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How COVID-19 may affect individuals trying to obtain British citizenship

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the implementation of numerous measures relating to travel restrictions across the globe, often prohibiting or deterring individuals from entering the UK from other countries. Many have been forced to spend significant periods of time outside of the UK for various and unexpected reasons due to the pandemic and the global response of closing borders and limiting cross-country travel earlier this year. 

The knock-on effects of these measures could be worrying for individuals who have incurred excessive absences from the UK due to COVID-19 and who wish to naturalise as British citizens.

The maximum amount of absences from the UK when applying to naturalise as a British citizen is 450 days in the five years immediately preceding the date of the application and 90 days in the twelve months prior to the date of the application. 

Individuals who are married to British citizens at the date of application are subject to different residence requirements and must not have been absent from the UK for more than 270 days in the three years prior to the date of the application, nor for more than 90 days in the twelve months preceding the date of the application. 

For those who have been inadvertently stranded outside the UK due to COVID-19, and whose absences fall outside the above thresholds, any application for naturalisation will be subject to the Secretary of State’s discretion. 

Ordinarily, if an applicant has established their home, employment, family and finances in the UK and their absences fall between 480-900 days in the relevant five-year period (or 300-540 days for those applicants who are married to British citizens), and they otherwise meet all the other requirements, the Secretary of State may exercise discretion to overlook any excessive absences and to approve the naturalisation application. In the wake of COVID-19, government guidelines in relation to the treatment of excessive absences from the UK have been updated to include ‘global pandemic’ as an additional circumstance in which discretion can be applied favourably. 

Gherson has extensive experience in assisting with applications for British citizenship, including naturalisation and registration applications. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any assistance or advice regarding your British nationality matters.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2020

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