Many entering the UK come with the view to acquiring British citizenship, as citizenship allows persons to live and work freely in the UK without being subject to immigration control. You may also make extended trips outside the UK without the stress of losing your right to British citizenship.
British citizenship can be acquired in various ways. The most common method is through ‘naturalisation’.
There are requirements which need to be met to enable you to apply for British citizenship, and we have the expertise to enable us to assess your position to see if you are eligible to make an application. Quite often we come across clients who query as to whether they can apply as they have been imposed with penalties for driving offences, or have made extended trips outside the UK.
To apply for British citizenship by naturalisation, you must:
- be 18 or over;
- be of good character e.g. you do not have a serious or recent criminal record and you haven’t tried to deceive the Home Office or been involved in immigration offences in the last 10 years;
- intend to continue to live in the UK;
- have met the knowledge of English and Life in the UK requirements; and
- meet the residency requirement.
There are further requirements which must be met. You must usually have:
- lived in the UK for at least the 5 years before the date of your application;
- spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years;
- spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months;
- been granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK (or permanent residence if you’re an EEA national) – meaning that you are free from immigration time restrictions;
- had indefinite leave to remain in the UK for the last 12 months (or permanent residence if you’re an EEA national); and
- not broken any immigration laws while in the UK.
There are different requirements if your spouse or civil partner is a British citizen.
You cannot include any time spent in the UK when you are exempt from immigration control (e.g. as a diplomat or member of visiting armed forces) as part of the 5 years.
You may be able to apply to become a British citizen by ‘registration’ in certain circumstances.
Children under 18
Children under 18 can apply for registration if they meet the eligibility criteria. Children are not required to pass the Life in the UK Test.
An important aspect which many do not realise is that there is scope for the Home Office to exercise discretion in cases where applicants have absences exceeding the number of days as referred to in the rules. At Edwin Coe we are also receiving more applications from persons who feel that they do not qualify for British citizenship as they do not meet the good character requirement.
We had a client approach us as he was of the opinion that he did not qualify for British citizenship. The applicant had absences totalling 640 days in the 5 year period and also had an offence and a penalty as a result of which he believed that he would not qualify for British citizenship. We had filed a successful application as we were able to demonstrate that the absences, which were as a result of factors which meant that he could not return to the UK earlier, that he had lived in the UK for 8.5 years and that the offence and the penalty, did not preclude him from making the application.
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