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Deciding if citizenship is right for you

This advice applies to England

Some people can already live and work in the UK - they don’t need to apply for British citizenship to stay in the UK. 

Before you apply, check:

  • what rights you already have

  • what other rights you’d get

  • what getting British citizenship involves - for example, how much it costs and if you can keep your current nationality 

Check if you’re already a British citizen

You don’t need to apply for citizenship if you automatically became a British citizen when you were born.

You might automatically be a British citizen if either:

  • one of your parents was a British citizen when you were born

  • you were born in the UK and one of your parents had ‘settled status’, ‘indefinite leave to remain’ or ‘permanent residence’ when you were born

You can check if you’re automatically a British citizen on GOV.UK if either: 

Check if you can already live and work in the UK permanently

You already have the right to live and work in the UK permanently if you:

  • have ‘settled status’ from the EU Settlement Scheme

  • have ‘indefinite leave to remain’  

  • are an Irish citizen

  • are a Commonwealth citizen with ‘right of abode’

You can stay in the UK for as long as you want if you’re in one of those situations - you don’t have to apply for citizenship.

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

To stay in the UK after 30 June 2021, you need to apply for either:

  • pre-settled or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme
  • British citizenship 

You need to apply for one of these even if you have permanent residence.

It’s free to apply for pre-settled or settled status and it's easier to get than citizenship.

If you want to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme

You must be in the UK by 31 December 2020.

If you had a baby in the UK

You can apply for a UK passport for your child if you can prove you had permanent residence when they were born. 

This only applies if your child was born between 30 April 2006 and 30 June 2021 - that’s when permanent residence begins and ends.

If you don’t have a permanent residence document to prove it, talk to an adviser.

If you’re an Irish citizen

If you were born in Northern Ireland, you’ll usually have British and Irish dual citizenship - even if you don’t have a UK passport. You can check if you’re already a British citizen on GOV.UK. 

If you only have Irish citizenship, you still have the right to live and work in the UK permanently - you don’t need British citizenship. You can still apply for British citizenship if you‘re eligible. Check if citizenship is right for you before you apply - it can cost more than £1,300.

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen

If you want to apply for citizenship, you’ll need to have the right to live and work permanently in the UK. This usually means you’ll need indefinite leave to remain or ‘right of abode’.

Check if citizenship is right for you before you apply - it can cost more than £1,300.

Check if you have right of abode

You might have right of abode if: 

  • one of your parents had right of abode

  • you’re a woman who married a Commonwealth citizen with right of abode before 1983

You can read more about who has right of abode on GOV.UK.

If you were born in a British colony before 1983

If you have right of abode, you might automatically be a British citizen - check if you’re already a British citizen on GOV.UK.

If you or your parents came to the UK before 1973

If you don't have proof of your right to live in the UK, you might be able to get an immigration document from the Windrush scheme.

You could be eligible for either:

  • British citizenship 

  • an immigration document proving your right to live in the UK permanently - for example, a ‘biometric residence permit’ 

It’s free to apply to the Windrush scheme and you won’t need to pass the Life in the UK Test or prove you speak English.

Find out if you can apply to the Windrush scheme.

Check what rights you’ll have as a British citizen

You need British citizenship if you want to:

  • get a British passport

  • vote in elections - you might already be able to vote in some elections if you’re an EU or Commonwealth citizen

  • leave the UK for as long as you want, without losing your ‘right to return’

  • get British citizenship for your children if they’re born outside the UK

If your children are born in the UK, they’ll automatically be British citizens if you have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or permanent residence when they’re born - you don’t need to be a British citizen.  

Check if you already have the right to vote

If you’re an Irish or Commonwealth citizen, you can already vote in general and local elections.

If you’re an EU citizen, you can vote in local elections - but you might lose this right after Brexit.

Check if you can register to vote on the Electoral Commission website.

If you want to leave the UK for a long time

You can leave the UK for:

  • 5 years without losing settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme - 4 years if you're Swiss

  • 2 years without losing indefinite leave to remain

If you stay outside the UK for longer than this you lose your ‘right to return’ - this means you lose your settled status or your indefinite leave to remain.

If you get British citizenship, you can leave the UK for as long as you want without losing your right to return.

If you go to prison

If it’s a serious criminal offence and you’re not a British citizen, you could lose your status and be deported. A serious offence is one which has at least a 12-month sentence. 

If you have British citizenship, you can’t usually be deported or lose your citizenship. 

You can’t apply for citizenship if you’ve already been found guilty of a serious criminal offence.

If you’ve had refugee status or humanitarian protection

If you get British citizenship, you will not be able to make a ‘family reunion’ application to bring your family to the UK for free. 

This could make it more difficult and expensive to bring family to the UK. Check how much it costs to get a family visa if you have British citizenship on GOV.UK.

You can still make a family reunion application if you have indefinite leave to remain instead of British citizenship.

Find out if you can make a family reunion application on GOV.UK.

Check if you can keep your current nationality

You can be a citizen of Britain and a citizen of another country at the same time - but only if the other country allows it. This is called ‘dual citizenship’. 

You don’t need to apply for dual citizenship. But you must check if your home country will allow you to keep your nationality and passport after you become a British citizen.

If you’re not sure if you can have dual citizenship, check the rules with your home country’s consulate or embassy in the UK. 

If your home country does not allow dual citizenship 

If you apply for British citizenship, you’ll need to give up your current nationality and passport. You might:

  • need a visa to visit your home country

  • not be allowed to own property there

  • not be allowed to move back

You might not be able to get your original nationality back later, even if you give up your British citizenship.

How much it costs

You usually pay £1,330 to apply for adult citizenship or £1,012 for children. If you’re applying for citizenship as an adult you’ll also have to pay:

  • £50 to do the Life in the UK Test

  • £19.20 to send your fingerprints and photo to the Home Office

  • around £150 if you have to do an English test

You will not get your money back if your application is refused - for example, if you’re not eligible or you sent the wrong documents.

What it involves

You’ll need to allow plenty of time to prepare your application for citizenship.

You usually have to do a test on British history, traditions and everyday life, called the Life in the UK Test. You also have to gather lots of documents and evidence - for example, dates for every time you came in and out of the UK during the last 5 years.

You might also need to do a speaking and listening test to prove your knowledge of English.

Find out more about what you need to do to apply for citizenship.

When you can apply

After you get settled status, indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence, you usually have to wait 1 year before you can apply for British citizenship.

You can apply for British citizenship as soon as you get your status if you're married to, or in a civil partnership with, a British citizen.

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