This article has been reviewed by Wego’s editorial team to ensure that the content is up to date & accurate.

Updated August 2023

Becoming a citizen of the United Kingdom represents a notable achievement that unlocks a plethora of opportunities and advantages in one of the world’s most culturally diverse and historically enriched nations. Comprising four constituent countries, including, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom presents an extraordinary fusion of heritage and contemporary living, where long-standing institutions harmonise with a lively, multicultural community.

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In this article, Wego will guide you on the requirements and implications of acquiring UK citizenship.

UK citizenship eligibility

You will be eligible to apply for UK citizenship if you have lived in the UK for 5 years and have had one of the following for 12 months:

  • indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • ‘settled status’, also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme’
  • indefinite leave to enter the UK, that is, permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad.

Please note that you do not need to wait 12 months to apply if you are already married to a British citizen.

You may also be eligible to apply for citizenship if:

  • you have a British parent
  • you have another type of British nationality
  • you have a parent with British overseas territories citizenship
  • you’re stateless
  • you previously gave up (renounced) your citizenship
  • other special circumstances apply to you
  • you’re a Chagossian descendant (a direct descendant of someone born in British Indian Ocean Territory)

You may be eligible to apply for citizenship under the Windrush Scheme if both:

  • you or one of your parents arrived in the UK before 1973
  • you’ve lived in the UK and not been away from it for more than 2 years

If your parent arrived in the UK before 1973, you must have either:

  • been born in the UK
  • arrived in the UK before you were 18

UK citizenship requirements

General requirements

The following requirements must be met to apply for UK citizenship:

  • be over 18
  • prove you were in the UK exactly 5 years before the day the Home Office receives your application
  • prove your knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic
  • have passed the ‘Life in the UK test’
  • intend to continue living in the UK
  • be of good character

Referee requirements

All applicants for British citizenship must provide 2 referees to establish their identity. You must only contact the referees if this could resolve concerns about the application and you have the authority from a senior caseworker to do so.

You must ensure that the following requirements are met:

The referee must:

  • have known the (adult) applicant for at least 3 years
  • a British passport holder and either a professional person or aged over 25 (at least one referee must be a professional person)

The referee must not:

  • be related to the applicant or the other referee
  • be the applicant’s representative
  • be employed by the Home Office
  • have been convicted of an imprisonable offence in the last 10 years (for which the sentence is not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974)

For child applicants at least one of the referees must be a person who has dealt with the child in a professional role such as a teacher, doctor, health visitor or social worker. Where a child cannot provide a referee who has dealt with them in a professional capacity and has provided documents to show that they have attempted to do so, you can accept 2 referees who meet the criteria for referees on adult applications.

Where the applicant is living outside of the UK and does not know a British citizen passport holder who is a professional or over the age of 25, a commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the country in which they are residing may complete and sign the form providing they meet the other requirements and the consul considers their signature to be acceptable.

Residency requirements

You will be eligible to apply for UK citizenship, provided you have lived in the UK for at least 5 years before the date of your application. Moreover, you should also have not broken any UK immigration laws.

However, if you have an indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK, the Home Office will usually not check if you broke any immigration laws before then.

You cannot include any time spent in the UK when you are exempt from immigration control as a:

  • diplomat
  • member of a diplomat’s staff or household
  • member of visiting armed forces

Time spent outside the UK

As a part of the residency requirements, to be eligible to apply for UK citizenship, you must not have:

  • spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the 5 years before your application
  • spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • broken any UK immigration laws, for instance, living illegally in the UK.

Moreover, you may also lose your indefinite leave to remain or enter if you have been away from the UK for:

  • more than 2 years at any time since you received the r leave. In this situation, you will be required to apply for a Returning Resident visa.
  • more than 5 years if you have ‘settled status’
  • more than 4 years if you are a Swiss citizen, or the family member of a Swiss citizen, and you have ‘settled status’

UK citizenship test

Taking a Life in the UK test is a requirement for the British citizenship or settlement in the UK application. There are over 30 test centres in the UK, from which you can choose to take your test. However, please make sure to book your Life in the UK test online at least 3 days in advance.

You can book your Life in the UK test by following the steps given below:

Practice for the test

You will be tested on information in the official handbook for the Life in the UK test. Make sure to study the handbook to prepare for the test.

Please note that you will have 45 minutes to answer 24 questions about British traditions and customs.

Collect all the required documents

Every applicant has to book their Life in the UK test separately. To book your test, you will need:

  • email address
  • debit or credit card
  • an accepted form of ID
  • you can use one of the following as an ID to book the test:
    • valid passport
    • valid travel document with a photo. Please note that you cannot use an emergency travel document
    • biometric residence permit
    • biometric residence card

Please note that at your test, if you fail to prove your identity, you will not be able to take the test and will not get a refund

Book your test

You can book the Life in the UK test, by following the steps given below:

  • register for your test at https://www.lituktestbooking.co.uk
  • enter your identification details, contact details
  • review the details provided, and verify your email
  • book your test

What happens at the UK citizenship test?

At the UK citizenship test centre, you will have 45 minutes to answer 24 questions based on the Life in the UK handbook. Make sure to carry the same ID that you used to book the test at the centre. Furthermore, a photo will also be taken on the day to confirm your ID.

If you pass the test

You are required to score 75% or more to pass the test.

In case of passing the test, you will receive a ‘unique reference number,’ which you will need to complete your citizenship or settlement application. The Home Office will use it to check that you have passed.

Please note that, in case you have lost your letter, make sure to send a letter explaining that you have lost it with your citizenship or settlement application.

If you fail the test

In case you fail the test and do not meet the required score, you can rebook the test as many times as you need.

Please note that you will be required to pay each time you book the test.

UK citizenship test fee

The cost of Life in the UK test is GBP 50 (USD 63)

When to apply for UK citizenship?

To apply for UK citizenship, you must have been physically present in the UK exactly 5 years before the Home Office receives your application. In case this criteria is not fulfilled, the application may be rejected.

However, in the following special circumstances, the Home Office may still consider not being physically present in the UK exactly 5 years before the submission of your application:

  • you were not able to live in the UK at the start of the 5 year period because of health reasons or travel restrictions
  • you were told to leave the UK during the 5 years, but this decision was later overturned.

Please note that the date the Home Office receives your application depends on how you apply. In case you apply online, your application will be received on the same day. However, it may take longer if you apply by post.

What to expect on the day of the test (We will also show you this information after you have booked your test)

UK citizenship application

Application process

There are 2 ways in which you can apply for British citizenship by ‘naturalisation’:

  • applying yourself
  • applying through an agent or representative

Applying yourself

To make an application for UK citizenship yourself, follow the steps given below:

  • fill out the online citizenship form.
  • you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo).
  • you do not need to send your documents anywhere. You can either:
    • upload copies into the online service
    • have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment

Please note that you can also apply via post. However, this may take much longer than the online procedure. Hence, make sure to avoid applying by post, especially if you need the documents back by a specific date.

Applying from the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British overseas territory

If you live in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British overseas territory, you have to apply by post or in person instead. Make sure to check what is possible with your governor’s office.

Please note that you will be informed regarding the submission of your biometric information after you apply.

Applying through an agent or representative

You can also apply for your UK citizenship via an agent or representative. An agent or representative is a private company or individual that can help you with your application and give you advice.

You can check whether your agent or representative is registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).

Alternatively, you can also use some solicitors or barristers who are not registered with the OISC. However, the solicitor or barrister must be registered with one of the following organisations:

  • General Council of the Bar
  • Law Society of England and Wales
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
  • Faculty of Advocates
  • Law Society of Scotland
  • General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland
  • Law Society of Northern Ireland

For more information, please visit the official GOV.UK website.

After applying

After applying for the UK citizenship you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony if your application is successful.

However, after receiving your certificate of British citizenship, you must send your biometric residence permit (BRP) back to the Home Office within 5 working days.

Make sure to cut your BRP into 4 pieces and put it in a windowless envelope. Furthermore, include a note saying you are returning your permit because you have become a citizen.

The note must include your name, date of birth and the document number (found on the front of the card), and must be sent to the following address:

Naturalisation BRP Returns
PO Box 195
Bristol
BS20 1BT

Please note that you will be fined up to GBP 1,000 (USD 1,266) in case you fail to return the permit within 5 working days.

UK citizenship for children

It is necessary to apply for UK citizenship separately for your children. You can apply to ‘register’ your child for citizenship if they were born either:

  • outside of the UK
  • inside the UK before you were granted indefinite leave to remain

Please note that the child may automatically be a British citizen if they were born both:

  • in the UK
  • after you were granted indefinite leave to remain

UK citizenship application processing time

Generally, you will get a decision on your UK citizenship application within 6 months. However, some applications can take longer.

Please note that you may be asked to provide more information to help with your application.

UK citizenship cost

The cost to apply for UK citizenship varies between children and adults:

  • adults – GBP 1,330 (USD 1,678)
  • children – GBP 1,012 (USD 1,281)

Please note that if your child is under 18 and you cannot afford to pay the application fee, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver. Additionally, a fee of GBP 80 is required to be paid for your child’s citizenship ceremony if they turn 18 during the application process.

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