lived in the UK until at least 10 years of age.
How can Reiss Edwards help?
Reiss Edwards specialises in all aspects of British citizenship application. Our immigration solicitors can:
- Confirm your eligibility for British citizenship
- Advise how to overcome any problems with your citizenship eligibility
- Handle your citizenship application on your behalf
- Check your citizenship application prior to submission
- Advise on the best strategy if your citizenship application is refused
For assistance in applying for UK citizenship as a person with EU Settled Status, please speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.