Top 10 Q&A on British Citizenship

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Over time, I have received many questions from individuals seeking guidance on how to apply to become a British citizen. With that in mind, I have collated the top 10 questions and answers on all aspects of British citizenship.

  1. What is British Citizenship?

A British citizen has a right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK). In practice, if you have British citizenship, you have the right to permanently live and work in the UK without any immigration restrictions. And you will not need permission from an Immigration Officer to enter the UK

  1. Who can apply for British citizen?

Unlike some countries, you do not automatically become a British citizen because you were born in the UK. Under the British Nationality Act 1981, much will depend on your date of birth.

For instance, you will be a British citizen if you were born on or after 1 January 1983, and your mother or father was either:

  • a British citizen when you were born
  • ‘settled’ in the UK when you were born

It is typical for you to be a British citizen if one of your parents was born in the UK or had become a British citizen at the time of your birth.

Different provisions apply if you were born outside the UK or were born in the UK before July 2006. Where you fall within the latter, your father’s British nationality will normally only pass to you if he was married to your mother at the time of your birth.

Likewise, if you are an overseas national, Commonwealth citizen or national of the European Economic Area (EEA), you will not automatically acquire British citizenship merely because you have lived in the UK for a lengthy period of time.

However, there are a number of ways to become a British citizen. One of the main ways is to naturalise as a British citizen.

To apply to naturalise as a British citizen, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Meet the residence requirements
  • Have passed the Life in the UK test
  • Have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) grade of at least B1, or an equivalent level qualification, such as a degree taught or researched in English or be a national of a majority English speaking country
  • Be of good character
  • Intend to make the UK your permanent home

The residence requirement is very important and you must show that you:

  • Have lived in the UK for at least 5 years before the date of submission of the application
  • Have settlement (indefinite leave to remain) or permanent residence for at least an additional 12 months preceding the date of the application
  • To have spent less than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years
  • To have spent less than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • Not have been in breach of the immigration laws during your time in the UK

Applications on the basis of marriage or civil partnership to a British citizen is a frequently used route also. The key differences are:

  • You must evidence that you have lived in the UK for at least the 3 years before your application is submitted
  • You must have pent no more than 270 days outside the UK in those 3 years
  • You must have spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • You must not have broken any immigration laws while in the UK

It is also possible to register to become a British citizen if:

  • You have another form of British nationality
  • You were born before 1 January 1983 to a British mother
  • You were born to a British father, even if he was not married to your mother
  • You were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983
  • You are under 18 and do not fit into the other categories
  • You have a connection with Gibraltar or Hong Kong
  • You are stateless
  1. Are British citizens allowed dual citizenship?

British citizens are allowed to hold dual nationality. Nevertheless, some countries may treat the acquisition of another citizenship as a renouncement of their original nationality.

To avoid this happening to you, it is crucial to verify, with your country of origin, the potential implications of applying for British citizenship before an application is prepared and submitted.

  1. What is the British citizenship test and where can I sit the test?

Details of the British citizenship test, or Life in the UK test, can be found in my previous blog.

  1. What does British citizenship cost?

The application fee payable to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will depend on how you qualify to become a British citizen. For instance, as of 18 March 2016, fee for British citizenship based on:

  • Naturalisation as an adult: £1,236
  • Registration as an adult: £1121
  • Registration as a child: £939
  1. Who can sign British citizenship application form?

As part of your application process, you must nominate two referees, one of which may be of any nationality and has professional standing in the UK.

The other referee must be a British citizen and hold a valid British passport. That person must be either a professional person or over the age of 25.

In addition, your referees cannot be:

  • Related to you
  • Related to each other
  • Your solicitor or agent
  • Someone who has been convicted for an imprisonable offence during the last 10 years

UKVI will make contact with your referees to verify your identity so it is important that your referees are able to respond in a timely manner to UKVI’ queries. Doing so will avoid delays to the application and at worse, a refusal.

  1. Can I apply for British citizenship if I have a driving conviction or criminal record?

UKVI had introduced a revised ‘good character’ requirements for all decisions made on or after 11 December 2014. As a result, UKVI will look at your previous conduct to assess whether you are likely, in future, to show ‘respect for the rights and freedoms of the United Kingdom’, observe national laws and fulfil your duties and obligations as a resident of the UK.Thomas Chase Immigration - British Citizenship

In doing so, UKVI will carry out criminal and civil record checks. All criminal offences, regardless of how minor the offence or when and where the offence was committed, will be considered by UKVI. This is because UKVI is not bound by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Therefore, previous offences such as theft, drink driving, using a mobile phone while driving or driving while disqualified may likely prevent you from becoming a British citizen until there is a sufficient gap between the date of the offence and the date of the application.

Your immigration history will also be taken into account by UKVI when considering your application. For instance, if you entered the UK illegally, assisted in illegal migration or evaded immigration control, you will be prevented from making a British citizenship application until at least 10 years has passed from the date of entry to the UK. This will have a significant impact if you are a refugee who had used one of the above methods to gain entry to the UK. Similarly, if you overstay your visa for a relatively small period, your application for British citizenship may be refused.

And the tentacles of the good character requirements stretch even further so that financial issues such as bankruptcy or failure to pay your council tax can also have an adverse impact upon your application.

In light of the good character requirements, it is crucial to seek expert immigration advice if any of the above applies to you.

  1. Where should I send my British Citizenship application form?

Completed application forms should be sent to:

UKVI 
Department 1 
The Capital 
New Hall Place 
Liverpool 
L3 9PP 

The application must be accompanied by the correct application fee and supporting documents.

  1. How long does a British citizenship application take to be processed?

Applications are acknowledged within 2 weeks of receipt. UKVI aims to consider the application within 6 months. UKVI will retain all documents during that time including your passports. That said, it is possible to request the return of your passport although UKVI can request that it is resubmitted for further scrutiny.

10.Where are British citizenship ceremonies held?

Once your application has been approved by UKVI, you will be invited to attend at a Citizenship Ceremony. At the ceremony you will be asked to affirm or swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and to pledge your loyalty to the UK.

Ceremonies take place at your local authority, and your UKVI Approval Letter will provide details of what you must do next and who to contact in order to make the necessary arrangements.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture.

Call to action

If you would like further guidance or assistance with an application for British citizenship, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.

You may also like:

Top 10 Questions on the Life on the UK Test

 

Spouse visa – what are the requirements for a spouse visa

Thomas Chase Immigration - UK Spouse Visa

‘How do I apply for a spouse visa?’ ‘What are the requirements for a spouse visa? Common questions. You may be a British national living in the UK and would like your overseas spouse to join you. It should be a simple enough process. It is not. In an attempt to demystify the spouse visa applications, I have put together an outline of the process for applying for a spouse visa, the documents required and some general guidance to bear in mind.

Background

A spouse visa is appropriate when you are already in the UK and you would like your overseas spouse or civil partner to join you in the UK for over 6 months. Overseas national refers to your partner being a national of a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and who is living abroad.

As part of the immigration process, you will need to sponsor your partner’s application to join you as a dependant and you will need to fall within one of the following:

  • Be a British citizen
  • Have settlement or indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • Have asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK

Much of this information may apply to unmarried partners also though for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on spouses and married partners.

Application

As the sponsor you are supporting the application. Your partner will need to complete and submit the application online in their country of nationality or residence. The only exception to the online process is where your partner resides in or is from North Korea in which case, they will need to download and complete a paper application form.

The application form can be saved and returned to, allowing you to assist with the preparation of the application form or to review the application to ensure that all the information provided is correct.

The application type normally causes confusion. As you are a British citizen or settled and living in the UK, your partner will need to apply for a ‘Family of a Settled Person’ visa.

If you have children, your partner should their details within their application form and also complete separate online applications for each child.

Key requirements:

Genuine Relationship

Your partner must be over 18 and your relationship must be genuine and that you intend to live together as a family in the UK. When submitting the application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), they will wish to see evidence that the marriage or civil partnership is legal and that the relationship is one that exists and has not an ‘arranged marriage’ or has been entered into to circumvent immigration laws.

Earnings

One of the most onerous requirements is the need for you to meet the financial requirements for your partner to successfully apply to join you in the UK. This means that you need to show that you earn above a certain threshold.

The salary threshold currently stands at:

  • £18,600 per annum – partner only
  • £22,400 per annum – partner and first child
  • £24,800 per annum – partner and 2 children
  • £27,200 per annum – partner and 3 children
  • £2,400 for each additional child

So as an example, if you are sponsoring your wife and 3 children to join you in the UK as your dependants, you will need to show the following savings or earnings:

  • £27,200 per annum – partner and 3 children

Total = £27,200

The financial requirement is usually evidenced via your income but can be a combination of:

  • Income from employment or self-employment – if you’re in the UK with permission to work
  • A pension
  • Maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay
  • Other income such as from rent or shares
  • Cash savings – you’ll need at least £16,000, and the savings must have been in your name for 6 months or more

You will not need to meet the financial requirement if you have one or more of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme
  • bereavement benefits

The above requirements do not apply if you have either humanitarian protection or refugee status and are subject to change.

You will also need to complete a Financial Requirement Form or Appendix 2 to further evidence that you meet the financial requirements.

The evidential flexibility for meeting the financial requirements is set out in paragraph D of Appendix FM-SE.

Accommodation

As part of the application process, you must show that you and your partner (and any children) will have adequate accommodation in the UK. This is to prevent individuals later seeking public assistance.

English language

Your partner will need to show that they have a knowledge of the English Language when they apply to join you in the UK.

If your partner is from a national of a majority English language, their language skills will be implied. Those countries are:

  • 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
  • US

Otherwise, English language can be evidenced by way of:

  • An academic qualification that both:
    • was taught or researched in English
    • is recognised by the body, UK NARIC, as being equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree or PhD

A partner may be exempted from evidencing a knowledge of the English language where:

  • They are 65 years of age and older
  • Unable to do so due to a long term physical or mental condition
  • There are exceptional circumstances preventing them from meeting the requirements

UKVI will expect to see evidence if any of the above applies.

Tuberculosis Testing

As part of the immigration process, your partner may need to provide evidence of Tuberculosis (TB) screening if they are a resident of a particular country. Further information on TB screening can be found here.

It is advisable for your partner to book a test well in advance of the UKVI appointment as TB screening appointments in some countries can be subject to long waiting times.

Once your partner has been screened and found to be clear of infectious TB, they will be given a certificate which must be submitted as part of their application.

If you have children traveling as part of the application, they will need to be seen by the clinician who will decide if they need a chest x-ray. For any children under 11, a chest x-ray is rare. Once cleared, their certificates will also need to be included in their applications.

Children under 11 will not normally have a chest x-ray.

The TB certificate is normally valid for 6 months so this needs to be factored into your overall applications timescales.

Sponsorship Form

You will need to confirm your sponsorship of your partner’s (and child or children’s) application by way of an undertaking. This is done by completing a Sponsorship Form

By signing the Sponsorship Form, you are confirming that you will be responsible for your partner’s (and child’s or children’s) maintenance, accommodation and care, without relying on public funds:

  • For at least 5 years, if they are applying to settle
  • Throughout their stay in the UK

Documents

The key documents to be submitted with the application will depend on your and your partner’s circumstances. Each person’s circumstances are different and there have been instances when I have advised clients to submit additional documents or made detailed representations to UKVI in order to make the application process as smooth as possible.

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, some of the key documents to be submitted are:

  • Printed application form
  • Your current passport or valid travel identification document
  • Any previous or expired passports
  • Your partner’s passport sized photographs
  • Evidence of your identity and status in the UK
  • Evidence of marital status
  • Evidence that you and your partner intend on living together in the UK and of your relationship
  • Proof of adequate accommodation in the UK
  • Proof that you can meet the financial requirement/ maintenance requirements
  • Financial Requirements Form
  • Your partners proof of their knowledge of the English language
  • Your partner’s valid TB test certificate – see above
  • Sponsorship Form

If your child or children are applying to travel to the UK with your partner, the following should also be included, though this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Your child’s current passport or valid travel identification document
  • Your child’s previous or expired passports
  • Your child’s passport sized photographs
  • Your child’s valid TB test certificate

How long are processing times?

Processing times are at the mercy of UKVI and depends on a number of factors. For that reason, it is advisable to leave nothing to chance so as to prevent delay to your application.

On average, however, spouse applications can take up to 12 weeks to be decided. The latest  UKVI processing timescales can be found here.

Application fees

As of 2016/2017, application fees for your dependant to join you in the UK stand at £1,195. Fee increases apply as of 6 April 2017.

In addition, your partner will need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge towards the National Health Service of £200 per year.

How long will the visa be issued for?

Spouse visas are issued for 33 months. Before the end of the visa, your partner will need to apply to extend their visa for a further 2 years and 6 months. The application will be made UKVI from within the UK so there is no need for your partner to leave the UK and make the application from abroad.

Can my partner work in the work?

Once the visa has been issued, your partner may work, take up employment and study in the UK.

Can my partner apply for settlement?

Your spouse may apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK or settlement once they have resided in the UK for 5 years continuously.

My suggestion is that as soon as your spouse enters the UK as your dependant, they you both take a long term view to your situation and collate documents over the next 5 years to with a view to submitting an application to first extend their leave in the UK and later to seek settlement.

Conclusion

Spouse visas allow an overseas partner living abroad to join their British or settled spouse or civil partner in the UK. Once obtained, the overseas partner may travel to the UK, live beyond 5 years, work and study. Yet, the fact that the sponsoring spouse of civil partner might be British or settled in the UK does not necessarily mean that the immigration process will be a straightforward one. There are a number of strict requirements that could lead to a delay or a refusal of a spouse visa application if those requirements are not met.  With this in mind, this article has sought to explain the spouse visa immigration process and clarify the requirements to be met by UK sponsors and their overseas partners.

Call to action

If you would like further guidance or assistance with an application for a UK spouse visa, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.

You may also like: Q&A: UK spouse visas and Disability Living Allowance.