Before you can make a British citizenship application, you must first check that you qualify and meet the strict eligibility criteria.
Your status will also determine the process by which you are to apply for citizenship. If you qualify by naturalisation, the British citizenship application process will be different than if you are married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen or someone holding UK settled status.
Check whether you can apply to be a British citizen
For a British citizenship application to be successful, you must meet the following requirements.
a) Your age
You must be aged 18 or over to make an application to naturalise.
b) Of good character
The following may be grounds for an application to be rejected under this requirement:
Regardless of where the crime took place, being convicted of a crime could result in your application being rejected. The Home Office has strict guidelines on the way that criminal convictions are considered when assessing an application for British citizenship, including the length of any prison sentence and how recently the offence and imprisonment took place.
Terrorism and actions deemed not conducive to the public good
If you have been involved in terrorism, crimes against humanity, war crimes or any other action that is deemed to be a threat to the general public, your application will be rejected.
Unresolved tax or any other financial issues
To be seen as ‘of good character’, your financial affairs should be in order. Although this is not an automatic reason for rejection, it can reduce your chances of being granted British citizenship.
Dishonest dealings with the UK Government
If you are seen to have concealed information and attempted to deceive UK Government officials, this will certainly throw doubt on whether you are ‘of good character’. Should you fail to disclose a criminal record, for instance, this will lead to instant rejection of your application.
Immigration related issues
There are a number of immigration related issues that will throw doubt on your character, such as cheating in the Life in the UK test or assisting in illegal migration.
It is always wise to seek legal advice on the disclosing of information as part of your application.
c) Residency requirement
Anyone who applies for British citizenship must:
- have been in the UK for the last 5 years which ends on the date of the application
- have not been absent from the UK for more than 450 days within the 5 years, or 90 days in the last 12 months which end on the date of the application
- have held Indefinite Leave to Remain for 12 months preceding the date of application if a non-EEA national, or held permanent residency for the 12 months prior to application if an EU citizen
- not have been in breach of the immigration laws while in the UK
d) Continuing residence in the UK
You must intend to continue to reside in the UK once you become a British citizen.
e) Knowledge of English
You are required to have a good knowledge of the English language and must prove this by holding a recognised English language qualification or having studied or researched at degree level in English.
The exceptions to this are:
- you are aged 65 or over
- you are unable to prove your English language skills due to an ongoing physical or mental condition. In this situation, you will be expected to complete an exemption form or provide a letter from your doctor to confirm your physical or mental difficulties.
Certain nationalities are exempt from proving their knowledge of English. These are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- Republic of Ireland
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
f) Life in the UK test
The Life in the UK test ensures that any applicant for British citizenship has a good working knowledge of British life and is proficient in using English as a language.
The test costs £50 and is carried out at a local test centre.
You will be tested on information contained in the Life in the UK official handbook, so you should thoroughly read and study this book before your test.
You can book this test online by visiting https://www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test
g) Children under 18 years old
If you wish to apply for British citizenship on behalf of a child under 18 years of age, they must meet the above eligibility criteria. They are not, however, required to pass the Life in the UK test.
Spousal route: Check if you can apply
If your spouse, either by marriage or civil partnership, is a British citizen or holds UK settled status, you can apply for British citizenship if you meet the following requirements:
- you are 18 years old or over
- you are ‘of sound mind’, that is, you are capable of making decisions for yourself
- you are ‘of good character’, for instance, that you do not have a recent or serious criminal record
- you have met the ‘knowledge of English’ and ‘Life in the UK’ test requirements (for more information on these, see the relevant sections above)
- you have been given permission to stay in the UK indefinitely or to reside in the UK permanently if you are an EEA national, and you have a permanent residence card or other document that states your permanent residence
- you were in the UK exactly 3 years before the date on which your application is received by the Home Office
You must also meet the following requirements unless your spouse or civil partner is employed by the UK government or an organisation closely linked to government, and work abroad:
- you have lived in the UK for at least 3 years leading up to the date your application is received by the Home Office
- you spent no more than 270 days outside the UK within those 3 years
- you spent no more than 90 days outside the UK within the last 12 months
- you have not broken any immigrations law during your time in the UK
How to make a British citizenship application
There are 3 ways that you can apply to be a British citizen. These are:
- To make an individual application.
- To use the Nationality Checking Service (NCS)
- To use an agent or representative
You can download the application forms by visiting https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/application-to-naturalise-as-a-british-citizen-form-an
Your completed form will be forwarded with supporting documents and your application fee, to the UK Visa and Immigration.
It may be possible to use the Nationality Document Return Service to submit your British citizenship application and apply for your British passport at the same time.
The process for making a British citizenship application can be complex, costly and time-consuming, so seeking professional help is always wise, ensuring that your application is completed and submitted correctly the first time round to avoid rejection and loss of your application fee.
Fees for British citizenship applications
The fees vary depending on your individual application and circumstances. Full details of the fees and how they can be paid can be found by visiting
As part of your application, you must provide your biometric information, such as your fingerprints and a photograph. The fee for this is £19.20.
Your biometric information will be retained by the Home Office until you have attended your citizenship ceremony.
What happens after you apply?
You will be sent a letter confirming that your application has been received but be aware that it may take up to 4 weeks for you to receive this confirmation.
The decision about your British citizenship application will generally take up to 6 months but some applications may take longer to process.
In the meantime, you will be informed if you need to provide more information for your application.
If your situation changes while you are waiting for your application to be processed, for instance, if you move to a new house, you should contact UK Visas and Immigration immediately.
You may be asked to attend an interview. You will not be allowed to bring an interpreter with you to this interview.
If your British citizenship application is successful, and you are over 18 years old, you will be invited to book a place for a citizenship ceremony.
Citizenship ceremonies are arranged by local councils and are generally organised for a group, although you can ask for a private ceremony.
You may take 2 guests, and you must have your invitation with you when you attend.
The ceremony fee is £80.
Should your ceremony be in the UK, it will generally be held close to where you live.
Should you wish to request a citizenship ceremony abroad because you are away from the UK, you may ask that the ceremony be held at your local embassy or consulate.
If you will be abroad for only a few months, your request may be denied, and you may be asked to delay the ceremony until your return to the UK.
During the citizenship ceremony, you will be asked to make an oath of allegiance and a pledge, that represents your agreement to respect the laws, rights and freedoms of the UK.
At the end of the ceremony, you will receive your certificate of British citizenship and a welcome pack.
If you apply to be a British Overseas Territories citizen, a British overseas citizen, or a British subject, then you will not be required to attend a citizenship ceremony. However, you will be required to make an oath of allegiance.
What happens after you have attended your citizenship ceremony?
Once you have your certificate of British citizenship, you should send your biometric residence permit to the Home Office within 5 working days or either attending the citizenship ceremony or receiving your certificate of British citizenship. You will be fined up to £1,000 if you do not return your permit within 5 working days.
Before posting the biometric residence permit, you should cut it into 4 pieces. Return it in a windowless envelope with a letter stating that you are returning your permit because you are now a British citizen. The letter should state your name, date of birth and the document number on the front of the card.
Post it back to:
Naturalisation BRP Returns, PO Box 195, Bristol, BS20 1BT
How legal advice can help
The process of applying for British citizenship can be complex and confusing, especially where there are language barriers, or you are living outside the UK.
A solicitor specialising in immigration laws will have the knowledge and experience to help you assess your eligibility for British citizenship and gather the required documentation, communicate with the authorities on your behalf and guide your through the entire application process.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.