How can I get British citizenship?
Published on June 3, 2020 / Updated on January 10, 2024
Over 150,000 people gained British citizenship last year. Do you want to join them? Some things to get out of the way first: being born in the UK doesn’t automatically make you a British citizen. And marrying a Brit doesn’t make you a citizen either. For most people, becoming a British citizen takes a pretty big commitment of time and money, so you really have to want it.
British citizenship gives you quite a few rights, the main ones being:
Britain allows dual citizenship. If your home country also allows you to hold dual citizenship, you don’t have to give anything up to get your hands on a British passport.
If one or both of your parents were British citizens when you were born, congratulations! You’re a British citizen too, no matter where in the world you were born. Now, I realise you can’t turn the clock back and make sure your mum was British before you popped out, so let’s look at another way to become a British citizen.
If you move to the UK, you might be able to apply for citizenship by ‘naturalisation’. More than half of the people who got British citizenship by naturalisation last year did it by having lived in the UK for at least 5 years. You can try to become a citizen by completing the requirements below.
To apply for citizenship you have to intend to continue living in the UK after it is granted. You can prove this by having your main home in the UK and not having been away from the UK for more than six months in recent years. You must also have some kind of permanent residence already granted, and have lived in the UK for at least 5 years.
To become a British citizen, you have to prove that you can speak English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of people choose English for this part. If you have completed a university degree in English, you don’t need to take a test. People from certain countries like Australia and Jamaica can skip the test too – lucky them!
Everyone else needs to take an approved test to prove they are at B1 level or above. IELTS for UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) is a popular test.
This is a test of your knowledge of life in the UK. There are 24 questions in the test, it takes around 45 minutes to complete and costs £50. Questions are about British traditions, history, geography and culture. There’s a study guide to help you prepare; don’t worry if it looks difficult at first – lots of Brits would struggle to answer some of the questions!
To “be of good character” doesn’t just mean helping old ladies cross the road (though this is proof of your good character!). And actually, charity work can be included on the application. The red flags for this section are things like having been in prison, having overstayed a visa, or having lied during dealings with the government. If any of these things apply to you, you might not meet the “good character” requirement.
This is the final part of the process. Anyone who is granted British citizenship has to attend a Citizenship Ceremony. At the ceremony you have to make an oath of allegiance and a pledge. This means that you promise to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK. You also sing along to God Save the Queen (the national anthem, not the Sex Pistols’ version). You pose for photos in front of a photo of our dear leader, the Queen. Then, there’s often a buffet of tea and cakes afterwards – a very British start to life as a citizen.
Marrying a UK citizen doesn’t make you a British citizen automatically. But it does make the process a little faster. You have to have lived in the UK for 3 years rather than 5 in order to apply this way. Just under 20% of people who gained citizenship last year did so through marriage to a Brit.
Applying for British citizenship costs a whopping £1330. This is as well as the £50 for the Life in the UK test and around £150 to take a language test. The Citizenship Ceremony costs £80. If you want a British passport, that’ll be £75.50. Start saving your pennies now!
It’s not just a financial commitment to apply for British citizenship, it’s a time commitment too. The average time to become a citizen is about 6 months. On top of having lived in the UK for several years.