The ‘principal home’ requirement in British citizenship applications
The British Nationality Act 1981 allows individuals to naturalise under either Section 6(1) or 6(2) of the Act. If you are making an application under Section 6(1), you will need to demonstrate that your intention for the future is to have your principal home in the UK. This blog post will outline how the Home Office will expect you to demonstrate this.
According to the Home Office Nationality Policy Guidance, the main purpose of the ‘principal home’ requirement is to ensure that those wishing to be naturalised as British citizens have not already have decided, or do not intend, to break their links with the UK. It is recognised in the guidance that the clearest indicator of an applicant’s future intentions is their past behaviour. However, any evidence that their behaviour will change in the future will also be taken into consideration.
Excess past absences
In assessing past behaviour, the Home Office will consider whether the applicant has met the residence requirements. These requirements are outlined in detail in our previous blog post. As explained in the post, whether discretion will be exercised in a case involving excess absences depends on the number of absences and the reasons for them. As well as forming its own requirement, the residence requirement is also highly relevant to the assessment of whether the UK will be the applicant’s principal home.
According to the Home Office guidance, an applicant’s claim that their principal home will be the UK should be accepted if the applicant’s excess absences from the UK are fewer than 30 days, and if they have an established home in the UK.
If there have been further excess absences and the applicant has requested that discretion be exercised when the Home Office considers the residence requirement, the applicant must demonstrate that they have “established residence, family and a substantial proportion of any estate” in the UK. Although this may be sufficient for the applicant to meet the principal home requirement, as outlined above, the residence requirement will still need to be dealt with separately.
The Home Office guidance states that where an applicant has made firm plans to establish their principal home abroad at some future date, the application must be refused. However, the existence of such plans will need to have been clearly established. The application cannot be refused solely on the suspicion that the applicant will reside outside of the UK.
Even if the applicant has not made plans to establish their principal home abroad, they may be planning to move abroad for a period of time; and may lack an established home in the UK. In such cases, this will cast doubt on their future intentions to have their principal home in the UK. If these doubts cannot be resolved, the guidance states that the application must be refused. These doubts may be resolved depending on the length of the planned absence from the UK and the nature of the move.
If the applicant is about to leave the UK for a period of more than six months, the guidance states that an application should normally be refused and that the applicant should be advised to reapply on their return to the UK. However, in the following circumstances an application may still be successful:
- the applicant is undertaking voluntary work such as with the Voluntary Service Overseas;
- the applicant is undertaking studies, training or employment abroad which is necessary to pursue a UK based profession, vocation or occupation;
- the absence forms part of an established pattern, such as in relation to employment at sea and the applicant is primarily based in the UK.
Spouse living abroad
In circumstances where the applicant is applying for naturalisation and their spouse is not, the Home Office will make enquiries as to whether the applicant’s spouse or civil partner is living abroad or will be living abroad shortly. If this is the case, it will usually be taken as evidence that the requirement is not met, unless any of the following apply:
- the couple are separated;
- the spouse or partner has applied for, and is awaiting, an entry clearance;
- the Home Office is otherwise satisfied that the spouse or partner intends to join the applicant here;
- it is clear that the couple are content to live apart for the foreseeable future
Applicant has no principal home
The Home Office guidance also recognises that there are some applicants whose way of life does not allow them to maintain a principal home in the conventional sense. The example given by the guidance is “international celebrities”. In these circumstances, the Home Office will consider the position of the applicant under UK tax law, any properties they own in the UK, the length of time that they spend in the UK each year and the extent to which they identify themselves with the UK.
According to the guidance, the Home Office will normally accept that the applicant meets the requirements if they are domiciled in the UK for tax purposes, spend a reasonable amount of time in the UK for purposes other than work and have some personal connections in the UK.
Therefore, if you have an upcoming absence from the UK of more than six months, no principal home in the conventional sense, or if your spouse is living elsewhere, you should ensure that your naturalisation application is carefully prepared in order to meet the future intentions requirement.
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