There are six forms of British citizenship, some of which are defined in the British Nationality Act 1981. They are:
Of these, only British citizens have an automatic right to live and work in the UK and to apply for a British passport. You can be a British citizen by descent or through adoption by British parents or if you were born in the UK after January 1983 and at least one of your parents is British, or settled here at the time of your birth. Anyone else who wants to become a British citizen must go obtain permission.
You may be eligible to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen if you have been living in the UK for the last five years (three years if you are married/civil partnered to a British citizen); or you or your spouse/civil partner is in crown or designated service outside the UK.
There are seven eligibility requirements. You must be:
The residential qualifying period will be worked out from the day your application is received by the UK Border Agency. To show you meet the residential requirements for naturalisation you need to have:
If you are a European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national or family of such, you will automatically have permanent residence status if you’ve exercised EEA free-movement rights in the UK for a continuous five-year period. You must have held permanent residence status for 12 months before you apply for naturalisation.
If you’re a spouse/civil partner of a British citizen you’ll need to have been resident in the UK for at least three years; and have been here three years before the date of your application; and have not spent more than 270 days outside the UK during the three-year period; and have not spend more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months of the three-year period; and have not been in breach of the immigration rules at any stage during the three-year period.
If you don’t meet the five-year residence requirement, you may be eligible to register as a British citizen on the basis of your own crown or similar service. You will need to show that you’ve been in crown service under the government of a British overseas territory; or you’ve been in service as a member of a body established by law in a British overseas territory, the members of which are appointed by or on behalf of the crown.
Also known as the full capacity requirement, the sound mind requirement means you must have the ability to make you own decisions. You must be able to comprehend the step you are taking in applying for British nationality.
Checks will be made with the police and other government agencies to ensure that you show respect for the rights and freedom of the UK, have observed its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident. Applications will normally be refused if you have an unspent criminal offence.
As well as your criminal record – including any pending criminal proceedings against you – details of any civil action brought against you must be revealed, as must the fact that you’ve been declared bankrupt at some point. Your financial background will be looked into with checks made that you pay income tax and National Insurance contributions.
If you speak English to a passable level, you’ll need to get through a Life in the UK test. If you’re not an English speaker, you’ll need to pass a course in English and citizenship.
From 16 July 2012 applicants outside the UK must send their application to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in the UK.
There are three ways to apply for British citizenship or nationality if you are in the UK:
The UKBA may ask for additional documentation while it processes your application (you will have three weeks to provide this) and/ or may invite you for an interview. While the application is being processed, you must inform UKBA if there are any changes in your:
You also need to tell UKBA if you become involved in a police investigation or anything that may result in criminal charges.
If your application for British citizenship is successful, you will be invited to go to a citizenship ceremony, which you will need to attend within 90 days. At ceremony you have to make an oath of allegiance (or an affirmation) and a pledge. When the ceremony is over, you will be presented with your certificate of British citizenship and a welcome pack.
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