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Applying for British citizenship

This advice applies to England

You should check if you’re eligible to apply for citizenship - there are different routes to apply. 

Most adults who have migrated to the UK get citizenship by applying to ‘naturalise’.

Before you apply 

Applying for citizenship takes time and you will not get your money back if your application is refused.

How much it costs to apply

There are 2 main costs when you apply for citizenship by naturalisation: 

  • a fee for handling and processing an application 

  • the citizenship ceremony fee - you might get a refund if your application is refused or withdrawn

Find out more about application fees on GOV.UK.  

What you need 

Before you apply for citizenship, it’s worth preparing what you’ll need. 

When you apply for citizenship through naturalisation, you’ll need to: 

  • prove how long you’ve lived in the UK
  • pass the Life in the UK Test 
  • prove you understand English 
  • check you’re of ‘good character’ - this means showing you haven't recently broken the law or gone bankrupt
  • give the names of 2 people who can help prove your identity - these are called ‘referees’

If you're applying for citizenship for your child

You’ll need to make a separate application for your child. 

If your child is under 18 years old, you can apply to ‘register’ them as a British citizen. Registering is a way of applying for British citizenship. 

The application process is easier for children - they don't have to:

  • pass the Life in the UK Test 

  • prove their knowledge of English 

  • do the citizenship ceremony

You can check if your child can get British citizenship and what form you should use.

Prove how long you’ve lived in the UK 

You usually need to prove how long you’ve lived in the UK - this is called the ‘residency requirement’.  

You need to prove your residency even if you've done it before - for example, by applying for 'settled status'. 

The length of time you need to prove will depend on your situation.

These are the steps you should follow:

1. Work out when you were in the UK

You should work out exactly when you were in the UK during the last: 

  • 3 years if you’re married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen 
  • 5 years if you’re not married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen

You also need to make sure you were in the UK on the same day 3 or 5 years ago as the day you’re applying. 

To help with this, you could make a list of the dates you travelled outside the UK by:

  • checking old calendars
  • checking travel bookings
  • looking for exit and entry dates stamped in your passport

2. Check what absences from the UK are allowed 

You should check how many days you were outside the UK - if it's over the limit you might be refused. You'll need to separately count these for the:

  • 3 or 5 years you’re providing evidence for in your application 

  • 12 months before you apply

You can be out of the UK for up to 90 days in the year before you apply. If you were away for longer, you could delay applying. This would mean your absence is counted in the 3 or 5 years you’re using in your residence requirement. 

If you’re from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

You might not be able to count any time when you didn't have a job or claim benefits - this is called being 'self sufficient'. For example, you might’ve been supported by your partner who is from outside the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Lichtenstein. 

You can only count time you were self-sufficient or a student if you also had comprehensive sickness insurance. This could be either private health insurance or a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued outside the UK during this time. 

You might be able to count time even if you didn't have comprehensive sickness insurance, for example, if you were self-employed.  

You should talk to an adviser if you’re not sure. 

Pass the Life in the UK Test 

You need to pass the Life in the UK Test before you apply for citizenship. 

The test asks questions about UK laws and the legal system, working and other details of life in the UK. 

You can do the test any time before you apply.

Check if you need to do the test 

You don’t need to pass the Life in the UK Test if:

  • you’ve already passed it - for example, if you took the test when you applied for 'indefinite leave to remain' 

  • you’re under 18 or over 65 years old

If you’re aged 60 to 64 and can show you’re unlikely to pass the test before you turn 65, the Home Office might agree you don’t have to do the test. For example, if you're receiving medical treatment for a serious illness.

If you have a physical or mental condition that stops you passing the test, you might not have to do it. You'll need to ask your doctor to confirm that your condition:

  • is unlikely to change

  • makes it impossible for you to pass the test - for example, a learning disability or brain injury that stops you remembering facts

You can get a form for your doctor to fill in on GOV.UK. 

Doing the test 

You can do the test as many times as you need to - but you have to pay a fee each time. 

You need to study the official handbook to pass the test. You can also buy an app to practise - search for the official Life in the UK Test app by TSO (The Stationery Office). 

Some colleges offer short courses to help prepare for the test. You'll have to pay a fee to attend.

You can book the Life in the UK Test and buy the official handbook on GOV.UK.

Prove you understand English

You need to prove you understand English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic before you can apply for citizenship. 

Check if you need to prove you understand English

You don’t need to prove you understand English if:

If you’re aged 60 to 64 and can show you’re unlikely to learn English before you turn 65, the Home Office might agree you don’t have to prove your knowledge of English. For example, if you're receiving medical treatment for a serious illness.

If you have a physical or mental condition that stops you passing the test, you might not have to do it. You'll need to ask your doctor to confirm that your condition:

  • is unlikely to change

  • makes it impossible for you to learn English - for example, a learning disability or brain injury that stops you learning the language 

You can get a form for your doctor to fill in on GOV.UK.

Proving you understand English

You'll need to pass a speaking and listening test at an approved centre - you can find a secure English language test provider on GOV.UK.

The test costs around £150. Tests are usually valid for 2 years - if you’ve already done a test, you can check your English language test is still valid on GOV.UK. 

Check you’re of good character 

You usually need to prove you’re of good character before you can apply for citizenship. 

The Home Office look at a range of things to decide this.

For example, the Home Office might decide you’re not eligible if you have:

  • unpaid taxes in the UK

  • an NHS debt 

  • been declared bankrupt

  • a serious or recent criminal record

  • broken any of the immigration rules in the last 10 years - for example if you’ve overstayed a visa, worked without permission or entered the UK illegally 
  • been an EEA citizen in the UK without a right to reside

It’s important to be honest and include anything that’s relevant to your application - for example, a criminal conviction. If the Home Office finds you've left something out, they might refuse to accept your application.

If you think you’ll have problems with proving you are of good character, you should talk to an adviser before you apply.

Provide 2 referees

You’ll need to give the names of 2 referees on your application. These are people who know you and can help prove your identity. 

Both of your referees should have known you personally for more than 3 years. They must not be: 

  • your relative

  • your solicitor or agent 

  • employed by the Home Office 

They can't be a referee if they've had a criminal conviction in the last 10 years, unless a certain period of time has passed. This is called the ‘rehabilitation period’. For example, the rehabilitation period for a fine is 1 year. You can find the rehabilitation periods on GOV.UK.  

Your referees should include: 

  • a person who has 'professional standing' - for example, a civil servant of any nationality

  • a person who is a British passport holder and either has professional standing or is over the age of 25

The Home Office has a list of people they accept as referees - they’re called ‘acceptable professional persons’. 

Before you apply, check the list and the rest of the rules for referees in the nationality guidance on GOV.UK. The list of who can be a referee is under 'Commonly used terms'.

Check your application carefully

It’s important to check you have the right information and documents before you apply. If something is missing or wrong, the Home Office can refuse to accept your application and you will not get your money back. You might have to wait 10 years before you can apply again.

If you need help preparing your application 

You should talk to an adviser if you need help with completing your application or providing evidence. 

How to apply 

You can usually apply for citizenship online or by post. 

If you’re from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man or a British Overseas territory, you must apply by post.

It's a good idea to send your paper application by recorded delivery, so you can make sure it's delivered.

Find out more about applying if you’re married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen on GOV.UK. 

If you're not married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, the way you apply will depend on your current immigration status. You can find out how to:

Submit your biometric information 

If you’ve applied on a paper form, you’ll need to submit your documents - for example, send your passport with your application.  

If you’ve applied online, you can scan your documents and upload them to your online application - you don’t have to physically send them to the Home Office. 

It’s a good idea to download or print a copy of your finished application for your records. 

After you’ve applied 

You’ll usually get a decision within 6 months.

You need to tell the Home Office if you change your personal details during this time. For example, if you change your address. 

The amount of time you wait for the Home Office’s decision will not affect your existing rights in the UK - for example, you can continue to work or claim benefits.

The Home Office will write to you if they need more details about your application. You should reply within 2 weeks if you can. If the Home Office doesn't hear from you by then, they might make a decision on your application based on the information they already have.

Book your biometric appointment 

After you’ve applied for citizenship, you’ll get an email asking you to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. You’ll be asked to provide your fingertips and a photo (your biometric information). This information will confirm your identity. 

You usually have to pay for an appointment, but you might get a free appointment at a larger centre. You can also scan your documents at this appointment for a fee. 

You can check what to bring and if anyone needs to go with you on GOV.UK. 

Travelling outside the UK before you get British citizenship 

You can travel outside the UK if you’ve applied for British citizenship. You should make sure you can get emails and letters about your application while you’re away. 

Organise a citizenship ceremony 

If your application is successful, you must arrange a citizenship ceremony. These are usually held at your local council. Find out more about booking your citizenship ceremony on GOV.UK. 

Replace or correct a UK citizenship certificate 

You’ll have to pay a fee to replace or correct a UK citizenship certificate. Find out more about replacing or correcting your citizenship certificate on GOV.UK.

Travelling outside the UK after you get British citizenship 

If you want to travel outside the UK after getting British citizenship, you’ll need to apply for a British passport. 

Make sure the details on your current passport are the same as your citizenship certificate. For example, check your name is spelled the same. If any of the details are different, you will not get a British passport.

You can find out more about how to apply for a British passport on GOV.UK.

Register to vote 

Becoming a British citizen means you can vote in all elections or referendums. You can register to vote on GOV.UK. 

If your application is unsuccessful 

If your application is unsuccessful, the Home Office will write to you and tell you why. 

It will not affect your current right to stay in the UK.

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