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Naturalisation as a British citizen, – what are the available routes?

Adults can become British citizens even where they have not been born in the UK. Many migrants under Tier 1 and Tier 2 will obtain indefinite leave to remain 5 years after entering the UK by way of application. If they are not married to a British citizen then these applicants will need to wait a year after obtaining indefinite leave to remain, until they can apply for British citizenship. If the applicant were married to British citizen they could apply as soon as they had obtained indefinite leave to remain.

Requirements in order to apply for British Citizenship

The requirements in order to apply for naturalisation as a British National are that the applicant been resident in the UK for a minimum amount of years, in the case of a person not married to British national the minimum amount of years required to live in the UK is 5 years and at least one of those years must be with indefinite leave to remain or settled status. In reality, due to the residence requirements on most immigration routes to apply for indefinite leave to remain, most applicants wait 6 years from entry in order to be entitled to apply for British citizenship.

If the applicant was married to a British Citizen they would only legally have to have been resident in the UK for three years and have indefinite leave to remain. Under the spouse Visa routes in place since July 2012 it’s highly unlikely that an applicant would be able to obtain British citizenship in three years. The reason for this is the grant of spouse visa is initially for 33 months which would be extended in-country for a further 30 months would therefore take 5 years to obtain indefinite leave to remain under the spouse route, hence the unlikely scenario that a spouse could obtain British citizenship after 3 years.

Gaps in residence – a guide for advisors

In order to apply for naturalisation after the requisite amount of time, a number of requirements must be met. Firstly, under the 5 year route the applicant must not been absent from the UK for more than 450 days in the past 5 years. The applicant must also not have been absent from the UK for 90 days in the last 12 months. There is considerable flexibility applied by the decision-maker in respect of absences in this area. You may need to contact an immigration lawyer where absences are above the figures highlighted above to receive advice on how likely discretion is to be applied by the decision-maker.

Immigration Advisors must also assess character and criminal convictions

Naturalisation rules also requires the applicant to be of good character. Good character is a wide-ranging term and the naturalisation department have considerable flexibility when applying it. Serious criminality involving prison sentences is very likely to result in refusal naturalisation as a British citizen, less serious offending such as out-of-court disposals of criminal matters may result in refusal of naturalisation for a number of years after the offence occurred. If you have even minor criminality, you should contact an immigration lawyer to discuss whether you application is likely to be granted. Good character is not limited to criminality and the Home Office could conclude an applicant is not of good character, even when they have no criminal record. This famously occurred in the case of Mohamed Al-Fayed where the courts upheld the Secretary of State for the Home Department’s ability to apply discretion as to good character.

In addition to being resident in the UK and being of good character, an applicant should speak English to the required level (B1) and have knowledge of life in the UK which requires taking the ‘life in the UK’ test.

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