Naturalization is the means of acquiring British citizenship on the basis of length of residence and establishment in the UK. The required length of residence depends on whether or not the applicant is married to a British citizen.

British citizenship applicants not married to a British citizen can naturalize as a British citizen after five years’ legal residence in the UK but someone married to a British citizen can achieve naturalization after completing only three years’ legal residence.

The following criteria need to be met in order to naturalize as a British citizenship:

• Minimum age of 18
• Be of sound mind (‘full capacity’)
• Relevant residence requirements
• Intention to live in the UK
• Sufficient knowledge of English Language
• Sufficient knowledge of Life in the UK (Life on the UK Test pass)
• ‘Good character’

To apply for British citizenship, you must be 18 years or over on the date of application. Any person who is under 18 years of age cannot apply for naturalization but can apply for registration as a British citizen.

Before you can become a British citizen, you must be ‘not of unsound mind’. This means that an applicant should understand, ‘however dimly, the purpose of their application.’ This requirement can be waived if it is considered it is in the best interests of the applicant.

British citizenship rules state that applicants applying for naturalization after five years’ lawful residence in the UK must have been ‘settled’ (i.e. have Indefinite Leave to Remain) for a year before the date of application. Those married to a British citizen need only be settled on the date of application.

The residence requirements are quite flexible but the general rule is that those applying on the basis of five years’ legal residence must not been outside the UK for more than 450 days on total in the five-year period and have no more than 90 days’ absence in the 12 months before the application. Those applying on the basis of marriage to a British citizen must have no more than 270 days outside the UK over the three-year residence period with no more than 90 days in the 12 months before application. Longer absences can be overlooked, depending on the circumstances.

The Home Office must be satisfied the UK citizenship applicant intends to live in the UK. In satisfying itself this requirement is met, the Home Office will look at the applicant’s ties with the UK. Once the applicant is naturalised they are free to live wherever they please and citizenship cannot be revoked once granted on the basis the applicant no longer lives in the UK.

Applicants must demonstrate a level B1 CEFR (Common European Framework Reference) by either having an approved English language test pass certificate (in respect of speaking and listening only), having a degree taught in English recognised as equivalent to at least a UK Bachelors degree or by being a national of a majority English-speaking country.

This is shown by either passing a Knowledge of Life in the UK test (which is taken at a designated test centre) or by completing an ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages) course which has a citizenship syllabus.

The Home Office used to follow the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in deciding ‘good character’ but now has its own guidance in deciding how criminal convictions affect good character. Very minor, one-off offences can be overlooked but otherwise, any form of criminal conviction and sentence is likely to affect the determination of good character for the purposes of a naturalization application so legal advice should be sought where the applicant has had a criminal conviction. Note convictions overseas will be treated as if they had taken place in the UK.

Applicants must also have two referees who have been known to the applicant for a minimum of three years. One of these referees must be a person of professional standing and the other must be a British citizen over 25 years of age. There are some general restrictions on who can act as a referee.

Our British citizenship solicitors can assist with all stages of the process and fully prepare the application on behalf of the client. We will advise on the merits at the outset and make clear the legal and evidential requirements so that the application is set up on the best footing from the very start. We of course advise on all the supporting documents and evidence required and take the client through the immigration process from start to finish.

Our expert UK citizenship lawyers can assist with templates for documents specified by the Rules and deal with third parties where necessary and we aim to make the whole process as smooth as possible. If there are any issues in your immigration matter you will know before applying and we can help best overcome them. In short, we prevent mistakes and ensure any application meets the requirements of the Immigration Rules. We are here to help you safely navigate your way through the UK immigration process.