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Becoming a British citizen

Mae’r cyngor hwn yn berthnasol i Cymru

British citizenship gives you the right to live and work in the UK permanently, without any immigration restrictions.

You need British citizenship before you can apply for a UK passport.

Check if you’re already a British citizen

Some people are British automatically, without applying. You should check if you’re already British if you:

  • have a British parent

  • were born in the UK or a British overseas territory

  • were born in a British colony before 1983

You can check if you're a British citizen on GOV.UK. 

You don’t need to apply for citizenship if you’re already British - you can apply for a UK passport immediately. Find out how to apply for a passport on GOV.UK.

Citizenship isn’t the only way to live and work in the UK permanently. You can find out if citizenship is right for you before you apply.

Check if you can apply for British citizenship

You might be able to apply for British citizenship by ‘naturalisation’ if you’re over 18 years old and you either:

  • moved to the UK 

  • were born in the UK

Naturalisation is the most common way to get citizenship if you were born outside the UK and don’t have a British parent.

Before you apply 

You need to have permission to live in the UK permanently - for example, getting indefinite leave to remain or ‘settled status’ from the EU Settlement Scheme. You need to do this even if your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen.

You’ll also need to meet some other requirements. It’s easier to meet the requirements if your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen. There are different ways you could meet the requirements if you’re a citizen of a country in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, or their family member. 

You should find out what status you need to have and other requirements that apply to you before you start your application.

If your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen

To apply for British citizenship you usually need:

  • indefinite leave to remain (or ‘indefinite leave to enter’)

  • settled status - from the EU Settlement Scheme

  • a ‘permanent residence’ document - if you or a family member are from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland

The EEA includes EU countries and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

If you don’t have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or permanent residence, check if you’re eligible for either:

You’re better off applying for settled status than a permanent residence document if you or a family member is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen. You can only apply for a permanent residence document until 31 December 2020. 

Once you’ve got one of these things, you can apply straight away - as long as you meet the other requirements.

Check what other requirements you need to meet before you apply

You also need to have:

  • lived lawfully in the UK over the past 3 years

  • passed the Life in the UK Test

  • a qualification that shows you speak and understand English - unless you’re exempt

  • ‘good character’ - for example, you've had no recent or serious criminal convictions, or problems with debts, unpaid taxes or immigration

Find out how to prepare for the Life in the UK Test, prove you know English and meet the good character requirement.

Proving you’ve lived in the UK for 3 years

You need to do this even if you’ve already proved how long you’ve lived in the UK - for example, to get indefinite leave to remain.

You need to prove you were:

  • living in the UK for the 3 years before you apply

  • outside the UK for no more than 270 days in those 3 years

  • outside the UK for no more than 90 days in the past 12 months

  • in the UK exactly 3 years ago - on the same day of the year you apply

If you have settled status but didn’t get a permanent residence document before this, you also need to prove you were in the UK ‘lawfully’ for those 3 years. You can find out more about how to prove you were here lawfully

If you have settled status and can’t prove you were in the UK lawfully, you should talk to an adviser before you apply.

If you’ve been outside the UK for more than 270 days

You might still be eligible if the Home Office decide to make an exception (‘use discretion’). For example, they can ignore time you spent outside the UK for:

  • up to 300 days in 3 years

  • even longer in some cases - for example, if you travel frequently for work

Before you apply, you should check the naturalisation guide on GOV.UK to find out if the Home Office can make an exception for your absences from the UK.

If the Home Office decide you’re not eligible for citizenship because of the time you’ve spent outside the UK, you won’t get your application fee back.

If you think you might not be eligible, you should talk to an adviser before you apply.

Absences from the UK

If your client has a British husband, wife or civil partner, the Home Office might ignore absences up to:

  • 300 days in 3 years 

  • 450 days if they’ve lived in the UK for the past 4 years

  • 540 days if they’ve lived in the UK for the past 5 years, and there’s a special reason they were outside the UK

Their special reason for being outside the UK could be:

  • frequent travel for work

  • employment outside the UK as a ‘Crown servant’ - for example, in the diplomatic service, overseas civil service or armed forces

  • a compassionate or exceptional reason - for example, coronavirus travel restrictions delayed their return to the UK

Check the naturalisation guide on GOV.UK to find out if the Home Office can make an exception for your client’s absences. 

Find out more about eligibility

You can find out more about eligibility if you have a British partner on GOV.UK.

If you or your family are from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

If your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen, you'll need to meet the requirements for people who have a British husband, wife or civil partner instead.

You can usually apply for British citizenship no earlier than 12 months after:

  • you get settled status - from the EU Settlement Scheme

  • the date on your ‘permanent residence’ document, if you have one

  • you got indefinite leave to remain 

If you don’t have settled status or permanent residence, you should check if you’re eligible for settled status. It’s free to apply and usually easy to get.

You’re better off applying for settled status than a permanent residence document because you can only apply for a permanent residence document until 31 December 2020.

Once you’ve got one of settled status or permanent residence, you can apply 12 months after - as long as you meet the other requirements.

Check what other requirements you need to meet before you apply

You also need to have:

  • lived in the UK over the past 5 years 

  • passed the Life in the UK Test

  • a qualification that shows you speak and understand English - unless you’re exempt

  • ‘good character’ - for example, you've had no recent or serious criminal convictions, or problems with debts, unpaid taxes or immigration

Find out how to prepare for the Life in the UK Test, prove you know English and meet the good character requirement.

Proving you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years

You need to do this even if you’ve already proved how long you’ve lived in the UK - for example, to get settled status.

You need to prove you were:

  • living in the UK for the 5 years before you apply

  • outside the UK for no more than 450 days in those 5 years

  • outside the UK for no more than 90 days in the past 12 months

  • in the UK exactly 5 years ago - on the same day of the year you apply

If you have settled status but didn’t get a permanent residence document before this, you also need to prove you were in the UK ‘lawfully’ for those 5 years. You can find out how to prove you were here lawfully

If you have settled status and can’t prove you were in the UK lawfully, you should talk to an adviser before you apply.

If you’ve been outside the UK for more than 450 days

You might still be eligible if the Home Office decide to 'use discretion' (make an exception). For example, they can ignore time you spent outside the UK for:

  • up to 480 days in 5 years

  • even longer in some cases - for example, if you travel frequently for work

The Home Office will ignore absences for a compassionate or exceptional reason - for example, coronavirus travel restrictions delayed their return to the UK. 

Before you apply, you should check the naturalisation guide on GOV.UK to find out if the Home Office can make an exception for your absences from the UK.

If the Home Office decides you’re not eligible for citizenship because of the time you’ve spent outside the UK, you won’t get your application fee back.

If you think you might not be eligible, you should talk to an adviser before you apply.

Find out more about eligibility

You can find out more on GOV.UK about eligibility for citizenship if you have:

If you're from any other country 

You can usually apply for citizenship no earlier than 12 months after you get indefinite leave to remain (or ‘indefinite leave to enter’) unless you’re married to a British citizen.

If you don’t have either of those, you can check if you’re eligible for indefinite leave to remain on GOV.UK.

Check what other requirements you need to meet before you apply

You also need to have:

  • lived in the UK for the past 5 years (or 3 years if you have a British husband, wife or civil partner)

  • passed the Life in the UK Test

  • a qualification that shows you speak and understand English - unless you’re exempt

  • ‘good character’ - for example, you’ve had no recent or serious criminal convictions, or problems with debts, unpaid taxes or immigration

Find out how to prepare for the Life in the UK Test, prove you know English and meet the good character requirement.

Proving you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years

You need to do this even if you’ve already proved how long you’ve lived in the UK - for example, to get indefinite leave to remain.

You need to prove you were:

  • living in the UK for the 5 years before you apply

  • outside the UK for no more than 450 days in those 5 years

  • outside the UK for no more than 90 days in the past 12 months

  • in the UK exactly 5 years ago - on the same day of the year you apply

If you’ve been outside the UK for more than 450 days

You might still be eligible if the Home Office decide to make an exception (‘use discretion’). For example, they can ignore time you spent outside the UK for:

  • up to 480 days in 5 years

  • even longer in some cases - for example, if you travel frequently for work

The Home Office will ignore absences for a compassionate or exceptional reason - for example, coronavirus travel restrictions delayed your return to the UK. 

Before you apply, you should check the naturalisation guide on GOV.UK to find out if the Home Office can make an exception for your absences from the UK.

If the Home Office decide you’re not eligible for citizenship because of the time you’ve spent outside the UK, you won’t get your application fee back.

If you think you might not be eligible, you should talk to an adviser before you apply.

Find out more about eligibility

You can find out more about eligibility if you have indefinite leave to remain on GOV.UK.

Getting British citizenship

There are a few ways you can be eligible to apply for citizenship. Most adults who have migrated to the UK get citizenship by applying to ‘naturalise’. You can find out how to apply for British citizenship

Getting British citizenship for children 

Your children can also apply for British citizenship at the same time as you.

Some children can apply before you do if either: 

  • they were born in the UK

  • their other parent became British first 

You can find out about getting British citizenship for children.

Check other ways you can be eligible for citizenship

There are some other ways you can apply for citizenship. You can find out on GOV.UK if you’re eligible because you:

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