By Gene Alcantara, Immigration Adviser
It used to be that once you obtain Settlement, Indefinite Leave to Remain status in the United Kingdom, you would have to wait for one year or 12 months before you can apply for British citizenship. The rule is actually the same now if say you obtained ILR as a Tier 2 worker or as a domestic worker, or even through Long Residence.
If you are however married to a British citizen, the rule has changed. Since 2019, anyone who is married to one could apply for citizenship immediately after obtaining Settlement, ILR. You no longer have to wait 12 months, but could apply for naturalisation as soon as you get the letter and biometric residence permit (BRP) that proves you have ILR. This applies to non-Europeans and to Europeans since both now get Indefinite Leave to Remain (in the case of Europeans and their family members this is also called Settled status).
The above is great news for those with British spouses or civil partners. However please make sure you can meet the stringent other requirements to make sure you will meet with success and obtain your British citizenship without a hitch. If you do not actually meet the requirements when you apply, you could lose your application fee which at present is £1,330 plus biometrics fee of £19.20.
So what are the requirements to be able to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen? –
1. You need to be 18 years old or over
2. You are married to or a civil partner of a British citizen
3. You have lived in the UK for 3 years minimum before you apply
4. You need to have one of the following –
a. Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK
b. Indefinite leave to enter (ILE) the UK
c. Settled status in the UK (similar to Indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme)
You then need to prove the following –
1. That you have indeed been in the UK a full 3 years before the day your application is received by the Home Office
a. You should not have spent over 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
b. You should not have spent over 270 days outside the UK in the last 36 months
c. You may get exemption if your spouse or civil partner works abroad for the UK government or a related organisation.
2. That you have the required knowledge of the English language (English test passed at level B1, B2, C1 or C2, or a degree taught or researched in English)
a. Note that some countries are exempted such as USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Ireland and other English speaking countries in the Caribbean)
3. That you have passed the Life in the UK Test
a. Note that anyone over 65 years of age is exempted from both the English and the Life in the UK Test requirements
b. If you have a mental or physical disability that prevents you from taking the English or Life in the UK Test, this could also exempt you provided you have evidence from your doctor or hospital
c. You do not need to take this if you have previously submitted one when you applied for Settlement, ILR
4. That you are of good moral character (no criminality; no involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or terrorism; not failed to pay taxes or not paying debt; not notorious; not dishonest or deceptive; not evaded immigration control; not working in breach of conditions; never been deprived of citizenship etc)
A few reminders –
1. You need to have lived in the UK for 3 full years before you apply.
2. You cannot include any time in the UK when you were not covered by the immigration rules such as being a diplomat, member of a diplomat’s staff or household, or as a member of visiting armed forces.
3. You cannot include any period when you have broken UK immigration laws eg you lived illegally as an overstayer or without a visa. The rule for those who have broken immigration law is to wait for 10 years legal residence, apply for ILR, then apply for naturalisation.
Apply online, provide two referees who have known you for at least 3 years, pay £1,330, upload copies/scans of your documents, and book a biometrics appointment. The decision is made within 3-6 months when you get a letter asking you to book your oath taking ceremony. At the ceremony you are handed your British citizenship certificate. You can then cut your BRP into 4 pieces and return it to the Home Office in a closed envelope within 5 working days (or risk a £1,000 fine).
You can then apply straightaway for your British passport. Please note that once you become British, you need to apply for a British passport which you need to use to enter the UK. Home Office guidance states that you cannot enter the UK using your BRP or certificate of British citizenship.
If you need advice or assistance with your application for naturalisation, please do not hesitate to contact us or any reliable, OISC registered immigration adviser or registered solicitor in the UK.