Becoming a British citizen – Citizens Advice

Becoming a British citizen – Citizens Advice

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If your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen, you’ll need to meet the requirements for people who have a British husband, wife or civil partner instead.

You can usually apply for British citizenship 12 months after:

  • you got settled status – from the EU Settlement Scheme

  • you got indefinite leave to remain

If you don’t have settled status or indefinite leave, you might still be able to apply, even though the deadline has passed. You will need to show you had a good reason for missing the deadline.

Check if you can make a late application for settled status.

Check what other requirements you need to meet before you apply

You also need to have:

  • lived in the UK over the past 5 years

  • passed the Life in the UK Test

  • a qualification that shows you speak and understand English – unless you’re exempt

  • ‘good character’ – for example, you’ve had no recent or serious criminal convictions, or problems with debts, unpaid taxes or immigration

Find out how to prepare for the Life in the UK Test, prove you know English and meet the good character requirement.

Proving you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years

You need to do this even if you’ve already proved how long you’ve lived in the UK – for example, to get settled status.

You need to prove you were:

  • living in the UK for the 5 years before you apply

  • outside the UK for no more than 450 days in those 5 years

  • outside the UK for no more than 90 days in the past 12 months

You also need to make sure you were in the UK on the same day 5 years ago as the day you’re applying. If you weren’t in the UK exactly 5 years ago, it’s usually best to wait until it’s been 5 years since the date you returned to the UK and then apply. If you were out of the UK for a long time, talk to an adviser.

If you’ve been outside the UK for more than 450 days

You might still be eligible if the Home Office decide to ‘use discretion’ (make an exception). For example, they can ignore time you spent outside the UK for:

  • up to 480 days in 5 years

  • even longer in some cases – for example, if you travel frequently for work

The Home Office will ignore absences for a compassionate or exceptional reason – for example, coronavirus travel restrictions delayed their return to the UK.

Before you apply, you should check the naturalisation guide on GOV.UK to find out if the Home Office can make an exception for your absences from the UK.

If the Home Office decides you’re not eligible for citizenship because of the time you’ve spent outside the UK, you won’t get your application fee back.

If you think you might not be eligible, you should talk to an adviser before you apply.

Find out more about eligibility

You can find out more on about eligibility for citizenship on GOV.UK.

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