Naturalisation requirements for British Citizenship

Naturalization Requirements for British CitizenThis relates to UK Naturalisation Requirements for British Citizenship by Discretion. And explains the naturalisation requirements under Section 6(1) and 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981. And also naturalisation residency requirements, absences, refusal reasons in the light of statistics. Apparently, during the period 1,625,058 applicants granted British Citizenship and the average refusal rate was 5.10%. Perhaps, the highest number of grants (843,579) made under naturalisation based on residence. Most noteworthy: the single most significant reason for British Citizenship Application Refusal is “not of good character”. Accordingly, the post covers the following topics:

  1. UK naturalisation requirements for British Citizenship
  2. The UK naturalisation residency requirement for British Citizenship
  3. Considerations for UK naturalisation residency requirements
  4. British Citizenship by naturalisation statistics 2008-17
  5. Refusal reasons for British Citizenship applications
  6. British citizenship grants and previous nationality of applicants

1) UK Naturalisation Requirements for British Citizenship

The requirements that an applicant must meet somewhat vary based on whether an applicant is married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen or not.

British Nationality Act 1981

In case an applicant is married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen then the applicant is required to meet the stipulations of Section 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981.

If the applicant is not married or in a civil partnership with a British Citizens then he/she is required to meet the stipulations of Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981.

An applicant is not married to a British Citizen

A certificate of naturalisation u/s 6 (1) of the British Nationality Act is likely to be granted to an applicant if, the applicant is able to fulfil the following requirements:

  • is at least eighteen (18) years of age;
  • is of full capacity and good character;
  • either meets the residence requirements or is serving outside the United Kingdom in Crown Service under the government of the UK;
  • has sufficient knowledge of:
    • English, Scottish Gaelic or Welsh language, and can provide the required evidence to support this;
    • life in the UK and provides the required evidence to support this;
  • if successful, the applicant intends to have his/her main home in the UK or enter into or continue in any of the following:
    • service under an international organisation of which the UK or the UK government is a member;
    • Crown service under the government of the UK;
    • service in the employment of a company or association established in the UK.

An applicant is married to a British Citizen

If an applicant is either married to or civil partner of a British Citizen then he/she is likely to be  granted a certificate of naturalisation u/s 6 (2) of the British Nationality Act if the applicant fulfils the following requirements:

  • is at least eighteen (18) years of age;
  • is of full capacity and good character;
  • is either married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen;
  • meets the residence requirements;
  • has sufficient knowledge of:
    • English, Scottish Gaelic or Welsh language and the applicant can provide the required evidence to support this;
    • life in the UK and can provide the required evidence to support this.

Please note: in some cases, HM’s Home Office might deem to exempt an applicant from the language and knowledge of life in the UK requirements.

UK naturalisation requirements for children under 18

Children under the age of 18 cannot be naturalised. Where a child is included on an application, it is considered whether the child is already a British citizen or he/she can be registered as a British citizen either because he/she has an entitlement or at the discretion of the Home Secretary.

Where a child included on an application has an automatic claim to British citizenship then the Home Office informs this in writing to the applicant.

For further guidance on how to an application from children is considered please refer Registration as a British citizen: Children Guidance.

2) Naturalisation residency requirement for British Citizenship

In order to qualify for naturalisation as a British Citizen, an individual is required to demonstrate close links with and a commitment to the United Kingdom. As part of this, the expectation is that an applicant should meet the residency requirements.

Whilst there is some discretion to waive some of these requirements, this cannot be done to the extent that the requirements are ignored.

Residency Requirement for Naturalisation UK u/s 6(1)

The residency requirements for applicants, applying u/s 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981, are that applicant was:

  • in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the period of five (5) years ending with the date of the application;
  • not absent from the United Kingdom for more than either:
    • 450 days in that five (5) year period; and
    • 90 days in the period of twelve (12) months ending with the date of application
  • on the date of applicationnot subject under the immigration laws to any restriction on the period of stay in the UK;
  • at any other time in the twelve (12) month period ending with the date of application, not subject under the immigration laws to any restriction on his/her period of stay in the UK;
  • not, at any time in the period of five (5) years ending with the date of application, in the United Kingdom in breach of the immigration laws.

There is discretion to waive the residency requirement for naturalisation UK except that the applicant must:

  • have been in the UK at the beginning of the 5 year period, unless their absence was due to serving in HM forces;
  • be free from time restrictions under immigration law at the time of their application.

Residency Requirement for Naturalisation UK u/s 6(2)

The residency requirements for applicants, applying u/s 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981, are that application was:

  • in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the period of three (3) years ending with the date of application;
  • not absent from the United Kingdom for more than either:
    • 270 days in that three (3) year period;
    • 90 days in the period of twelve (12) months ending with the date of application;
  • on the date of the applicationnot subject under the immigration laws to any restriction on their period of stay in the UK;
  • not, at any time in the period of three (3) years ending with the date of application in breach of immigration laws.

There is discretion to waive the residence for applications u/s 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 with the exception of the requirement that the applicant is not subject under immigration law to conditions on the period of stay in the United Kingdom  on the date an applicant makes his/her application

3) Considerations for UK naturalisation residency requirements

In assessing whether an individual meets the residency requirements, the following aspects are usually considered:

  • Presence in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the qualifying period;
  • Absences during the qualifying period and in the final year and also technical absences;
  • Spouses/Civil partners of British citizens in Crown/designated services;
  • Immigration Law:
    • free from the condition on the period of time in the United Kingdom;
    • any breach(es) of immigration law during the qualifying period.

Presence in the UK at the Start of the Qualifying Period

There are certain people who do not need to have been in the United Kingdom at the commencement of the five (5) year qualifying period such as:

  • who are/have been a member of the UK Armed Forces;
  • who are applying only on the grounds of Crown Service;
  • spouses/civil partner of a British citizen in Crown/Designated Service Overseas;
  • who are technically absent from the UK.

For all other applicants, it is mandatory to be physically present in the United Kingdom on the first day of the qualifying period and there is no discretion to overlook this mandatory requirement.

An applicant is legally in the UK at the start of the period

To identify the start of the qualifying period the day after the application date minus the length of the qualifying period is used. For example, if an application u/s 6(1) is made on 1 Feb 2018, then an applicant needs to be legally present in the UK on 2 Feb 2013.

Allowing Applicants to Re-declare

Where the applicant fails to meet the requirement to be in the UK at the start of the qualifying period by two (2) months or less, either side of the application date, it is the discretion of the assessing officer to allow the applicant to re-declare his/her application. Where discretion is exercised, the applicant is required to re-declare his/her application, by using Doc Gen letter 4746.

Where an applicant fails to meet the requirement by more than two (2) months, the application is refused without a refund. The only exception to this could be the instance where an applicant meets all other statutory requirement but misses the requirement by a month or less, and is not able to meet the requirement by re-declaring. In such cases a refundless the non-returnable part is usually appropriated.

Where an application is re-declared, the original application date is superseded by the date on which the re-declaration is received by HM’s Home Office. The Home Office usually ensures that an applicant is aware that he/she is required to ascertain that the new application date does not fall on a date that he/she would still not able to meet the qualifying period. Moreover, if there has been a fee change between the original application date and the date on which re-declaration is submitted then an applicant is liable to pay the fee in force at the time of the re-declaration.

Absences available for British Citizenship

The available evidence is evaluated to ascertain whether an applicant meets the residency requirements, such as:

  • travel documents or original passports which have been stamped to show arrival in the United Kingdom and entry/departure from other countries. This is checked against the list of absences provided on the application form;
  • records of the Home Office;
  • if an applicant does not have passports to cover the qualifying period, then other evidence such as employers’ letters or tax and National Insurance letters are checked. In such cases, it is generally assessed whether there is sufficient evidence to show that an applicant has been resident in the United Kingdom during the qualifying period, and any benefit of any doubt is usually given to the applicant where claimed absences are within the limits, which are normally allowed, and there are no obvious grounds to doubt the accuracy of the claim.

Doctor’s Letter is Not Acceptable as Proof of Residence

Normally doctors’ letters are not accepted on their own as proof of residence. However, if nothing else is available and the doctors can confirm that they have seen the applicant on a regular basis during the period concerned these may be accepted by the Home Office.

Gaps in Evidence of Continuous Residence

If there are gaps in an applicant’s evidence of residence and it is evident from the information submitted/available that an applicant could not have travelled, then it is likely to be acceptable by the Home Office. For instance, if the applicant is a refugee who has no means of travel or where immigration record confirms continuous residence.

Only Whole Days are Counted for Absences

Only whole days’ absences are counted for residency requirement from the United Kingdom. The dates of departure and arrival are not counted as absences. For instance,  an individual who exit/left the United Kingdom on 12 February and returned on 13 February is not counted as absent from the United Kingdom.

Only Physical Presence is Required

An applicant only needs to have been physically present in the UK for the purpose of the act. An applicant does not need to be ordinarily resident or domiciled in the UK.

Absences during the qualifying period

Where an applicant has spent more than 450 days for Section 6(1) Applications, or 270 days for Section 6(2)applications, outside of the United Kingdom during the qualifying period discretion is usually exercised if an applicant has met other requirements.

Applicant Exceeding Permitted Absence by 30 Days or Less

Where the applicant exceeds the permitted absence by 30 days or less discretion is likely to be exercised unless there are other grounds on which the application falls to be refused.

480-900 and 300-540 absences during the qualifying period

Where the applicant has absences of between 480-900, or 300-540 for applications u/s 6(1) and 6(2), respectively, and otherwise meets the requirements, discretion is only  exercised where the applicant has established his/her home, employment, family and finances in the United Kingdom, and one or more of the following applies:

  •  at least 1 and 2 years residence for applications u/s 6(2) and 6(1), respectively, without substantial absences immediately prior to the beginning of the qualifying period. If the period of absence is greater than 730 days for an application u/s 6(1) or 450 days, for an application u/s 6(2)the period of residence must be at least 3 or 2 years, respectively;
  • the excess absences are the result of:
    • postings abroad in Crown service under the United Kingdom government or in service designated u/s 2(3) of the British Nationality act 1981;
    • accompanying a British citizen spouse or civil partner on an appointment overseas;
  • the excess absences were an unavoidable consequence of the nature of the applicant’s career, such as a merchant seaman or employment with a multinational company based in the UK with frequent travel abroad;
  • exceptionally compelling reasons for an occupational or compassionate nature to justify naturalisation now, such as a firm job offer where British citizenship is a statutory or mandatory requirement.

Where an applicant’s absences exceed those covered above it is highly unlikely that discretion would be exercised and an application is usually refused with an advise to re-apply when the applicant will be able to bring himself/herself with the statutory requirements unless there are specific circumstances that warrant exceptional consideration at a senior level.

Absences in the final year: naturalisation residency requirements

Discretion is only exercised for excessive absences during the final year of the qualifying period u/s 6(1) if the future intentions requirement is met by the applicant.

Where an applicant is applying u/s 6(2) or has met the future intentions requirement then discretion may be exercised:

  • If total absences are 100 days or less then discretion is likely to be exercised;
  • If total absences are between 100 and 180 days, where the residence requirement across the qualifying period is met – discretion is only likely to be exercised where the applicant demonstrates strong links through the presence of family, employment and their home in the United Kingdom;
  • If total absences are more than 100 days but not more than 180 days and where the residence requirements over the full qualifying period are not met– the use of discretion may only be considered if both the following apply:
    • an applicant has demonstrated that he/she has made the UK this/her home by establishing a home, employment family, property and finances in the UK;
    • the absence is justified by Crown service or by compelling occupational or compassionate reasons;
  • If total absences exceed 180 days and where the residence requirements over the full qualifying period are met – discretion is exercised if the applicant has demonstrated that he/she has made the UK his/her home;
  • If total absences exceed 180 days and where the residence requirements over the full qualifying period are not met – discretion is only likely to be exercised where the applicant has demonstrated that he/she has made the UK his/her home and there are exceptional circumstances.

Treatment of Technical Absences for British Naturalisation

Technical absence is where a person is regarded as absent from the UK even though they are physically present here. This is where an applicant is:

  • exempt from immigration control u/s 8(3) of the Immigration Act 1971 – diplomats;
  • exempt from immigration control u/s 8(4) of the Immigration Act 1971 – members of home, Commonwealth or visiting forces;
  • detained in hospital or other places of detention or unlawfully at large in the UK following a conviction for an offence;
  • detained, or on temporary admission, or unlawfully at large under the immigration laws.

The following are not technically absent from the United Kingdom:

  • locally engaged non-diplomatic member of a foreign mission;
  • individuals exempt from immigration control u/s 8(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 – consular staff and certain employees of international organisations.

Discretion for Technical Absences | Residency Requirement for Naturalisation UK

There is discretion under paragraphs 2(b) and 4 of Schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981 to treat:

  • technical absences as a residence for naturalisation purposes;
  • an applicant as present here on the date at the start of the qualifying period if it comes within the period of technical absence

4) British Citizenship by naturalisation statistics 2008-17

During 2008-2017 a total of 1,712,397 Decisions made on the 1,721,877 Applications relating to British Citizenship. 1,625,058 applicants granted British Citizenship and 87,339 applications refused or withdrawn. Accordingly, during 2008-17 the average refusal rate was 5.10%.

Applications for British Citizenship 2008-17
Total1,756,3161,721,8771,625,05887,3395.10%
YearApplicationsOf which: Applications for British citizenshipGrantsRefused or WithdrawnRefused or withdrawn as a % of total decisions
2008159,864156,016129,3779,0866.56%
2009197,955193,810203,78910,2514.79%
2010202,819199,767195,0947,9743.93%
2011210,470207,797177,9346,8843.72%
2012184,365181,410194,3706,8783.42%
2013235,256232,262208,0957,2693.38%
2014130,937127,259125,7546,1744.68%
2015154,579150,767118,10911,0838.58%
2016134,672130,995149,42113,3088.18%
2017145,399141,794123,1158,4326.41%

Grants

The 1,625,058 grants for British Citizenship during 2008-17 made in four main broad categories. Perhaps, the highest number of grants (843,579) made under naturalisation based on residence. Moreover, the 345,724 grants made under naturalisation based on marriage. Therefore, total naturalisation grants (1,189,303) accounts for 73.19% British Citizenship grants during 2008-17. The remaining 26.81% of British Citizenship grants made on the basis of Entitlement to registration and discretion. 

British Citizenship Grants by Broad Categories 2008-17
Total843,579345,724383,70452,051
YearNaturalisation based on residenceNaturalisation based on marriageRegistration of minor childrenRegistration on other grounds
200865,71329,07530,8323,757
200999,47452,62747,8143,874
201093,68147,02848,6595,726
201194,66035,61642,1425,516
2012107,10239,12243,1255,021
2013113,33946,30144,3814,074
201462,51126,18532,3994,659
201560,75524,42728,7964,131
201677,58726,76036,9418,133
201768,75718,58328,6157,160

British Citizenship Registration of Minor Children 2008-17

The registration of minor children related to a British citizen or on a discretionary basis accounts for 383,704citizenship grants during 2008-17. Moreover, 188,053 grants made under entitlement to registration as a child and 195,651 on a discretionary basis.

Registration of Minor Children – British Citizenship Grants 2008-17
Total188,053195,651
YearEntitlement to registration as a childDiscretionary registration as a child
200811,89418,938
200918,98628,828
201021,52827,131
201120,35621,786
201220,86222,263
201321,03623,345
201418,26514,134
201516,42212,374
201621,83115,110
201716,87311,742

British Citizenship by Registration on other Grounds

The British Citizenship by Registration on other grounds accounts for 52,051 grants. Perhaps, the most significant subcategory is the entitlement to registration on other grounds which accounts for 45,893 citizenship grants.

Registration on other grounds for British Citizenship 2008-17
Total90145,8931,955373,265
YearEntitlement to reg as an adultEntitlement to reg on other groundsEntitlement to reg u/s 5Discretionary reg as an adultDiscretionary reg on other grounds
20081483,200673339
20091133,371851304
2010795,2141186309
2011664,9891524305
2012634,3352311391
2013713,2614111330
2014923,8524126297
2015583,7301084231
20161267,3951687437
2017856,5462034322

5) Refusal reasons for British Citizenship applications 2015-17

The Table below provides the main reasons for the refusal of British Citizenship applications during the preceding three years. Perhaps, the single most significant reason for British Citizenship Application Refusal is “not of good character” which nearly affects 40-42% of the totals refusals. Therefore, it is very important to have a good character for getting British Citizenship!

Refusals of Application for British Citizenship by Main Reason 2015-17201520162017
Total refused or withdrawn11,08313,3088,432
Incomplete applications25412852
Parent not a British citizen749931300
Not of good character4,5245,5253,119
Delay in replying to enquiries from UKVI1,2541,6981,319
Residence2,8252,6321,659
Oath not taken in time1491
Insufficient Knowledge of English and KOL531673720
Other495996544
Total refusals10,64612,5927,714
British already312496598
Withdrawn125220120

6) Grants of British Citizenship by the previous nationality

Apparently, a total of 3,311,328 British Citizenships granted during 1990-2018. Moreover, Indian (405,024), Pakistani (310,328), Nigerian (154,788), Bangladeshi (128,418) and South African (115,970) nationals get the most number of British Citizenship grants during 1990-2018.

Country of previous nationality201620172018Total
*Total149,421123,115157,0803,311,328
Afghanistan1,9741,4361,68562,742
Albania46631657212,439
Algeria45433443121,131
American Samoa10122
Andorra0004
Angola1439413210,051
Anguilla (British)00010
Antigua and Barbuda81717372
Argentina12792922,777
Armenia6738811,376
Aruba0033
Australia2,6241,8332,04152,255
Austria97931531,303
Azerbaijan14095702,229
Bahamas, The141117503
Bahrain242569597
Bangladesh4,6483,0843,575128,418
Barbados64363453,705
Belarus1941171983,250
Belgium1273194402,049
Belize18165571
Benin171223286
Bermuda (British)00016
Bhutan594078492
Bolivia131791461,617
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba0000
Bosnia and Herzegovina4527376,517
Botswana525243776
Brazil1,1048981,02215,371
British overseas citizens77765682675,482
Brunei954182
Bulgaria1,2471,8182,64020,745
Burkina6512190
Burma3772233434,857
Burundi9969704,662
Cambodia23811689
Cameroon5084144618,104
Canada1,1568271,08427,923
Cape Verde50390
Cayman Islands (British)0008
Central African Republic22151
Chad141612386
Chile7248472,457
China2,8812,0442,42078,046
Christmas Island0000
Cocos (Keeling) Islands0000
Colombia41825036618,632
Comoros20733
Congo8354807,232
Congo (Democratic Republic)55338453522,962
Cook Islands0001
Costa Rica101415278
Croatia6857685,675
Cuba4942391,430
Curacao0011
Cyprus1151883098,136
Cyprus (Northern part of)91791,790
Czech Republic3125347063,531
Denmark1893534461,852
Djibouti1175242
Dominica38321101,821
Dominican Republic312136905
East Timor0001
Ecuador118771576,531
Egypt83458484917,172
El Salvador496310
Equatorial Guinea11139
Eritrea1,5931,1071,67822,286
Estonia951381831,307
Ethiopia33125742413,196
Falkland Islands (British)0004
Faroe Islands0003
Fiji1901251832,815
Finland952342731,218
Former Yugoslavia7223,802
France1,1632,8244,10317,770
French Guiana0009
French Polynesia0000
Gabon956137
Gambia, The6254915558,623
Georgia1261021252,192
Germany9942,6364,76216,116
Ghana3,5622,5933,18279,627
Gibraltar (British)000169
Greece7691,1521,76110,224
Greenland0000
Grenada82581992,479
Guadeloupe0038
Guam0000
Guatemala1367267
Guinea127951301,741
Guinea-Bissau7128184
Guyana1451151627,097
Haiti25588
Heard Island and McDonald Islands0000
Honduras8144284
Hong Kong37825925516,803
Hungary8311,4172,1339,673
Iceland61029200
India24,61616,60015,106405,024
Indonesia13691973,152
Iran2,0971,7972,85466,805
Iraq1,37783696171,122
Ireland1983645989,074
Israel45828026011,162
Italy1,2823,5165,25718,405
Ivory Coast2541922616,456
Jamaica2,3131,6523,56361,811
Japan1821311323,067
Jordan2031151496,413
Kazakhstan1471111321,848
Kenya1,19984595533,817
Kiribati00127
Korea (North)433165459
Korea (South)4342933128,063
Kosovo2151041637,534
Kuwait8645381,772
Kyrgyzstan533939750
Laos348321
Latvia4998821,2775,043
Lebanon20516523113,618
Lesotho25145354
Liberia6544493,023
Libya2822604698,617
Liechtenstein0209
Lithuania4566027124,838
Luxembourg1202187
Macau40045
Macedonia5447601,973
Madagascar263151
Malawi3242402634,267
Malaysia90564062315,738
Maldives211718188
Mali71310166
Malta501161532,958
Marshall Islands0004
Martinique0002
Mauritania212212
Mauritius1,05171871019,303
Mayotte0000
Mexico2691832124,029
Micronesia0000
Moldova8646701,659
Monaco1007
Mongolia776479971
Montenegro669299
Montserrat (British)10019
Morocco44522535418,010
Mozambique281311473
Namibia532830606
Nauru00124
Nepal3,2721,8031,55135,292
Netherlands4436769045,398
Netherlands Antilleszzz19
New Caledonia0000
New Zealand1,23886388428,910
Nicaragua633168
Niger834139
Nigeria9,8116,9458,698154,788
Niue0000
Norfolk Island0000
Northern Mariana Islands0000
Norway3828551,011
Occupied Palestinian Territories1301041214,789
Oman326145
Other and unknown351418355,402
Pakistan16,74010,39011,810310,328
Palau0001
Panama7810281
Papua New Guinea110599
Paraguay472138
Peru11460903,699
Philippines4,2572,8072,777109,826
Pitcairn Islands (British)0000
Poland4,4377,1199,63452,306
Portugal6721,2341,90512,160
Puerto Rico0004
Qatar01881
Refugee2002423471,445
Reunion0001
Romania1,9803,0225,52723,891
Russia1,6491,2201,47930,553
Rwanda9463754,642
Samoa01040
San Marino1005
Sao Tome and Principe25222
Saudi Arabia7063671,303
Senegal353850793
Serbia1461201314,185
Serbia and Montenegrozzz35,231
Seychelles3216171,877
Sierra Leone49933239020,895
Singapore12084962,840
Slovakia2994104923,990
Slovenia255494435
Solomon Islands00042
Somalia2,6522,0812,746113,994
South Africa5,0643,1033,585115,970
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands0000
Spain6141,6242,4018,517
Sri Lanka3,4322,4672,91197,986
St. Helena (British)00018
St. Kitts and Nevis14937248
St. Lucia135932003,186
St. Maarten (Dutch Part)0000
St. Martin (French Part)0000
St. Pierre and Miquelon0001
St. Vincent and the Grenadines131751542,664
Stateless1552101,9739,246
Sudan7008111,17919,648
Sudan (South)63722
Surinam00162
Svalbard and Jan Mayen0000
Swaziland171419439
Sweden1424236452,833
Switzerland961241903,742
Syria2983368348,113
Taiwan1741221853,999
Tajikistan23138203
Tanzania31016319110,454
Thailand1,15173494928,006
Togo3833321,242
Tokelau0000
Tonga922133
Trinidad and Tobago23818130012,442
Tunisia1781281474,125
Turkey2,2541,5941,83093,238
Turkmenistan322028349
Turks and Caicos Islands (British)0134
Tuvalu0006
Uganda65747859421,283
Ukraine79758068516,005
United Arab Emirates5615297
United States4,0293,1833,27264,872
Uruguay141111342
Uzbekistan1541181301,496
Vanuatu20132
Vatican City0000
Venezuela1901121813,233
Vietnam33423240821,294
Virgin Islands (British)0104
Virgin Islands (US)0000
Wallis and Futuna0000
Western Sahara0019
Yemen1961432049,340
Zambia39829437210,060
Zimbabwe4,4122,8513,13069,572

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