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British Citizenship by Naturalisation: Absences from the UK

The British Nationality Act 1981 allows individuals to naturalise as a British citizen under section 6(1) or 6(2) of the Act.  Although there are strict absence requirements, the Home Office may exercise discretion where these have not been met. In this post we will explore the absence requirement for British citizenship by naturalisation as well as when discretion might be exercised when absences exceed the permitted limits. 

British Citizenship by Naturalisation Absence Requirement

If you are not married to a British citizen, you must satisfy the Home Office that you were not absent from the UK for more than either:

  • 450 days in the 5 year period prior to submitting your British citizenship application; and
  • 90 days in the period of 12 months ending with the date of your British citizenship application.

If you are married to a British citizen, you must satisfy the Home Office that you were not absent from the UK for more than either:

  • 270 in the 3 year period prior to submitting your British citizenship application; and 
  • 90 days in the period of 12 months ending with the date of your British citizenship application.

How does the Home Office calculate absences from the UK?

It is important to note that when applying for British citizenship the dates of departure and arrival do not count towards your absences. Whole days’ absences from the UK should be counted towards your absences from the UK.  You do not need to be ordinarily resident or domiciled in the UK.  

What discretion is there for excess absences during the 3 or 5 year qualifying period?

The British Nationality Act 1981 allows for discretion to be made in respect of the residence requirement for absences between 480-900 days for applications under section 6(1) British Nationality Act 1981, or 300-540 days for applications under section 6(2) British Nationality Act 1981. 

An application for British citizenship will generally not be successful unless you are able to demonstrate that:

  • you have established your home in the UK;
  • you have employment in the UK;
  • you have established your  family in the UK and
  • your  finances are established in the UK.

In addition, one of the following must apply:

  • you must have 2 years (for applications under section 6(1) British Nationality Act 1981) or 1 year (for applications under section 6(2) British Nationality Act 1981) without substantial absences immediately prior to the qualifying period;
  • excess absences must be as a result of  overseas postings;
  • excess absences must have been an unavoidable consequence of the nature of your job;
  • there must be exceptionally compelling reasons (of an occupational or compassionate nature) to justify naturalisation being granted at that time or
  • excess absences were because you were unable to return to the UK because of a global pandemic

You may wish to speak to our barristers for expert legal advice if your absences are over  the requirement in the 3 or 5 year qualifying period; we can provide advice as to the scope for discretion to be exercised for your application. 

Will discretion be exercised for excess absences during the 12 months prior to my application?

The exercise of discretion in an application to naturalise as a British citizen will depend on the number of absences during the final year. Discretion should be exercised for absences of 100 days or less. For absences between 100-180 days, discretion may be exercised by the caseworker, taking into consideration your family, employment and whether you have established your home in the UK. 

For absences over 180 days in the final year, provided the residence requirement across the whole qualifying period is met, discretion may be exercised if the caseworker is satisfied you have demonstrated that you have made the UK your home. Discretion will only be exercised in exceptional circumstances where you do not meet the residence requirement across the whole qualifying period. 

The Nationality guidance makes it clear that an application for British citizenship where the guidance is not met will be extremely challenging. It states “Where an applicant’s absences exceed those covered above it is highly unlikely that discretion would be appropriate. You should normally refuse the application and advise them to re-apply when they are able to bring themselves with the statutory requirements, unless there are specific circumstances that warrant exceptional consideration at a senior level.”

Contact Our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with applications for a Naturalisation as a British citizen, contact our Immigration Barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

SEE HOW OUR IMMIGRATION BARRISTERS CAN HELP YOU

To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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