British citizenship and nationality law is complex, partly because of Britain’s own history and historical relationship with other countries around the world. In some cases it will be necessary to go back several generations to identify whether an individual is a British citizen or is entitled to apply for British citizenship.
There are six different types of British nationality. These are:
- British citizenship
- British overseas territories citizen
- British overseas citizen
- British subject
- British national (overseas)
- British protected person
There are then two types of British citizenship, those who are “British citizens by descent” and “British citizens otherwise than by descent”.
Determining whether an individual automatically qualifies as a British citizen depends on three factors:
- Where they were born;
- When they were born; and
- Their parents’ circumstances
In relation to the other five types of British nationality, these are mostly the legacy of the British Empire and will not normally provide a right to live or work in the UK without the correct immigration status.
Some individuals may be British but do not hold a UK passport. In these cases, an individual may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode in their foreign passport, which will allow them to live and work in the UK as a British citizen without holding a UK passport.
For those who are not automatically a British citizen, to become British they either need to be naturalised or registered.
Finally, there may be situations where you could obtain permission to live and work in the UK long-term if at least one of your grandparents is British. Click here to read more about Ancestry visas or head to our blog pages here.
Naturalisation is the most common way for adults who were not born British to become British citizens. To apply to naturalise as a British citizen, they will have to fulfill the residency requirements, and hold Indefinite Leave to Remain/Permanent Residence. They will also need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English Language, and Life in the UK, be of good character, and have the intention to make the UK their home. The good character requirement is mainly based on previous immigration history and an individual’s criminal history.
If you are an EEA national wishing to become British, you can read more about naturalising in our article here.
Further helpful reading can be found on our blog.
Registration is the only way that a child under the age of 18 can become a British citizen, and is also used for adults in special circumstances. It is not necessary to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English Language, and Life in the UK, however anyone over the age of 10 is still subject to the good character requirement.
Gherson is proud of its reputation in this specialist area of law. To discuss your requirements and find out whether you are automatically a British citizen or how to apply to become a British citizen please Contact us.
Solicitor in our General Immigration team, with broad experience in all matters relating to private client immigration
Solicitor in our General Immigration team, specialising in private client immigration
Consultant in our General Immigration team, with extensive experience of Private Client and Corporate Immigration law
Consultant in our General Immigration team, working on a wide variety of matters, primarily in relation to Private Client immigration
Is my child automatically British?
Your child may be British automatically if they were born in the UK and at least one of their parents was a settled person (who held either Indefinite Leave to Remain, permanent residence documentation, Settled Status or British citizenship) at the time of their birth. Your child may also be automatically British if they were born outside the UK and at least one of their parents was a British citizen. You can read more about this in our blog article.
Can my child become a British citizen?
Registration is the only way that a child under the age of 18 can become a British citizen, and is also used for adults in special circumstances. It is not necessary to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English Language, and Life in the UK, however anyone over the age of 10 is still subject to the good character requirement. You can find out more about registration for British citizenship in our blog article.
Useful information in relation to adopted children and British citizenship can be found here.
I was born in the UK, am I a British citizen?
Even if you were born in the UK you may not be a British citizen. This will depend on when you were born and your parents’ circumstances.
Who can apply for British citizenship?
Different factors determine whether you can apply for British citizenship, including where you were born, when you were born and your parents’ circumstances. Individual circumstances often vary and it is best to consider them on a case-by-case basis. If you need assistance applying for British citizenship, please do not hesitate to contact our team.
How do I apply for British citizenship?
Naturalisation is the most common way of applying for British citizenship for adult applicants. Registration is the only way of applying for British citizenship for children. If your claim to citizenship is by birth, however, you can apply for a passport directly.
What are the fees for getting British citizenship?
UK Visas and Immigration review British citizenship application fees every year and the cost of applying for British citizenship will vary from year to year. Please contact a member of our team for information on the current application fees.
My partner and I are not British but our child was born in the UK – is my child British?
Your child may be British automatically if they were born in the UK and at least one of their parents was a settled person (i.e. they held either Indefinite Leave to Remain, permanent residence documentation, Settled Status or British citizenship) at the time of their birth. Your child may also be automatically British if they were born outside the UK and at least one of their parents was a British citizen. You can read more about this in our blog article.
What are the requirements for getting British citizenship?
If you are naturalising in order to get British citizenship, you must meet specific requirements relating to good character, knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK and residence in the UK. If you would like more information about meeting these requirements, please contact a member of our team.
What is the English language test for British citizenship and do I need to sit an exam?
You may need to sit a test in order to make a valid application for British citizenship, as you need to prove you can speak English to a reasonable level (the minimum level is B1). You can do this by passing an IELTS or ESOL test with a recognised institution. You may be exempt from the test if you completed a degree taught in English, suffer from a medical condition which prevents you from sitting the test or are over the age of 65.
What is the Life in the UK test?
Passing the Life in the UK test is a mandatory requirement when applying for naturalisation, unless you are over 65 years old or have a serious condition which would prevent you from taking it. The test comprises of 24 questions and you have 45 minutes to answer them. You can retake the test as many times as you like, and once you have passed you will not need to retake it for further applications (for example where you have already passed it as part of your Indefinite Leave to Remain application). Further information can be found on our blog here
What is the good character requirement for British citizenship?
When considering your application for British citizenship the UK immigration authorities will consider whether you have a criminal record in the UK or any other country including any criminal convictions for which you have not yet been tried in court. These include penalties, fines and certain motoring offences. The scope of this character assessment is very wide and takes into account issues including bankruptcy, non-payment of Council tax, etc. We discuss the reasoning behind this in our article here. If you are concerned about how any character assessment could impact your application, please contact a member of our team for a confidential discussion.
How long does it take for a British citizenship application to be processed?
It can take up to 6 months for your application for British citizenship to be reviewed and for your first British passport to be issued. This is because the application process goes through several stages, including the citizenship ceremony.
What is a citizenship ceremony?
If your application for British citizenship is successful you will be invited to take a citizenship pledge and an oath of allegiance at a citizenship ceremony within 90 days. These normally take place at your local council by appointment only. Children under 18 are not required to attend but may do so if they wish.
Is there a dress code at British citizenship ceremonies?
There is no official dress code for the ceremony. We recommend that you keep to a smart casual dress code for your citizenship ceremony.
What happens after the British citizenship ceremony?
At the end of the citizenship ceremony, you will be issued with a Certificate of Naturalisation. Once you have received this, you can apply for your first British passport.
How can a British citizen lose or be stripped of their British citizenship?
The situations in which British citizenship can be lost or where it is stripped away are fairly complex and relate to serious conduct as a result of which the Secretary of State could issue directions to deprive someone of their citizenship. Our blog article on the topic contains general information about cases where British citizenship can be taken away. We specialise in fighting deprivation of citizenship cases - please contact a member of our team if you require further information.
Can EEA nationals apply for British citizenship?
EEA nationals who have resided in the UK for 6 or more years (and in some cases earlier than this) may be eligible for naturalisation as British citizens. Applicants need to have obtained either a document certifying permanent residence, or a Settled Status document. Further information can be found here and on our blog.