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

 

Brexit: What next for EU nationals?

Thomas Chase Immigration - EU nationals

Following Brexit, it can feel as if the road ahead has been closed to EU nationals. But it doesn’t have to be. I must have drafted and redrafted this article so many times since the British public voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union (EU) on 23 June 2016. Perhaps it was a case of the Brexit Blues which led me to struggle with this particular piece. Fellow bloggers elsewhere seemed able to produce articles on the impact of Brexit on any number of industries and sectors. Indeed, I had come across numerous articles on the impact of Brexit on EU nationals and EU workers.

And yet for all the articles written, I’m not sure that EU nationals appreciate that things are not as bleak as they first appear; that they have options for securing their status in the UK and that the sooner they begin thinking about next steps, the better. With this in mind, I finally felt upbeat about putting pen to paper.

EU nationals and ‘Treaty Rights’

First of all, it’s worth highlighting which nationals we are talking about.

EU nationals include:

Austria France Malta
Belgium Germany Netherlands
Bulgaria Greece Poland
Croatia Hungary Portugal
Republic of Cyprus Ireland Romania
Czech Republic Italy Slovakia
Denmark Latvia Slovenia
Estonia Lithuania Spain
Finland Luxembourg Sweden

In addition, nationals outside of the EU, but within the European Economic Area (EEA) that may also enjoy free movement are:

Iceland Liechtenstein Norway

The only exception is Switzerland, which is neither a member of the EU or EEA but whose nationals may also enjoy the same rights.

In a nutshell, Treaty Rights’ and ‘free movement’ are the rights that EU nationals and their family members enjoy to travel and relocate to the UK (and other parts of the EU) to take up employment and seek work. Not just that, EU nationals may also study in the UK, establish and grow a business, live off their savings or continue their retirement.

Brexit is unlikely to change this. Such entitlements will continue for the next few years as the UK still remains an active member of the EU.

In fact, the referendum outcome merely informed the government that the majority of British nationals wish to leave the EU (however small that majority may be). The outcome is not legally binding though the acting Prime Minister, Theresa May, is committed to honouring the outcome, citing that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

The nature and timing of any changes to the status of EU nationals presently in the UK will be better understood once the UK formally activates Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (the legal instrument giving notice of the UK’s intention to leave the EU). At that point, the UK will begin to put forward its proposed terms to the EU Member States during that 2-year negotiation process.

With this in mind, it may be easy for EU nationals to wait and see what happens. After all, with everything remaining the same for at least the next 2-years, why panic?

Fair point. The answer is actually two-fold. On one hand, the rights of EU nationals or EU workers in the UK is likely to be protected beyond 2 years by way of transitional or interim immigration arrangements. But on the other, EU nationals will likely have to demonstrate, by way of documentary evidence, that they have been exercising their Treaty Rights in the UK at a certain point so as to fall within the transitional arrangements. The difficulty for EU nationals (and immigration advisers carefully scrutinising this area) is that we do not know what those transitional arrangements will be and what parameters will be set by the Home Office (the UK government department responsible for immigration matters).

Rather than the wait-and-see approach, EU nationals may wish to submit an application to the Home Office at the earliest opportunity.

Permanent Residence status

For instance, EU nationals exercising Treaty Rights in the UK for 5 years automatically acquire permanent residence in the UK. Previously, they never needed to give their status a second thought. Proving their entitlement to take employment in the UK was as simple as presenting a valid EU passport or ID card.

Post-Brexit, it may be sensible for EU nationals to submit an application to the Home Office to certify their permanent residence status for added security. Such applications are onerous and time consuming, which is why many EU nationals avoided submitting applications up to this point.

EU nationals will be required to submit documentary evidence to demonstrate that they have been exercising Treaty Rights for the last 5 years (or less depending on certain circumstances).

In addition, they must show that they have made the UK their home and resided here for a continuous period. Holidays and trips abroad will be taken into account and should not be so excessive as to cause the Home Office to surmise that the EU national did not actually make the UK their permanent home.

Given the number of documents involved, the application process can take 6 months for the Home Office to conclude. Indeed, a recent report highlighted that the Home Office were inundated with applications of this type. I’m sure you can see why that would be the case!

The added benefit of this approach is that it provides EU nationals with the additional identity documents required for an application for British Citizenship, once they have resided in the UK for 6 years and can evidence their permanent residence. Having dual British and European nationality can be especially advantageous for many EU nationals.

For those that have already certified their permanent residence and have lived it the UK for at least 6 years, it may be time to consider making an application for British nationality.

Even if EU nationals chose not to submit an application to certify their residence status, collating the above documents, for themselves and any family members, will be prudent so as to comply with any transitional arrangements that will likely be introduced.

Registration Certificate

EU nationals that have not quite exercised Treaty Rights in the UK for a full 5 years, submitting an application for a registration certificate to certify their status to date, may be a better option.

EU nationals had little need to submit such an application unless they wanted further proof of their entitlements to access certain services in the UK. However, non-EU family or extended family members may be familiar with this process.

Fortunately, this application can be submitted by post and in person and can therefore be quicker to process.

Should the EU national come to be in the UK for 5 years Post-Brexit, it may more straightforward for them to convert that status to permanent residency.

Conclusion

Brexit has led to EU nationals to question their immigration status in the UK for the first time. Despite suffering from a dose of Brexit Blues, the situation does not need to be bleak. Nothing has changed and there is an expectation that post-Brexit, transitional arrangements will be put in place to respect the entitlements of EU nationals that have made the UK their home.

That does not mean however, that EU nationals should do nothing. It may be prudent for EU nationals to assess how to solidify and best protect their status in the UK, by way of making an application to recognise their permanent residence, applying for a residence certificate, collating documents just-in-case, or applying to become a British Citizen. Such applications will require EU nationals to evidence that they have been exercising Treaty Rights in the UK and that they have made the UK their permanent home. Given that EU nationals have to provide details of any absences from the UK for holidays or any other time spent abroad, what EU nationals should avoid doing in the short term is leaving the UK and returning to mainland Europe in order to see what happens. Doing so will likely break the chain of continuous leave in the UK and that’s when options for EU nationals could be compromised.

Should you require any help with your EU status, why not arrange a consultation with me to discuss your options? The email address is [email protected]