Brief history of the UK nationality law as we know it today
British Nationality Act 1981 came into force on 1 January 1983 and introduced British citizenship into UK nationality law. Before this act came into force, children born in the UK used to acquire UK citizenship jus soli (a rule of law that one’s citizenship is determined by his or her place of birth). This means that everybody born in the UK before 1 January 1983 is a British citizen despite their parents’ immigration status or nationality.
From 1 January 1983 a child born in the UK only acquires British citizenship if one of their parents is a British citizen or settled in the UK (i.e. has indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence/ settled status). The new act intended to confer British citizenship upon people with the connection to the UK rather than anybody who is born in the territory of the UK.
Dual nationality and British citizenship
UK allows you to have as many nationalities as you wish in addition to having UK nationality.
However, before making an application for British citizenship, you have to make enquiries if you have to give up nationality of your country of origin if you have one once you become a UK citizen. Some countries that do not allow dual citizenship require you to inform the authorities of such country as soon as you acquire additional nationality and failing to do so may result in you being fined or even getting criminal conviction.
If you are allowed dual nationality, you may still continue to be subject to the duties of citizens of that country when you are in its territory.
Similarly, if you are a British citizen and you are about to acquire another nationality of a country that does not allow dual citizenship, you may need to renounce your UK citizenship before you can acquire nationality of this other country.
What is the procedure of applying to become a British citizen?
Becoming a UK citizen means that you can stay in the UK permanently without any immigration restrictions.
There are 5 main steps to take to apply to become a British citizen:
- Submitting application online or on paper for naturalisation or registration as a British citizen.
- Attending an appointment at the Home Office’s commercial partner to enrol biometrics details and submit application supporting documents.
- Receiving the Home Office’s decision letter and Citizenship ceremony invitation letter.
- Attending Citizenship ceremony and obtaining Certificate of naturalisation or registration.
- Applying for a UK passport for ID purposes, travelling and to prove your nationality.
What are the main reasons for refusal of UK citizenship applications?
Most of the refusals of the UK Citizenship applications occur when people fail to understand what the requirements are and whether they meet them before making an application.
A lot of people wrongly assume that they are entitled to apply for British citizenship. UK Citizenship is however considered to be a privilege rather than a right.
British Nationality Act 1981 is a lengthy and complex act of law and it might be really difficult to navigate without specialist knowledge. A lot of times refusals may have been easily avoided only if a person consulted an immigration specialist to get an advice on requirements and how to meet them. It can be something very simple like an expired English language test certificate which would result in a refusal meaning that all the application fees are lost and the process needs to be started all over again.
How can you acquire British citizenship?
UK Nationality can be acquired by:
|Birth||Being born in the UK to a parent who at the time of child’s birth is either a British citizen or settled in the UK (has indefinite leave to remain/ permanent residence/ settled status/ right of abode). Such person would be a British citizen otherwise than by descent and would be able to pass citizenship onto his or her children born outside of the UK.|
|Adoption||Being adopted in the UK by a British citizen parent.|
|Descent||Being born outside of the UK to a parent who at the time of child’s birth is a British citizen otherwise than by descent. Such person would be a British citizen by descent and would be unable to pass citizenship onto his or her children born outside of the UK.|
|Registration||Person can in certain scenarios be registered as a British citizen and become British citizen by descent or otherwise than by descent after undergoing registration procedure.|
|Naturalisation||Person can apply to naturalise as a British citizen in certain circumstances and become a British citizen otherwise than by descent, therefore able to pass citizenship onto his or her children born outside of the UK.|
Do you meet good character requirement for UK citizenship?
There have been changes in criteria for granting UK Citizenship under the good character requirement. In addition of other undesirable behaviours including criminal convictions, quite a few new were introduced. The Secretary of State considers you to be not of good character if you entered the UK illegally, assisted illegal migration or evaded immigration control.
Decisions made by the Secretary of State to refuse applications for British citizenship are not appealable decisions. However, an individual can apply for reconsideration.
We therefore advise to seek specialist immigration help before you apply in order to avoid disappointment and loss of your money in the Home Office fees, especially when your application is not straight forward.
What is naturalisation as a British citizen?
Application for naturalisation as a UK citizen involves paying a fee to the Home Office which is not refundable if a person is not eligible to become one. It is therefore highly recommended to seek professional advice on eligibility requirements before making the naturalisation application.
A person can apply for naturalisation if:
- He or she is aged 18 or over;
- He or she is of sound mind;
- He or she intends to continue living in the UK;
- He or she can communicate in English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic to an acceptable level;
- He or she has passed Life in the UK test;
- He/ she is of good character;
- He/ she meets residential requirements: has been resident in the UK for 5 years, has been present in the UK 5 years before the date of the application, has not spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the 5 years time, has not spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months of 5 years period and has not been in breach of immigration laws at any point during 5 year period.
In order to make a successful naturalisation application, a person must be free from immigration time restrictions during the last 12 months of his or her residential qualifying period.
There are certain situations where a person who does not meet all the eligibility requirements can ask the Secretary of State to exercise her discretion considering application for naturalisation as a British citizen.
Different requirements apply for spouses or civil partners of British citizens and EEA nationals who wish to apply for naturalisation.
When can you apply for naturalisation if you are married to a British citizen?
If a person is married to a British citizen, he or she can apply to naturalise as a UK citizen as soon as he or she becomes settled in the UK, i.e. acquires indefinite leave to remain/ permanent residence/ settled status/ right of abode. There is no need to wait for 12 months to apply after becoming settled in such circumstances.
Residence requirement in these cases is 3 years rather than 5.
All other requirements including English language and Life in the UK, good character etc. are the same for spouses of British citizens as for anybody else applying for naturalisation.
Who can be registered as a British citizen?
Children and adults can apply for registration as British citizens in certain circumstances.
A child has two avenues to be registered as a British citizen:
- He or she has a right under the UK nationality law to apply and be registered as a British citizen.
- He or she may be registered as a British citizen only at the Secretary of State’s discretion.
A child can apply to be registered as a British citizen if he or she is under age of 18, of good character and:
- Was born in the UK to parents who are now settled in the UK or are UK citizens.
- Was born in the UK to parents who have joined the armed forces.
- Parents are applying for UK citizenship.
- Was born abroad to parents who are British by descent and have lived in the UK or British overseas territory.
- Was born abroad to parents who are British by descent but are now living in the UK or British overseas territory.
- Was adopted abroad by UK citizen parents.
- Parents had renounced and subsequently resumed UK citizenship.
- Any other case not listed above where it is in the child’s best interests to be registered as a British citizen.
- Was born abroad to parents serving in the armed forces.
- Was born in the UK and lived in the UK for the first 10 years of their lives.
- Was born in the UK and is stateless.
- Was born outside of the UK to British mothers before 1983. An applicant in such circumstances can be an adult at the time of making the application.
An adult can be registered as a UK citizen if he or she is:
- British overseas territories citizen; or
- British overseas citizen; or
- British protected person; or
- British subject; or
- British national (overseas).
An applicant only needs to meet one of these requirements:
- Residence in the UK; or
- Time spent in crown or similar service; or
- A person meets the alternative provisions for British overseas territories citizens.
An adult of any nationality can also apply to be registered as a British citizen if he or she was born outside of the UK to British mothers before 1983 as at the time women were not able to pass citizenship onto their children.
We can provide you with a professional advice about your entitlement to be registered as a UK citizen and we can assist you with your application.
Is it possible you have acquired British citizenship jus soli?
If you were born in the UK before 1 January 1983, you are a British citizen by birth despite nationality or immigration status of your parents even if you never lived in the UK or left soon after you were born.
All you need to do in such circumstances is apply for a British passport.
Depending on your country of nationality as well as your individual circumstances, an application for a British passport might not be a straight forward case and may require a specialist immigration knowledge.
What is Life in the UK test and when do you need to take it?
Life in the UK is a computer based test taken by a person before applying for settlement in the UK or British citizenship. It is a multiple choice test covering UK history, British values, traditions and everyday life.
You need to take and pass the test before making your application for British citizenship, unless you are:
- Under the age of 18;
- Over the age of 65;
- Unable to take the test due to your medical condition;
- Have already taken the test and submitted it as part of your settlement application.
If you pass the test, you will be given a reference number which you have to submit as part of your application made online or on paper. You will no longer be issued with a paper pass notification letter.
Can EU nationals apply for British citizenship?
EU nationals can apply for British citizenship by way of naturalisation or registration and they need to meet exactly the same requirements of the British Nationality Act 1981 as any other third country nationals.
In addition to all other requirements as explained above, in order for the EU nationals to be able to demonstrate that they are free from immigration restrictions, they need to either have UK settled status or EU permanent residence.
If an EU national is not married to a British citizen, they need to show that they have had their settled status or permanent residence for at least twelve months before the date of citizenship application.
Residence requirement for EU nationals applying to become British citizens is thoroughly addressed by the Home Office in their recently updated nationality policy.