Residential requirements for naturalisation as a British citizen
Those who make an application for naturalisation as a British citizen under section 6 of the British Nationality Act 1981 must, in addition to other requirements as to immigration status and character, satisfy various requirements as to residence in the UK.
The residency requirement
The residential requirement is set out within Schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981. The main purpose of the residential requirement is to allow an applicant to demonstrate close links with the UK and to enable the Secretary of State to assess the strength of their commitment to the UK and, ultimately, the applicant’s suitability for citizenship.
The residential requirement for naturalisation as a British citizen is as follows:
- The applicant must be physically present in the UK on a date five years before the date of the naturalisation application (or three years if married to, or a civil partner of, a British citizen);
- Must not have been absent from the UK for a total of 450 days during that five year period (or 270 days if married to, or a civil partner of, a British citizen);
- In the 12 months immediately before the date of application, the total number of absences from the UK should not exceed 90 days;
- The applicant must not have been in breach of immigration law during the five years (or three years) before the date of application.
The residence requirement will primarily be assessed with reference to the applicant’s passport or travel document which has been endorsed with date stamps showing arrival and departure from the UK, and/or Home Office records. The Home Office accepts that passports will not necessarily be stamped to show embarkation from the UK and where the absences cannot be evidenced by alternative means (e.g. flight bookings, hotel reservations, etc.) then, provided that there are no grounds to doubt the accuracy of the claim, the applicant should be given the benefit of any doubt.
Only whole days absences will be counted; the dates of departure from, and arrival in, the UK are not to be counted as absences; section 50(10)(b) of the British Nationality Act 1981.
Excess absences and discretion
Where an applicant has absences which exceed those set out above, the Secretary of State retains some discretion to approve an application. For example, the Secretary of State will normally disregard excess absences where the total number of absences does not exceed 480 days (or 300 days if married to, or a civil partner of, a British citizen). The Home Office has specific provisions in place for current and former members of HM Armed Forces.
Free from immigration time restrictions
All applicants must be free from immigration time restrictions on their stay in the UK at the date of application. Unless married to, or a civil partner of, a British citizen, the applicant must be free from immigration time restrictions for a full period of 12 months prior to the date of application. The most straightforward way of demonstrating that an applicant is free from immigration time restrictions is by providing evidence of a grant of indefinite leave to remain/enter (settlement) by the Home Office (for visa nationals), producing a document certifying permanent residence (for citizens of countries within the European Union) or a permanent residence card (for non-EEA national family members).
Should you wish to discuss the residential requirements for naturalisation as a British citizen, or for advice on making an application for naturalisation as a British citizen, please contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.