Naturalisation: How an Alien Can Become a British Citizen

What is Naturalisation?

Naturalisation is the process created by law for you to acquire citizenship in a country where you are not a national. Through this process, you are granted nationality by a foreign country; hence, entitling you to all the rights and imposing upon you all the duties as that of a member of such political state.

Part of the rights granted to you as a naturalised citizen is the right of abode. This means you are entitled to reside in that particular state permanently and you possess the right to leave and return to that country anytime. One of the duties imposed upon you, on the other hand, is your utmost allegiance to the laws of the state that provided you new nationality and protection.

What is the Scope of the Naturalisation Process?

The naturalisation process usually involves the determination of your eligibility for British citizenship, oath taking as you swear allegiance to the sovereign that granted you a new nationality, and in some countries, the renunciation of your old nationality.

Renunciation of a former nationality is not required in the United Kingdom as this state allows possession of dual citizenship.

Requisites for Naturalisation

In the United Kingdom, requirements for naturalisation vary depending on your personal circumstances.

However, there are standard requirements for acquiring British citizenship. Generally, you must: (1) be at least 18 years of age; (2) possess sound mental faculties; (3) manifest intentions of continuously living in the United Kingdom,  be under the service of the Crown, in the service of an international organisation is which the United Kingdom holds membership, or in the service of a corporation or association which is incorporated under United Kingdom laws; (4) show ability to communicate in English or Welsh to an acceptable standard; (5) possess good moral character; (6) show enough familiarity of life in the United Kingdom; and (7) comply with residential requirements.

The requirements are different if you are married to or a common law partner of a British citizen.

Residential Requirements

To show you are fit to acquire British citizenship, you must show compliance to requirements on residency. This means that you must: (1) be a resident of the United Kingdom for a minimum of five years, otherwise known as the ‘residential qualifying period’; (2) be staying in the United Kingdom for at least five uninterrupted years prior to your application for naturalisation; (3) have been away from the United Kingdom for not more than 450 days during the five-year period previously mentioned; (4) have been away from the United Kingdom for not more than 90 days during the last twelve months of the five-year period previously mentioned; (5) must not have violated any rules or policies on immigration during this five-year period.

Residential Qualifying Period

This period begins from the moment the Home Office receives your application. To ensure the success of your application, you must be present in the United Kingdom on the date that you file your application, as well as for at least about a week after it (i.e. until the authorities have received your application).

Life in the UK Test

Your desire to be part of another nation entails you to manifest sufficient knowledge and interest about living in the United Kingdom. This knowledge is crucial for your naturalisation application as a British citizen. Your knowledge of life here will be assessed by the Home Office Border Agency. If you are residing in England or Wales, you can either take the Life in the UK test or combine taking English for Speakers of Other Languages, otherwise known as ESOL and classes on citizenship.

Your English level will be your basis on choosing how to proceed. If the level of your English is below ESOL Entry 3, you can take the English for Speakers of Other Languages and classes on citizenship. Otherwise, take the Life in the UK test.

Some rules for naturalisation application have changed since the first of November 2005. Since then, persons who seek to acquire British nationality must pass the new Life in the UK test before application for naturalisation.

Spouse or Common Law Partners of British Citizens

Those who are either married to or a common law spouse of a British citizen must conform to the standard requirements except for the third. But you need to show proof that you are the spouse or common law partner of a British citizen and the latter must be in a Crown or in such designated service outside the United Kingdom.

Residential Requirements for Spouse or Common Law Partners of British Citizens

To comply with residential requirements for naturalisation, you must possess the following: (1) residency in the United Kingdom for a minimum of three years, otherwise known as the ‘residential qualifying period’; (2) be staying in the United Kingdom for at least three uninterrupted years prior to your application for naturalisation; (3) have been away from the United Kingdom for not more than 270 days during the three-year period previously mentioned; (4) have been away from the United Kingdom for not more than 90 days during the last twelve months of the three-year period previously mentioned; (5) must not have violated any rules or policies on immigration during this three-year period.

The residential qualifying period will commence in the same way as those who are applying for naturalisation under the standard requirements.

Types of Application

There are three ways to apply for naturalisation: first is through the Nationality Checking Service or NCS; second is through a representative; and third is by applying individually.

Nationality Checking Service

Otherwise known as NCS, the Nationality Checking Service is offered by local government authorities such as county or city councils. You may course your application through the NCS and they, in turn, will verify your application and copy it and return the original to you. The NCS will forward it to the Home Office.

Application for naturalisation through NCS is the most popular of the three because of the success it yields. Statistics provided by the Border Agency indicate that in 2008, processing applications through NCS only had two percent of unsuccessful applications. This is a milestone when compared to the ten percent unsuccessful attempts through other processes.

Application through a Representative

Just like the usual agency agreements, an agent can apply for naturalisation on your behalf. But employ discretion. It helps to check with the Immigration Service Commissioner Office if the agent you are dealing with is licensed by such office.

Applying Individually

If you think you can handle the paperwork on your own, you may apply for naturalisation by preparing the original or a certified copy of the necessary documents and send it to the United Kingdom Border Agency.

Documents Required

Document requirements differ based on your personal circumstances and may include: (1) passport; (2) nationality identification card; (3) travel documents issued by the Home Office; (4) entitlement card issued by the Home Office; (5) application registration card issued by the same office; (6) certificate of live birth; (7) driving licence with your photo; (8) financial statements issued to you in the last six months; (9) certification evidencing either passing Life in the UK test or completion of the ESOL and citizenship classes.

Processing Time

The duration for processing naturalisation applications takes time. On an average, the Border Agency sends approval or denial of applications within six months from the time of filing. But there are instances when it takes longer for some and shorter for others.

Attending the Ceremony

Once your application is successful, you will be invited to a scheduled ceremony where you will take your oath or affirmation of allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and her successors. You will also pledge your loyalty to the United Kingdom as expected of every British national. The required oath or affirmation and pledge are made before a local registrar. The ceremony serves as a rite of passage for everyone granted the opportunity to become British citizens.