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Obtaining British Nationality: The Naturalisation Process

For many foreign nationals in the UK, naturalisation is regarded as the last hurdle in what can be a very lengthy and complex immigration process.

Naturalisation is a process applicable to foreign national adults living in the UK who have settled status to remain. Under section 6 of the British Nationality Act 1981, the Home Office has a discretion to grant a certificate of naturalisation to any person aged 18 or over who is not already a British citizen. Discretion is key; the award of a naturalisation certificate is not a fundamental right and it is incumbent upon the applicant to show how he or she meets the requirements necessary to obtain a grant of naturalisation.

The Naturalisation requirements

Broadly speaking, the general requirements which all applicants must ensure they meet are listed as follows:

  • The applicant must be aged 18 years or over on date of the application;
  • The applicant must be of sound mind;
  • The applicant must be of good character;
  • The applicant must be show an intention to continue living in the UK;
  • The applicant must have met the English language and life in the UK requirements;
  • The applicant must be free of immigration time restrictions.

On top of these basic requirements, certain residence rules must also be met. These alter depending on whether or not the applicant is married to, or in a civil partnership with, a British citizen. If the applicant is married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, the applicant need only show they have been living legally in the UK for a continuous period of three years before the date of making the application.

There is no requirement upon the applicant to show that settled status has been retained for a period of one year prior to making the application.

Furthermore, the applicant must ensure they were physically present in the UK on the date three years before the application is made. Note that absence restrictions also apply. An applicant must not have been absent for more than a total of 270 days in the three year period, or 90 days in the year before making the application.

For an applicant who is not married to a British citizen, it is necessary for the applicant to show that he or she has held settled status for at least one year (12 months) before the application is made. Furthermore, the applicant must also show that he or she has been living in the UK legally for five years continuously before the date of the application and that he or she was physically present in the UK on the date five years ago before making the application.

The applicant must also ensure that they not been absent for more than 450 days in the total five year period and not more than 90 days in the year immediately before making the application.

If an application is successful the Home Office will grant a naturalisation certificate and the successful applicant will be invited to a special ceremony.

Following naturalisation the applicant will have the right to apply for a British passport and call themselves a British citizen. This provides the ability, among other things, to vote at general elections, travel without restriction and marry in the UK.

To find out how we can assist you with making a successful application for naturalisation please contact us on 01273 696962 to arrange a consultation meeting with one of our legal experts.

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