British citizenship and permanent residency

Business Travel Image Of A UK Passport In A Suit PocketAfter staying legally in the UK for a certain amount of time, you may wish to continue staying here. You could reapply for a visa, obtain permanent residency status (PR) or become a British citizen.

Becoming a British citizen would allow you to apply for some specific forms of work or study, have the right to live here and also apply for a British passport. Many people seek to become a British citizen due to the benefits and services the UK offers, which their own country may not.

Permanent residency status

If you have stayed legally in the UK after a certain amount of time (between 2-14 years depending on which category of visa you have or on your personal circumstances), you may apply for permission to become a permanent resident.This permission is known as an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

This status will mean that you are allowed to stay in the UK without any time limit on your stay and you will be free to take up study or work without any conditions being imposed. But it does not include the right to live permanently in the UK without any immigration restrictions. If you leave the country at all, you will need an immigration officer’s permission to enter at the airport or port.

Obtaining PR status is the first stepping-stone to acquiring British citizenship and so it is useful to apply for PR status when you qualify. The qualifying time periods are:

  • Five years of continuous residence for work permit holders, highly skilled migrants
  • Two years of continuous residence for spouses of British citizens or settled persons
  • 10 or 14 years continuous residency for anyone else

Obtaining British citizenship

To become a British citizen, you must fulfil a number of standard requirements that prove you

  • are 18 or over
  • are of sound mind
  • are of good character
  • are going to live in the UK for the foreseeable future
  • are able to communicate in English, Welsh or Scotish Gaelic
  • have passed the Life in the UK test.

You must complete and pass the Life in the UK Test as part of your application; it will ask questions about British culture, traditions and customs as well as prove you can communicate in English. If you do not pass the Life in the UK Test,you will need to attend an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course as well as citizenship classes until you are able to communicate, read and write in English to a good standard.

Once you have passed the Life in the UK Test and fulfilled the other standard requirements, you will need to have stayed in the UK for a number of years before qualifying. If you have a spouse or civil partner who is a British citizen then you must have lived in the UK for at least three years before the date of your application. Otherwise you must have stayed in the UK at least five years before the date of your application.

To apply you can submit the application form yourself, or ask an agent or the National Checking Service (NCS) that is run by local councils. You will also need to pay a fee and send the application to the UK Border Agency. Following this, you will be waiting for a letter from the Border Agency that will grant or deny your application. If you are successful you will be invited to a citizenship ceremony and presented with a Citizenship Certificate.

Now that you are a British citizen, you can apply for a British passport.

Dual nationality

The UK permits dual nationality, a status that allows you to be a citizen of another country and still be a citizen of the UK. Dual nationality can happen by choice if applying for a foreign citizenship or by default from

  • your place of birth
  • family connections, ie your parents or grandparents
  • marriage or civil partnership
  • extended residency in another country

The advantages of having dual nationality in another country include being able to apply for jobs, own property, and access to welfare, education and health care programs. But there may also be some disadvantages, including having to pay tax or  being called up for military service. There may also be increased scrutiny by immigration and security officials if you travel with more than one passport. But, many countries do not allow dual nationality: you may have to give up your British citizenship if you wish to be a national of those countries.

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