As a result of the forthcoming referendum on a UK Brexit there has been a huge surge in applications for British citizenship. Separately there has been a more stringent consideration of all naturalisation applications.   In this blog post, our Immigration Department Deputy head Jacqueline Moore, looks at the pros and cons of obtaining British citizenship, why now may be a good time to apply and what the key requirements are.

Why apply to become a British Citizen?

For some of our clients, becoming a British citizen is very much seen as a natural step, and many will apply as soon as they have secured 12 months of settled status (permanent status).   For others, securing settled status is enough and applying for citizenship is viewed as unnecessary. 

Previously, the writer's view was that whether or not to apply for citizenship was a question of personal preference.  However, in the current political climate, where leaving Europe is a possibility and the Government seem intent on making life as difficult as possible for migrants, obtaining citizenship may be worth considering.

Here is a list of pro's and con's for the undecided.

Pro's

  • No more separate queuing at UK Passport Control when returning from holiday with British citizen family and friends- this is one of the top reasons why our clients apply;
  • As a citizen of the EU, freedom of movement to work and travel in any other member state;
  • British nationality can be passed on automatically to children born overseas, although N.B that any future children's status would be British citizen by descent;
  • British citizens cannot be deported for committing a crime; foreign nationals who are sentenced to a period of imprisonment of 12 months are the subject of automatic deportation;
  • You cannot lose your permanent status due to absences from the UK if you are a citizen; however if you are out of the UK for more than 2 years at a time you are likely to lose your permanent status, you can also be refused permission to enter after a shorter period of absence if the Immigration Officer considers that you no longer have an intention to live permanently in the UK.

Con's

  • Some countries do not permit dual nationality, so do check with your national authorities that applying to naturalise will not mean losing your current citizenship and also if there are any procedural steps you need to take to retain your current citizenship;
  • The process can be fairly lengthy- average processing times are 6 months and due to the current upsurge in applications even straightforward applications are likely to take this length of time. 
  • If you are currently an EEA citizen, applying for UK citizen may affect the status of a non-EEA family member if they have not yet acquired permanent residence.

The Basic Requirements

Here are the basic requirements that you will have to meet to make a successful application.

  • You are over 18 years old;
  • You are of good character- see further below;
  • You have lawfully resided in the UK for at least 5 years prior to the date of your application (3 years if you are married to a British citizen)- note any residence in breach of UK Immigration Law will break the lawful residence period although the decision-maker does have a discretion to disregard periods of overstaying of less than 28 days;
  • You have held indefinite leave to remain for at least 12 months (this does not apply where married to a British citizen);
  • You were in the UK physically at the beginning of the period of 5 years ending on the date of application (3 years where married to a British citizen) prior to the date the Home Office receive your application;
  • You have spent not more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months before you apply;
  • You have spent not more than 450/270 days outside the UK in the 5 year/3 year period before you apply;
  • You satisfy the Knowledge of Language and Life requirement- given this is a requirement for obtaining settled status, this should not be a difficulty for many applicants

Good Character Requirement

The good character requirement is aimed at ensuring that you have led a law-abiding life during your time in the UK.  Factors that the Home Office will take into account are:-

  • Non-payment of taxes, this can include, Income Tax, VAT and Council Tax;
  • Pending Prosecutions;
  • Deception in previous immigration applications
  • Criminal Convictions
  • Terrorism/War Crimes Charges
  • Illegal Entry, assisting illegal migration and evasion of immigration control

The latter category was quietly made law by the Home Office at the beginning of the year, and now means that anyone who falls within it is prevented from making a successful application for 10 years. 

The Process and Costs

The process is initiated by completion of a form entitled AN and payment of a Home Office fee, which is currently £1005 per applicant.  We provide our clients with detailed legal representations to accompany this form and ensure that all specified documentation is provided.

Once payment has been processed, an applicant is now required to enrol their biometrics at the Post Office before their application is passed to a case-worker in the Home Office's Nationality Department..

A Certificate of Nationality will then be issued at a Citizenship Ceremony after which the successful applicant can apply for a British passport.

The firm has an extremely high success rate in respect of nationality applications and offers a fixed fee service for these types of application, do not hesitate to contact the writer or any member of our Immigration Team to arrange a consultation.