Refusal of British citizenship

Refusal of British citizenship

Tips to Avoid the 3 Main Reasons for a Refusal of British citizenship

When Jodi contacted us, she had received a refusal of British citizenship from the Home Office. She was understandably upset because she had indefinite leave to remain and, based on her understanding of the law, she appeared to be a good candidate for British citizenship.

No criminal behaviour, no court action, continuous employment since her arrival to the United Kingdom (UK) as a Tier 2 (General) highly skilled worker, involvement in community activities and yet, three months later and at great financial cost, Jodi’s application was refused.

We reviewed Jodi’s application and found that she had made one of 3 common errors. Below we set out our 3 tips to avoid a refusal of British citizenship applications.

The basics

A person may naturalise as a British citizen, under:

  • Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981), as a person applying in their own right who is not married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen
  • Section 6(2) BNA 1981, as a person married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen.

The requirements to be met depend on whether you are applying to naturalise under section 6(1) BNA 1981 or section 6(2).

If you would like assistance, or if you have any questions, contact us now at or on +44 (0) 203 488 1061.

The requirements

Section 6(1) BNA 1981

The key requirements to be met:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Meet the 5-year residence requirements
  • Have indefinite leave to remain (settlement) or permanent residence status for at least 12 months
  • Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Meet the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Intend to make the UK your home

Section 6(2) BNA 1981

The key requirements include:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen
  • Meet the 3-year residence requirements
  • Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Meet the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Intend to make the UK your home

Children and those under the age of 18 years cannot apply to naturalise as British citizens. Instead, they may apply to register as British citizens.

When preparing applications to naturalise, some applicants often fail to submit documents to demonstrate how they meet the requirements, which can lead to a refusal of the applications.

In fact, from experience, regardless of whether the application falls under section 6(1) or section 6(2) BNA 1981, there are 3 common errors which stand out. They are:

  • Not meeting the residence requirements
  • Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Not meeting the English Language requirements

Let’s look at each one in turn, so that you too, can avoid a refusal of a British citizenship application:

  1. Not meeting the residence requirements

As highlighted above, the residence requirements differ depending on whether you are applying to naturalise on the basis of a marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen or not.

If you are applying on the basis of your marriage or civil partnership, you must meet the 3-years residence requirement. Apply in your own right and you must instead meet the 5-years residence requirements.

How does this work in practice?

Under section 6(1) BNA 1981, you must show that you have been resident in the UK for 5 years preceding the date of the application. This is also known as the Qualifying Period.

During that time, you must not have been absent from the UK for:

  • 450 days in total: and
  • 90 days in the 12 months’ period immediately preceding the date of the application

Conversely, under section 6(2) BNA 1981, you must evidence that you have been resident in the UK for 3 years preceding the date of the application.

During that 3 year’ qualifying period, you must not have been absent from the UK for:

  • 270 days in total: and
  • 90 days in the 12 months’ period immediately preceding the date of the application

Not only that, but in both instances, you must have been physically present in the UK at the start of the qualifying period, whether it is 3 years or 5 years ago. There are exceptions for those who may have been in the armed forces at the start of the qualifying period.

Some applicants fall foul of the absence requirements. Yet, it is important to note that if all the other requirements are met, the Home Office can exercise its discretion in favour of the applicant.

Our client, Jodi, found herself in exactly that position. Even though Jodi’s total absences were recalculated when we prepared the application, she still had absences of 502 days during the 5 years qualifying period.

To overcome this, we made representations to the Home Office, to request that it exercises its discretion in Jodi’s favour. We also submitted documentary evidence to demonstrate that much of Jodi’s travel was due to her employment commitments because of the seniority and nature of her role.

In another past case, where the client had exceeded his permitted absences by 35 days, we submitted medical documentary evidence to illustrate that his travel was necessary. We also provided the Home Office with evidence of his strong ties to the UK by way of mortgage statements for his residential home and family ties.

It is, of course, up to the Home Office to exercise its discretion and each case will be assessed and decided on their individual merits.

Nonetheless, the above examples highlight that it is possible to avoid a refusal of British citizenship applications where the absences requirements are exceeded, provided strong evidence is submitted to persuade the Home Office to exercise its discretion favourably.

  1. Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirements

The Home Office will assess if you are of sufficient ‘good character’ to be granted British citizenship or whether your previous conduct should adversely affect your application.

To be considered as having good character you must have “shown respect for the rights and freedoms of the United Kingdom, observed its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident of the UK.”

This is quite a broad test, but essentially the Home Office will carry out criminal and civil record checks in every application. As the Home Office is not bound to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, this means that every criminal offence will be considered as part of your application to naturalise, no matter how minor or when the act was committed.

Any criminal offence committed, both in the UK and abroad, such as theft, drink driving, use of a mobile phone while driving and driving while disqualified may prevent you from naturalising until a certain period of time has lapsed from the date of conviction.

You may also be prevented from applying successfully if you have any financial issues such as bankruptcy or for failure to pay your council tax.

It should also be noted that failure to declare any of the above, could also be viewed negatively.


A previous client, who successfully applied to naturalise as a British citizen, had 5 fixed penalty notices for speeding and 2 others for parking related offences. In light of the number of penalty notices, we were wary that such behaviour could show a pattern of non-compliance with UK laws.

We therefore took the precaution of highlighting broader aspects of that client’s good character. We also submitted information from DVLA to prove that the client’s overall driving record was positive and that all penalty notices had been resolved.

In another instance, Jimmy had recently been declared bankrupt and sought a telephone consultation to discuss his chances of securing British citizenship.

Jimmy was advised against making an application to naturalise, at this time, as it was highly likely, in our opinion, and based on his wider financial dealings and lack of strong UK ties, that the application would fail.

Jimmy appeared to have sought assistance elsewhere and submitted an application to the Home Office. He contacted us by email to say that he had been invited by the Home Office to provide his biometric data. We informed Jimmy that the receipt of a biometric letter did not equate to approval of his application. Hopefully a decision will go in his favour!

Not meeting the good character requirements could lead to a refusal of British citizenship applications and it may be sensible to allow time to lapse before making an application. Nevertheless, there are times when a refusal can be avoided, provided strong evidence is submitted to persuade the Home Office of your good character.

  1. Not meeting the English Language requirements

Nationals of majority English speaking countries are not required to demonstrate English language proficiency. Majority English speaking nationals are those from:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States of America

If you are from a country not listed above, you must pass an English language test (SELT), at B1 CEFR or higher.

It is not uncommon for applicants to provide an English language test certificate below the required level, leading to a possible refusal of the application.

Alternatively, if you hold an equivalent level qualification, such as a degree taught in English, such evidence may be submitted with the application instead.

The issue often occurs where the applicant received a degree qualification taught to them in English, from an approved university or educational establishment from outside of the UK.

Where this occurs, extra steps are required to illustrate how the applicant meets the requirements. For instance, Jodi, had previously submitted evidence of meeting the English language requirements, during her initial application for a Tier 2 (General) visa application and again in her application for indefinite leave to remain. At that time, Jodi had submitted a print out of the  Points Based Calculator detailing how her degree certificate met the requirements.

To Jodi’s surprise, the fact that she had met the requirements previously, did not preclude her providing such evidence again. And unfortunately, since 6 April 2016, the Home Office no longer accepts the Points Based Calculator as evidence of meeting the English language requirements.

Therefore, we approached UK NARIC for an Academic Qualification Level Statement from UK NARIC confirming that Jodi’s degree qualification was comparable to a UK degree. We submitted this statement, together with on official letter from Jodi’s overseas university stating that the degree was taught in English and also submitted her original degree certificate as part of the application.

As a result, we were clearly able to verify that Jodi met the English language requirements.


We hope that the 3 tips to avoid a refusal of a British citizenship application have been helpful.

As for Jodi, her application for British citizenship was approved and she had since attended the Citizenship Ceremony. As for Jimmy, if you are reading this, not your real name but you know who you are, please feel free to update us on your application and share your experience.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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  • David Bikson


    I have applied for British citizenship few months ago and no awaiting a decision.
    I have never had any sort of criminal records at all but previously stopped and searched and also detained on wrong and unfair suspicion while traveling, but after 4 hours was free to go and was told the details of the detention will be on the system but not on the criminal records ,can this make my application refused ?


  • Ajmal odekhel

    Hay everyone I apply 28 May 2019 for citizenship now is nearly 2 years
    I reserve news from May solicitors
    The home office refused May citizenship with out reasons please if someone knows help me with out reasons he refused

  • Bee Burg

    I have just been refused citizenship today, I am from NZ, lived in UK since 2000. Married for 21 years to British partner. Spent 703 days outside the uk in the last 5 years as we travel Europe a lot and this was the reason they refused it. No other reasons given. If I asked for re-consideration and paid the 372 pounds, would I stand a good chance. I understand they have a discretion period in which I asked about.
    Never worked or lived anywhere else since 2000.
    Just astounded of the results.

    • Thomas Chase

      Hello Bee,

      We are sorry to hear about the refusal of the application to naturalise.

      When considering the application for discretion to naturalise as a British citizen, UKVI, on behalf of the Secretary of State, will assess whether the applicant has established a sufficient connection to the UK to merit the grant of the application.

      UKVI will look to see whether the requirements are met, including the requirement relating to absences.

      Where the absence requirement is not met, UKVI may exercise their discretion, on the Secretary of State’s behalf, where the applicant’s absences fall within a certain criteria and the applicant has provided a satisfactory reason(s) to merit exceptional consideration in their favour. If not, the application will be refused.

      Upon a refusal, the applicant may request a reconsideration of the matter. This can be on the basis that, for instance, the Secretary of State had not used the correct requirement or criteria to decide the application.

      As such, before seeking a reconsideration of the application, it will be for the applicant to carefully review their application against the requirements.

      If the requirements were met, they may wish to pursue the request for a reconsideration. But if not, the applicant may wish to prepare a fresh application to naturalise, this time making sure to properly evidence how the requirements are met, to make representations to address any areas of concern.

      Unfortunately, we cannot provide advice as to your specific circumstances in this forum.

      Let us know if the information was of help. And feel free to contact us at should you have any further questions or require assistance.

  • Masino

    Hi All,

    I have been reading the British Citizenship regulation and the sections concerning CSI as I have a very small gap when I first moved in the UK. I no longer understand if it does apply in my case or not.
    Will the case officer be verifying the continuous residence 5 years of settled status + 1 year?
    Will the case officer be verifying only the continuous residence 5 years prior to the application date?
    I came to the UK as EU citizen and here are the dates to further clarify my circumstances:
    08/02/2015 landed in the UK
    21/04/2015 started my first job and have been working from since without any interruption
    15/02/2020 obtained my settled status
    15/02/2021 passed one year since I have received my settled status
    Based on the above dates, can I apply for the British Citizenship on 15/02/2021?

    Happy to provide further details if required.
    Thank you very much in advance


  • anonymous

    Page reads “not having failed” when it means the opposite:
    “You may also be prevented from applying successfully if you have any financial issues such as bankruptcy or not having failed to pay your council tax.”

  • Baby Emily Wainwright

    Hi there..I am holding indefinite leave to remain visa since 2009 and planning of applying for citizenship..My question is, do I have to register to a biometric residence permit before applying? You’re advice is much appreciated.

  • Lisa Moyo

    Good morning , please advise if you can help me get my British citizen . I have held indefinite leave for 11years , wrote my life in the UK test. Am a social worker by profession however recently my ex boyfriend drove my car without being insured of it . He was summoned to court as he was also drink driving so he was banned . I then received a letter from the court with a fixed penalty and no proceedings will be carried out if l pay the penalty of £300 and 6 points endorsed on my driving licence . This happened last month . Will l be eligible to meet the good character requirements for British citizen ? Will you be able to help

  • iqbal

    hi i came to this country visit visa 7 years ago . i overstayed 3 weeks when my visa expired then i claim asylum and i got refugee status for 5 years and i have indefinite leave to remain over 12 months now. can i apply for british citizenship now ?can u help me plz

  • Mohammed

    Good morning,

    I just wanted to know if I can choose whether to apply under section 6(1) or 6(2) even if married to British?

    If I am married to British Citizen can I still apply under 6(1) 5 year residence or will Home Office automatically assess my application under 6(2) because of British spouse?



    • Thomas Chase

      Hi Mohammed,

      Unfortunately, we cannot provide specific advice in this forum.

      Much will depend on whether the nationality requirements are met.

  • Majid

    I have question in regarding the 450 days absent.
    I have ILR, and in June-2019 I am due to for the citizenship. While I have ILR I travelled around 750-850 days outside the UK to Sweden, family reason. I lived in the UK since 2006. Please advice thanks

  • Linda Mannix

    My son was denied UK citizenship even though his biological father was born in the uk, my son was given his surname, we were in a four year relationship, but not married. I have British Citizenship as my dad was born in the UK. My son was denied citizenship due to the fact his dad and I never married. When I did marry, my South African husband adopted my son. Is this a valid reason to decline the application? The. Marriage question was asked and did not stop the application process, so in my view there was no reason for this application to be declined. Unfortunately his father has passed away now, so we cannot get further information from him.

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