Deciding if citizenship is right for you
Some people can already live and work in the UK - they don’t need to apply for British citizenship to stay in the UK.
Before you apply, check:
what rights you already have
what other rights you’d get
what getting British citizenship involves - for example, how much it costs and if you can keep your current nationality
Check if you’re already a British citizen
You don’t need to apply for citizenship if you automatically became a British citizen when you were born.
You might automatically be a British citizen if either:
one of your parents was a British citizen when you were born
you were born in the UK and one of your parents had ‘settled status’, ‘indefinite leave to remain’ or ‘permanent residence’ when you were born
You can check if you’re automatically a British citizen on GOV.UK if either:
Check if you can already live and work in the UK permanently
You already have the right to live and work in the UK permanently if you:
have ‘settled status’ from the EU Settlement Scheme
have ‘indefinite leave to remain’
are an Irish citizen
are a Commonwealth citizen with ‘right of abode’
You can stay in the UK for as long as you want if you’re in one of those situations - you don’t have to apply for citizenship.
If you’re from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein
If you have either settled or pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme, you already have the right to live and work in the UK.
If you have settled status, you can live and work in the UK permanently - without getting British citizenship. But you can still apply for citizenship if you want to.
If you have permanent residence
This is sometimes called a ‘document certifying permanent residence’.
Your permanent residence document is not be valid any more. If you don't have pre-settled or settled status, you might still be able to make a late application to the scheme to protect your rights in the UK.
Check if you can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme
The deadline to apply to the scheme was 30 June 2021. You can make a late application to the scheme if you have a good reason for missing the deadline.
You must also have either:
- arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020
- applied for a residence card or family permit by 31 December 2020.
Check if you can make a late application to the EU Settlement Scheme.
If your family wants to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, you must have pre-settled or settled status. You can check if your family members can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
If you can’t apply to the EU Settlement Scheme
You might need to apply for a visa to live in the UK if you’re not eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme. You can find out more about applying for a visa to work, study or join family in the UK on GOV.UK
If you have indefinite leave to remain
You can live and work in the UK permanently if you have indefinite leave to remain - you don’t need to apply for British citizenship. But you can still apply if you want to.
If you had a baby in the UK
You can apply for a UK passport for your child if you're in one of the following situations:
you had indefinite leave to remain when your child was born
you had settled status when your child was born
you were eligible for settled status on 30 June 2021 and your child was born after this date
your child was born between 30 April 2006 and 30 June 2021 and you can prove you had permanent residence
If you're not sure how to prove you had a permanent residence document to prove it, talk to an adviser.
If you’re an Irish citizen
If you were born in Northern Ireland, you’ll usually have British and Irish dual citizenship - even if you don’t have a UK passport. You can check if you’re already a British citizen on GOV.UK.
If you only have Irish citizenship, you still have the right to live and work in the UK permanently - you don’t need British citizenship. You can still apply for British citizenship if you‘re eligible. Check if citizenship is right for you before you apply - it can cost more than £1,300.
If you’re a Commonwealth citizen
If you want to apply for citizenship, you’ll need to have the right to live and work permanently in the UK. This usually means you’ll need indefinite leave to remain or ‘right of abode’.
Check if citizenship is right for you before you apply - it can cost more than £1,300.
Check if you have right of abode
You might have right of abode if:
one of your parents had right of abode
you’re a woman who married a Commonwealth citizen with right of abode before 1983
You can read more about who has right of abode on GOV.UK.
If you were born in a British colony before 1983
If you have right of abode, you might automatically be a British citizen - check if you’re already a British citizen on GOV.UK.
If you or your parents came to the UK before 1973
If you don't have proof of your right to live in the UK, you might be able to get an immigration document from the Windrush scheme.
You could be eligible for either:
an immigration document proving your right to live in the UK permanently - for example, a ‘biometric residence permit’
It’s free to apply to the Windrush scheme and you won’t need to pass the Life in the UK Test or prove you speak English.
Find out if you can apply to the Windrush scheme.
Check what rights you’ll have as a British citizen
You need British citizenship if you want to:
get a British passport
vote in elections - you might already be able to vote in some elections if you’re an EU or Commonwealth citizen
leave the UK for as long as you want, without losing your ‘right to return’
get British citizenship for your children if they’re born outside the UK
If your children are born in the UK, they’ll automatically be British citizens if you have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or permanent residence when they’re born - you don’t need to be a British citizen.
Check if you already have the right to vote
If you’re an Irish or Commonwealth citizen, you can already vote in general and local elections.
Check if you can register to vote on the Electoral Commission website.
If you want to leave the UK for a long time
You can leave the UK for:
5 years without losing settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme - 4 years if you're Swiss
2 years without losing indefinite leave to remain
If you stay outside the UK for longer than this you lose your ‘right to return’ - this means you lose your settled status or your indefinite leave to remain.
If you get British citizenship, you can leave the UK for as long as you want without losing your right to return.
If you go to prison
If it’s a serious criminal offence and you’re not a British citizen, you could lose your status and be deported. A serious offence is one which has at least a 12-month sentence.
If you have British citizenship, you can’t usually be deported or lose your citizenship.
You can’t apply for citizenship if you’ve already been found guilty of a serious criminal offence.
If you’ve had refugee status or humanitarian protection
If you get British citizenship, you will not be able to make a ‘family reunion’ application to bring your family to the UK for free.
This could make it more difficult and expensive to bring family to the UK. Check how much it costs to get a family visa if you have British citizenship on GOV.UK.
You can still make a family reunion application if you have indefinite leave to remain instead of British citizenship.
Check if you can keep your current nationality
You can be a citizen of more than one country at the same time - this is called ‘dual citizenship’.
Some countries don’t allow their citizens to have dual citizenship. You should check if the country where you're already a citizen will let you keep your nationality and passport after you become a British citizen.
If you’re not sure if you can have dual citizenship, check the rules with your country’s consulate or embassy in the UK.
If you’re a refugee, only contact your embassy if it’s safe for you to do so.
If you can keep your current nationality
When you have dual citizenship, it means you can live and work in both countries - and you won’t need a visa to travel between them. You can also choose which passport to use when you travel.
If the other country makes its citizens do things like national service, you'll still have to do them if you get British citizenship.
If you get British citizenship, you can’t usually get help from the British embassy in another country where you’re also a citizen.
John has dual British and American citizenship.
John is arrested in the USA. He can't get help from the British embassy in the USA because he is an American citizen.
If you're not allowed dual citizenship
If you get British citizenship, you could lose your current nationality and passport. You might:
need a visa to visit the other country
not be allowed to own property there
not be allowed to move back
You might not be able to get your original nationality back later, even if you give up your British citizenship.
How much it costs
You usually pay £1,330 to apply for adult citizenship or £1,012 for children. If you’re applying for citizenship as an adult you’ll also have to pay:
£50 to do the Life in the UK Test
£19.20 to send your fingerprints and photo to the Home Office
around £150 if you have to do an English test
You will not get your money back if your application is refused - for example, if you’re not eligible or you sent the wrong documents.
What it involves
You’ll need to allow plenty of time to prepare your application for citizenship.
You usually have to do a test on British history, traditions and everyday life, called the Life in the UK Test. You also have to gather lots of documents and evidence - for example, dates for every time you came in and out of the UK during the last 5 years.
You might also need to do a speaking and listening test to prove your knowledge of English.
Find out more about what you need to do to apply for citizenship.
When you can apply
After you get settled status, indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence, you usually have to wait 1 year before you can apply for British citizenship.
You can apply for British citizenship as soon as you get your status if you're married to, or in a civil partnership with, a British citizen.