Naturalisation – Meeting the requirements
Nationality Law is generally complex, given its genealogical nature as well as the fact that over the decades there have been many changes within its legislation. However, for many applicants their only experience with the British Nationality Act (1981) comes when an application for naturalisation or registration is made, the granting of which enables the individual to then apply for a first British passport.
Requirements to Naturalise
The main basis for a successful application is through meeting the three most important requirements to naturalise – good character, knowledge of language and life (KoLL) and residency. For now we will look at naturalisation and the first two requirements, leaving residency and registration applications until a following instalment.
Good character for the most part refers to,
- Criminality: Applicants are required to include any incidents, no matter how small, even down to the inclusion of unpaid parking tickets, fixed penalties for driving offences or minor cautions. Although the Nationality Department caseworkers are allowed to exercise discretion, when balancing acts of good character against misdemeanors, it is highly unlikely that those who have received a custodial sentence of 4 years or more will have their application granted. Even those who have had an out of court decision made or received a non-custodial sentence e.g. a driving ban, should wait at least 3 years before applying.
- Immigration history: The residency within the UK on which an application is based should have been ‘lawful’. That means there have been no breaches of the Immigration Rules. This may include the following – use of deception or dishonesty; overstaying; working, studying, or accessing public funds when these are not in the conditions of your leave; illegal entry; compliance with the EEA Regulations 2016. Failing to observe these means having to wait 10 ‘lawful’ years until making an application. This list is not exhaustive and again, as above, the guidance is that applications will ‘normally’ be refused.
- Sound mind: Additionally, you will be required to demonstrate you are of ‘sound mind’. As defined within law this is generally understood to mean that you are able to comprehend your actions in applying for citizenship. This requirement is typically regarded as having been met unless evidence suggests otherwise.
- Knowledge of Language and Life: The need to have an English language qualification at a level of ‘B1 of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is, with very few exceptions, mandatory for those between the ages of 18 and 65 who are not from a majority English-speaking country. This requirement can be met most easily by having a qualification at degree level which has been awarded in the UK; degrees from outside of the UK taught in English are accepted but need to be verified by an independent body. Alternatively – Home Office approved English language qualifications at Level B1 or above must not be older than 2 years unless used previously by an applicant who successfully made an application for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of a B1 level qualification. The Life in the UK test must also be passed by applicants. Unlike the language qualification the award has no ‘expiration’ date.
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