How to apply for British citizenship

Foreign nationals who wish to settle in the UK may need to obtain British citizenship. It's important to understand the eligibility requirements and procedure in order to ensure a smooth application process.

What are the eligibility requirements for British citizenship?

The most common method of obtaining British citizenship is through naturalisation. In order to be eligible, the person applying for naturalisation must:

  • be aged at least 18
  • be of 'good character' (eg no serious or recent criminal record or immigration offences)
  • continue to live in the UK
  • pass tests which demonstrate their knowledge of English language and life in the UK (Life in the UK test)

Further requirements relate to residence. The applicant should have:

  • lived in the UK for at least 5 years - with no more than 450 days spent abroad within this time
  • not spent more than 90 days abroad within the last 12 months
  • had permanent residence status for at least the last 12 months (EEA citizens)
  • had settlement/indefinite leave to remain in the UK for at least the past 12 months (non-EEA citizens)

For further information on eligibility requirements see guidance from the Home Office.

Spouses of British citizens

The eligibility requirements for spouses of British citizens are broadly the same as for those who are not. The main difference is that it is only necessary to have lived in the UK for at least 3 years (instead of 5 years). For more information see the Gov.uk website.

How do you apply to become a British citizen?

An application for naturalisation can be done in one of three ways:

  • by submitting an individual application - using Form AN
  • via the Nationality Checking Service (NCS) - a service provided by local councils
  • using an agent or representative - private companies or individuals registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) can help with the application process. You can also Ask a lawyer for advice.

In most cases, fees will need to be paid and biometric information must be provided.

What happens after submitting an application for British citizenship?

A letter will be sent out confirming the application - this can take up to four weeks. A decision will then usually be made within six months.

The Home Office may request further information to support the application or ask for an interview.

What is a citizenship ceremony?

If an application is successful, the applicant will then need to attend a citizenship ceremony. This involves an oath of allegiance or affirmation and a pledge to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK.

There is a ceremony fee of £80.

How can citizenship be obtained for a child?

Parents of children under 18 can apply for British citizenship on behalf of their child using Form MN1. This generally involves registration rather than naturalisation and may be required if the child was born or adopted abroad. Children do not need to pass the Life in the UK test.

Children who were born in the UK after 1 January 1983 - and have at least one parent who was a British citizen or settled in the UK at the time of their birth - are automatically considered to be British citizens. If the relevant parent became a British citizen or settled in the UK after the birth, registration is required using Form MN1.