British Citizenship

The different ways to acquire British citizenship

By Amer Zaman

on May 18, 2023

Read Time: 7 Minutes

For many people who move to the UK or wish to do so, even if they have the required immigration permission to stay in the country in the short term, their longer-term aspiration may be to gain the status of a British citizen. Such a status would give them the right to live and work in the UK permanently, without any need to worry about immigration restrictions.

However, the subject of British citizenship – and the process of acquiring it – can be a complex and multi-layered one for many observers.

In particular, you may be interested to know what your starting point should be in seeking to become a British citizen, and what requirements you will need to fulfil if you wish to acquire citizenship. So, our specialists in UK immigration law here at Cranbrook Legal have delved deeper into these questions.

What are the six types of British nationality?

Before we go any further, it is worth us addressing the fact that a lot of confusion can often arise over the distinction between British citizenship and British nationality. These two terms do not refer to exactly the same things.

In effect, “British nationality” is the broader term than “British citizenship”; British citizenship is merely one type of British nationality, and there are six types of British nationality in total, as created by the British Nationality Act 1981.

Those are:

  • British citizenship
  • British Overseas Territories citizen
  • British overseas citizen
  • British subject
  • British national (overseas)
  • British protected person

It is the given British national’s right of abode that ultimately determines whether they are also a British citizen. Of all the aforementioned forms of British nationality, it is generally only British citizenship that entitles a British national to live and work in the UK without the need to comply with any immigration time restrictions.

So, it is important to know what status you may have if you are already a British national, given that this will determine your rights in the UK.

Is it possible that you are a British citizen already?

It might seem quite remarkable to suggest that some people may have British citizenship without knowing, but this can indeed sometimes occur.

You may already have British citizenship if any of the following are true:

  • You have a British parent
  • You were born in the UK or a British Overseas Territory
  • You were born in a British colony prior to 1983.

The various rules that dictate whether or not someone is a British citizen cannot be summed up in a few sentences; the GOV.UK website provides more in-depth information and advice to enable you to determine whether you are already a British citizen.

Bear in mind that even if – according to the aforementioned guides – you are not automatically a British citizen, you may still have the right to apply for British citizenship immediately.

Is acquiring British citizenship the right decision for you?

If you have been thinking about applying for British citizenship, it is also important to be confident as to whether such status would be right for you. For example, if you wish to stay in the UK after your current immigration permission – such as an active visa – expires, you will not necessarily need to apply for British citizenship in order to stay in the UK for longer.

So, you will need to consider such matters as what rights your current immigration status in the UK gives you, as well as what further rights you may gain if you were to become a British citizen.

It is also a good idea to consider whether acquiring British citizenship would enable you to keep your existing nationality, and how important this is to you.

Another major factor that must be thought about when it comes to major UK immigration applications, is cost. At the time of this article being written in 2023, the UK Government fee to apply to naturalise as a UK citizen was £1,330 – which of course, is not a small amount of money for many people.

Alongside this, you should account for the fees charged by any immigration solicitors you choose to work with in order to maximise your chances of a successful British citizenship application.

Here at Cranbrook Legal in central London, for instance, our project management of British citizenship applications involves a fixed fee being agreed with our client at the outset of their case. This enables every client of ours to budget for the costs incurred by a British citizenship application, without the need for them to worry about additional or ‘hidden’ charges.

To learn more about our services and expertise in relation to British citizenship applications, please don’t hesitate to use our online contact form to request a free consultation, or to call us now on 0208 215 0053.

What is the fastest way to get British citizenship?

The question of how quickly you can become a British citizen, will naturally depend on a lot of different factors.

You may be eligible, for example, to apply for British citizenship immediately, if you were born in the UK and you were not automatically a British citizen. Being born in the UK is not sufficient, on its own, to automatically make anyone a British citizen; much depends on exactly when the given person was born, and the circumstances of their parents.

Much of the conversation about how rapidly British citizenship can be acquired, however, revolves around the process of someone applying for citizenship having already acquired ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR) or ‘settled status’.

Indeed, you may be entitled to apply for British citizenship if you have spent five years living in the UK and you have had one of the following for 12 months:

Provided that the above describes your situation, and you satisfy certain other requirements – such as being at least 18 years of age – the 12-month wait will not apply to you if you are married to a British citizen.

In fact, being married to, or in a civil partnership with, a British citizen could give you the right to apply for British citizenship by ‘naturalisation’ after just three years spent living in the UK. Again, though, you will also need to meet certain other requirements, which include (but are not limited to) proving your knowledge of the English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic language, and being of good character.

A quick guide to the potential ways to become a British citizen

There is a wide range of circumstances in which someone may be eligible to apply for British citizenship. You might even find that you are eligible in more than one way – in which case, you will be able to choose which way you apply for British citizenship.

Below, we have outlined some of the circumstances in which you may be able to gain the status of a British citizen:

  • You were born in the UK
  • You are married to, or in a civil partnership with, a British citizen
  • You have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status
  • You have ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • You have a British parent
  • You have another type of British nationality
  • You have a parent with British Overseas Territories citizenship
  • You’re stateless
  • You previously gave up – otherwise known as “renounced” – your British citizenship
  • Other special circumstances apply to you
  • You’re a Chagossian descendant (a direct descendant of someone born in British Indian Ocean Territory)
  • You’re a Commonwealth citizen – in which case, may be eligible to apply under the UK Government’s Windrush Scheme, subject to certain requirements being met.

It should be noted that even if any of the above are true for you, this would not mean that you can expect to be granted British citizenship if you apply. You will still need to meet certain other requirements, as set out by the Home Office.

The team at Cranbrook Legal can help you acquire British citizenship

If you do not strictly need to work alongside a UK immigration lawyer in order to apply for British citizenship, you might understandably wonder why you should do so.

However, as this guide has hopefully helped make clear, the subject of British citizenship, and how to obtain it, can be a very complicated one. There is no single proven way for any given person to acquire British citizenship, as this will depend on the ways in which they may be eligible.

So, you might well be very thankful for the services and expertise of experts in UK immigration law who have helped so many other people in the past to apply for, and gain approval for, British citizenship.

An application for British citizenship may be the most important immigration application you make in your lifetime, and it will represent a major investment of your money and time. So, it might make a lot of sense to work alongside award-winning specialists in UK immigration law, who have a high success rate when it comes to managing their clients’ British citizenship applications.

Would you like to find out more about how we could advise and help you in relation to potential paths to British citizenship? If so, please feel free to call us in central London today, on 0208 215 0053. Alternatively, you are welcome to fill in and submit our online contact form to ask for a free consultation.

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