Citizenship in the United Kingdom - How to Apply for British Citizenship

Are you curious about how to become a British citizen? You aren’t alone - more than 3 million non-British citizens live in the UK, and many of those people want to become full-fledged British citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with it. While the process can seem daunting at first, it’s actually not too difficult - here’s what you need to know about becoming a British citizen, from application requirements to how to get your passport.

Citizenship in the United Kingdom - How to Apply for British Citizenship

If you’re interested in becoming a British citizen, there are certain steps you’ll need to take and criteria you’ll need to meet before you can officially call yourself one of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Subjects. The UK has plenty to offer in terms of employment, education, and culture. But there are many benefits to becoming a British citizen, including being able to vote in elections and referendums, as well as being able to apply for British passports and other documents that may help you travel around the world more easily.

The United Kingdom is a diverse and vibrant nation, known around the world for its cultural contributions and willingness to change with the times. As such, becoming a British citizen has become much easier in recent years, so much so that as of 2017, the number of naturalized citizens has increased every year since 2012. If you’re considering becoming British and would like to know what you need to do to fulfill your dream, you’ve come to the right place! This article summarizes everything you need to know about becoming a British citizen, so you can start the process without delay.

Understanding British Citizenship

British citizenship is a legal status that entails citizens with specific rights, duties, protections, and benefits in the United Kingdom. If you are a British citizen, you are able to live, work and study in the UK indefinitely. You have access to public funds and can apply for a passport. Additionally, you can spend an unlimited amount of time outside of the country without being at risk of compromising your status. 

If you’re a long-term foreign resident in the UK, there’s a good chance that British citizenship has crossed your mind. Becoming a British citizen takes a bit of time and money, as it does in most countries, but it comes with benefits such as full political rights and the chance to get a British passport.

However, it has become tougher to become a British citizen in recent years. Applicants now have to pass a Life in the UK test, which became more stringent in 2014. Citizenship fees have also risen sharply over the last decade or so. According to recent statistics, 39% of ex-pats living in the UK are British citizens. This figure rises to over 75% among foreign-born residents in the UK for over 10 years. There were 130,568 grants of UK citizenship in 2020, down from a peak of 208,095 in 2013.

To be eligible, you must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), EEA Permanent Residence, or EU Settled Status for a minimum of three years. You must have always obeyed the law- this includes immigration-related offenses.

How to Become a British Citizen

The main routes to UK citizenship are as follows:

  • Birth in the United Kingdom, if at least one parent is a British citizen or long-term resident
  • Descent, if you were born abroad to a British citizen
  • Naturalization, if you are a long-term UK resident. This is the route we will be focusing on.
  • Registration, if you are a national of a certain foreign country
  • Then, adoption

British Citizenship by Naturalization

Naturalization (or naturalisation) is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen of a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country. The rules of naturalization vary from country to country but typically include a promise to obey and uphold that country's laws and taking and subscribing to an oath of allegiance, and may specify other requirements such as a minimum legal residency and adequate knowledge of the national dominant language or culture.

In the United Kingdom, you can apply for citizenship by naturalization after five years of residence in the UK, as long as this includes at least 12 months of either indefinite leave or EU-settled status. However, you will also need to meet the other additional requirements. The whole process of naturalization can be complicated and often challenging, but if you know the basic requirements and how the application process goes it will be much easier for you to apply.

Moreover, naturalization is one of the most common ways for individuals who were not born in the United Kingdom to become British citizens. Just like we said above, naturalization is not the only way to obtain British citizenship. But, the other paths we mentioned along with it are usually reserved for individuals who have British ties (either they were born in the UK or they had a parent with British citizenship).

Additional requirements

You will also need to meet the following requirements to be eligible to become a British citizen by naturalization:

  • Proof of sufficient knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic
  • Pass the Life in the UK test
  • Be over 18 years old
  • Be of good character. Have no serious criminal convictions
  • Spent no more than 450 days outside the UK in the last five years and no more than 90 days abroad in the last year
  • Have UK permanent residence (for EEA nationals) or been granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK (you must have had this for at least 1 year)

How to Apply for British Citizenship Through Naturalization

Here are steps to follow to complete the naturalization process:

Prepare your application for British citizenship:

There are 3 ways to prepare your application for naturalization:

Complete biometrics:

Furthermore, as a part of the application process, you're required to provide biometric information at a cost of £19.20.

Submit your application:

Once your application form for naturalization is complete, you will need to send it along with the fee and supporting documents to the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration. You will need to pay £1,330 (or £1,012 for children aged under 18) plus £80 citizenship ceremony fees (if an adult) and biometric data costs (just under £20).

Wait for a decision

This can take up to 6 months or longer for a decision to be made on your application. You will be contacted by UK Visas and Immigration once a decision is made.

Attend a Citizenship Ceremony and officially become a British citizen

If your application is approved, you will be invited to attend a Citizenship Ceremony. During the ceremony, you will take an Oath of Allegiance to the United Kingdom, pledging to respect the rights, freedoms, and laws. Then, you will receive your Certificate of British Citizenship.

Additional Information

Moreover, you can apply for UK citizenship through fast-track naturalization if you are married to a British citizen and have been living in the UK for at least three years. Furthermore, you don’t need to fulfill the 12-month indefinite leave or settlement period. You will need to meet the same additional criteria as for standard naturalization applications, for example passing the Life in the UK test.

Meanwhile, once you become a British citizen, you will be able to apply for a British passport. You can either apply for a UK passport online or by picking up a form at your local post office. 

In conclusion, the United Kingdom allows dual citizenship. This means that you can gain dual nationality and take UK citizenship without having to give up the citizenship of your home country. That's all we have on how to become a British citizen. You can follow the link below for more detailed information on the UK citizenship program.