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For many, obtaining British citizenship is the final stage of a long-winded, usually stressful process of settling in the UK. Most adults will obtain citizenship through a process called naturalisation. There are different requirements for naturalisation depending on whether you are married to a British citizen.
Many children in the UK will look to obtain their British citizenship through a separate process called registration.
Those applying to naturalise will normally have to show a sufficient level of English, pass the Life in the UK test, and have an intention to live in the UK, amongst other requirements. However, at Truth Legal we find that two areas are particularly problematic: the Residence and Good Character requirements.
The Residence Requirement
The Residence requirement has several elements, the most problematic tend to be:
- You must have been resident in the UK for 5 years when you apply, or only 3 years if married to a British citizen.
- You should not have had more than 90 days’ absence in the immediate 12-month period before you apply. However, Home Office policy sets out circumstances when it can exercise discretion to overlook excess absences.
- You should not have had more than 450 days absence in the 5-year period of residence, or no more than 270 days if you are relying on a 3-year period. Again, the Home Office can exercise discretion to overlook excess absences in certain circumstances.
If you are concerned that you might have an excess of absences then it is worth speaking to us as we are skilled at persuading the Home Office to exercise discretion, often in circumstances where the excess absences are significant.
The Good Character Requirement
The requirement to be of ‘Good Character’ on the face of it seems to lack clear definition. In fact, the Good Character requirement is interpreted strictly and there is currently a 53-page policy document which sets out how to assess Good Character.
Prior criminal convictions will often lead to a refusal under Good Character. For example, a ‘non-custodial offence or other out of court disposal that is recorded on a person’s criminal record’ will normally lead to a refusal unless 3 years have passed.
Deception or dishonesty is often cited as a basis for someone failing the Good Character requirement, including deception in a current or previous immigration application. A finding of deception will mean an applicant is barred from applying for 10 years.
Failure to comply with immigration laws is perhaps the most common basis on which applicants are refused on Good Character grounds. This includes illegal entry, overstaying and illegal working.
The Home Office is often, to put it politely, overzealous in their assessment of Good Character. If you have been refused on Good Character grounds, then it is worth speaking to us as we enjoy considerable success in challenging negative Good Character assessments. This might be through a reconsideration request or a judicial review.
Or, if you are concerned about whether you will meet the Good Character requirement then we can advise you on this. We can make representations on your behalf to the Home Office focussing on how you satisfy this requirement, thus heading off any potential refusal.
Naturalisation and EU nationals
Since 2015 EU nationals and their family members who have wanted to naturalise based on holding a right of permanent residence, have had to first hold a permanent residence document.
Since the opening of the EU Settlement Scheme in 2019, many EU nationals and family members have been granted Settled Status, a form of indefinite leave to remain. If an EU national or family member holds indefinite leave to remain then there is no requirement to also hold a permanent residence document.
Unless married to a British citizen, EU nationals will need to show that they have held either indefinite leave to remain or a right of permanent residence for at least a year. In many cases, and perhaps counterintuitively, applying for a permanent residence document under the ‘old system’ will allow you to apply to naturalise more quickly than if you register under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Unlike with Settled Status which must be held for a full year before applying to naturalise, those who are issued with a permanent residence document might be able to apply to naturalise as soon as they are issued with a permanent residence document. However, this would require careful preparation of the permanent residence application to show that the individual acquired a right of permanent residence at least a year prior.
If you are an EU national or family member looking to naturalise, then we can advise you on the quickest and cheapest route.
At Truth Legal we have Immigration solicitor Louis MacWilliam who heads up our Immigration Team. With over 11 years’ experience as a dedicated Immigration specialist, Louis is one of the few genuine immigration experts in the area.
Do you need help to become British? Book a consultation with us today.