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British Citizenship by Marriage

If you are married to a citizen of the United Kingdom, you can obtain British citizenship through marriage. Consult with our UK immigration specialists for further information.

Applying for British citizenship through marriage to a British citizen is known as the process of naturalising as a British citizen.

It is worth clarifying that marrying a British citizen does not automatically or immediately give you British citizenship. However, you may be able to apply for a spouse visa as long as your British citizen spouse meets the requirements to sponsor you.

When Can You Apply for British Citizenship as the Spouse of a British citizen?

To apply for British citizenship by marriage, you need to meet the following requirements:

  1. You must be married to a British citizen or someone settled in the UK (i.e., has Indefinite Leave to Remain or ILR) for at least three years. This three-year qualifying period is much shorter that the majority of other UK immigration categories which typically require a minimum of five-years of lawful residence in the United Kingdom.
  2. You must have lived in the UK for at least three years and have Indefinite Leave to Remain or settled status when you apply for naturalisation. It is worth noting that if you are married to a British citizen and have lived in the UK for at least 3 years, you may apply for British citizenship as soon as you have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. This is in contrast to applicants applying for British nationality through other categories as they must have held permanent residence in the UK for 12 months before applying for naturalisation.
  3. You must be able to speak, read, and write English to a satisfactory level in order to apply for British citizenship by marriage. You can prove this by taking an approved English language test, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
  4. You must not have any criminal convictions, and you must not have breached any immigration laws at the time of filing your British citizenship application. This is known as the good character requirement.
  5. You must pass the “Life in the UK” test, which assesses your knowledge of British history, culture, and society in order to secure British citizenship.
  6. You must not have spent more than 270 days outside the UK in the three years immediately preceding your British citizenship application.
  7. You must not have been absent from the UK for more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately preceding your British citizenship application.
  8. You must be of sound mind.

Once you meet these requirements, you can apply for British citizenship by marriage.

The British Citizenship Application Process

  1. The applicant must complete the application form and submit it along with the required supporting documents, including evidence of the marriage, the applicant’s identity, and their residence in the UK.
  2. The application fee is currently £1,330 (as of April 2023) and the biometric fee is £19.20.
  3. After you have completed the application and made the necessary payment, you will be required to schedule an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point in order to complete the application process. At this location, your fingerprints and photo will be taken, and you will also have the opportunity to scan and upload a copy of your identification documents.
  4. The application will be reviewed by UK Visas and Immigration, who may request additional information or conduct an interview.
  5. If the application is approved, the applicant will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony, where they will take an oath of allegiance and receive their certificate of British citizenship.

Supporting Documents

You will need to provide adequate supporting documentation to prove your eligibility for British citizenship. These may include:

  1. Your passport and other travel documents
  2. Your spouse’s British passport or ILR documentation
  3. Evidence of your residence in the UK, such as utility bills, bank statements, or council tax statements
  4. Evidence of your English language ability, such as an IELTS certificate
  5. Evidence that you have been granted settled status in the UK
  6. Proof that you have passed the Life in the UK test
  7. Evidence of your relationship with your British partner, such as marriage certificates, joint bank statements, joint mortgage or lease agreement, joint utility bills, your child(ren’s) birth certificates and joint insurance policies.
  8. Evidence of your absences from the UK during the three-year qualifying period, this may include copies of passport pages endorsed with visa stamps, boarding passes and flight itineraries.

Indefinite Leave to Remain Status

To become a naturalised citizen, one must first satisfy the condition of having settled status in the United Kingdom, otherwise known as Indefinite Leave to Remain. In order to be eligible for British citizenship by marriage, you must have been living in the United Kingdom for at least three consecutive years prior to the date on which you submit your application for citizenship. In most cases, this would be accomplished by holding any of the following:

  • UK Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • UK Indefinite Leave to Enter (permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad)
  • Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme/EU Settled Status

You will need to provide an acceptable supporting document as proof of your settled status when submitting your British citizenship application.

What are the Residency Requirements for British Citizenship Through Marriage?

To satisfy the residence criteria, you must have spent no more than 270 days outside the UK in the previous three years, and no more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months preceding the day you submit your application.

Excessive absences are a common reason for refusal of a British citizenship application. If your absences are very close to the maximum required, it may result in your application being flagged for further review and scrutiny. You will need to submit compelling evidence that you were in the UK exactly three years before the day the Home Office received your application and have proof of all absences from the UK including flight itineraries, boarding passes and copies of all passports held during the three-year qualifying period.

You must also be free of immigration limitations at the time of application and have not broken any immigration laws during the whole three-year qualifying period.

The Life in the UK Test

The Life in the UK Test will assess your knowledge of the British legal system, British customs, working culture, history and government.

You do not need to take the Life in the UK test again if you have already passed it (for example, while applying for indefinite leave to remain), are under the age of 18, or are over the age of 65. You can take the test as many times as necessary to pass. To pass, you must receive at least a 75%. The test duration is 45 minutes, and you have to answer 24 questions. The current fee to take the test is £50.

The Processing Time to Obtain British Citizenship by Marriage

You will typically receive a response within a period of six months after submitting your application for British citizenship by marriage. However, your application may be delayed if you do not supply sufficient supporting evidence or if your application form contains any errors. You should inform The Home Office as soon as possible if there is a change in your circumstances while you are in the process of applying for British citizenship by marriage.

Demonstrating “Good Character” in British Citizenship by Marriage Applications

The British Nationality Act of 1981 does not define “good character,” however to meet this criteria, you must demonstrate that you have followed UK laws and resided lawfully in the UK since your arrival.

To satisfy the “good character” requirement, you must have complied with all of your legal responsibilities as a resident of the United Kingdom. Your application for British Citizenship by marriage may be declined if you have been convicted of a criminal offence or an immigration offence. If you have been charged with an offence but have not been convicted, your application for British citizenship by marriage may be delayed pending the outcome of your case/hearing.

Your application for British citizenship by marriage can be affected if you were incarcerated for a period of time ranging from between one year and four years, unless at least 15 years have passed since the completion of your sentence.

Your application for British citizenship by marriage may also be refused if you have been found guilty of breaching uk immigration laws in the past 10 years, for example, assisting someone to enter the country illegally.

If I Acquire British Citizenship by Marriage, Will my Children be British Citizens?

In general, children automatically acquire British nationality if they were born in the UK and at least one parent is a British citizen or settled person. We recommend that you seek legal advice from one of our professional immigration lawyers to confirm that your children are eligible to apply to become British nationals through birth or through any other immigration routes.

If Your UK Citizenship Application is Granted

If you are granted British citizenship, you will be required to attend a British citizenship ceremony.

You must schedule your UK citizenship ceremony within three months of receiving the invitation from the Home Office. The UK citizenship ceremony will usually take place at your local council office. You may take up to two guests. A group ceremony costs £80, whereas private gatherings may cost more depending on your local council’s regulations. If you are not in the UK, you can ask the embassy or consulate in your home country if your ceremony can be held there.

You must submit your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) to the Home Office within 5 working days of receiving your British citizenship certificate. If you do not return your BRP within this time range, you may be fined up to £1,000.

You will not be able to enter the UK using your BRP after you become a British citizen. You can use your British citizenship certificate until you acquire your first adult passport. You can apply for and obtain a certificate of entitlement instead of applying for a British passport.

Obtaining Your First British Passport

You can apply for your first adult passport after gaining British citizenship status. Once you obtain British citizenship you will be free from immigration restrictions and will no longer need to apply for a visa to enter the United Kingdom.

Adult passports are valid for ten years and can be used to verify your British citizenship. If you hold a British child passport, you can still use it until it expires, even if you are aged 16 or over.

If Your British Citizenship Application is Denied

Rejection of your application for British citizenship can be devastating. The British Nationality Act of 1981 does not confer an automatic right of appeal in the event of refusal. However, if your application was denied and you believe that the decision-maker has made an error, you may be able to request that the UK Home Office reconsider the decision.

Our dedicated UK immigration lawyers will help you understand your alternatives and the best course of action.

Practical Tips and Advice for British Citizenship Applicants

It is important to note that the rules and requirements for British citizenship through marriage can change over time. It is always advisable to check the official UK government website for up-to-date information and guidance. Additionally, applicants should ensure that they meet all eligibility requirements and provide accurate and complete information in their application to avoid delays or potential refusal.

Another issue to keep in mind is that the residency requirements are quite strict, and any time spent outside the UK may affect eligibility. Therefore, applicants should plan their travel carefully and keep track of their absences from the UK. Additionally, it is important to note that not all marriages are recognized for the purposes of British citizenship. For example, marriages of convenience or sham marriages will not be recognized, and the application may be refused on this basis.

Applicants may also be subject to additional checks, such as a criminal record check or a check of their immigration history. Therefore, it is important to disclose all relevant information and be truthful in the application.

In terms of language requirements, applicants must demonstrate that they meet the English language requirement by passing an approved English language test or holding a degree taught in English. There are certain exemptions to this requirement, such as for individuals over 65 or those with certain disabilities.

Overall, obtaining British citizenship through marriage can be a complex process with several eligibility requirements, residency obligations, and language and knowledge requirements. It is important to ensure that all the necessary criteria are met and that the application is completed accurately and honestly. By doing so, applicants can increase their chances of a successful application and achieving their goal of British citizenship.

Our British Citizenship by Marriage Services

If you are currently married to a British citizen and are seeking advice on your eligibility to apply for British citizenship by marriage, we recommend that you schedule a detailed consultation to learn more. Our legal team have several years’ experience and will be delighted to assist you on your journey towards securing British citizenship status. Based on your circumstances, your dedicated UK immigration lawyer will assess your case and investigate all your options to naturalise as a British citizen. You can also hire one of our immigration experts to ensure that there are no issues with your application for British citizenship by marriage.

If you want to make sure that your application for British citizenship through marriage is successful, you should hire one of our British citizenship specialists. Your experienced legal representative will evaluate your eligibility and confirm that you have all the required supporting evidence. In addition, we will compose a detailed legal submission letter outlining your qualification for British citizenship by marriage with reference to applicable statutes, case law and citizenship policy.

Determine Whether You Are Already a British Citizen

Some people acquire British Citizenship automatically. If you have a British parent, were born in the UK or a British overseas territory, or were born in a British colony before 1983, you may already have a claim to British citizenship.

British Citizenship Advice

To learn more about applying for British citizenship through marriage or any other route, please schedule a consultation with one of our UK immigration lawyers today. 

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