British Citizenship by marriage can be obtained if you are eligible ‘naturalise’ as a British citizen under section 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981). The correct form in such a case would be Form AN.
In this article, we will answer the common questions “Can my wife or husband get British Citizenship” or “Can I get British citizenship by marrying a foreigner?”.
British citizenship by marriage requirements
- You must be aged 18 or over.
- You must be married to (or in a civil partnership with) a British citizen on the date of application.
- You must have the mental capacity to understand you are applying for citizenship.
- You must meet the residence requirements – 3 years for the spouse of a British citizen.
- You must meet the English language requirement.
- You must meet the Life in the UK test requirement.
- You must meet the ‘good character’ requirement.
Some of the above requirements are quite self-explanatory! However, we will discuss the ones which require a little more investigation in further detail below.
#1 The Residence Requirement
The residence requirement differs slightly if you are applying for British citizenship as the spouse/civil partner of a British citizen. In these circumstances, the residence requirements are as follows:
- You must have been physically present in the UK for a minimum of 3 years on the date the application is received by the Home Office.
- In the 3 year period prior to making the application, you must not have had greater than 270 days outside the UK (there are certain exceptions to this).
- In the 12 month period prior to making the application, you must not have had greater than 90 days outside the UK (there are certain exceptions to this).
- You must be free of Immigration Time Restrictions on the date of application. This basically means that you must have either Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Permanent Residence (PR) on the date you make the application.
- You must not have broken any immigration rules in the 3 year period prior to making the application
There is some discretion applied by the Home Office over excess absences and breaches of immigration rules in ‘special circumstances’. You can read more about those in the Home Office Naturalisation booklet.
#2 The English Language Requirement
In order to meet the English language requirement, you must either:
- Sit and pass a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, that is on the Home Office list of recognised tests at an approved test centre.
- Be the holder of a degree taken in the UK.
- Be the holder of a degree certificate that was taught/researched in a majority English speaking country AND confirmation from UK NARIC confirming the qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification. If the degree was taught in a non-majority English speaking country, confirmation from NARIC must also include it was taught in English .
- Be a national of a majority English speaking country.
#3 Life in the UK Test Requirement
You must pass the Life in the UK test in order to satisfy the requirements of applying for citizenship. The test costs £50 to sit, however do make sure you give yourself enough time to study for the test.
The official handbook “Life in the UK: A Guide for New Residents” can be bought here.
You can book the test here.
#4 The ‘Good Character’ Requirement
Many people overlook different aspects of the ‘good character’ requirement. Being of good character is defined as having ‘shown respects for the rights and freedoms of the UK, observed its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident of the UK’.
Breaches of the good character’ requirement include:
- engaging in criminal behaviour,
- using deception in a Home Office (or other Government Department) application,
- committing an immigration related offence in the last 10 years,
- involvement in war crimes, terrorism, and other non-conducive activity.
a) Criminal Behaviour
If you have been trialed and sentenced in court, it is likely your application will be refused. However, this is less likely if a certain period of time has passed.
Imprisonment of 4 years or more
Your application will likely be refused, notwithstanding when the conviction happened.
Imprisonment of between 12 months’ and 4 years’
Your application will likely be refused if made within 15 years of the sentence ending.
Imprisonment of less than 12 months’
Your application will likely be refused if made within 10 years of the sentence ending.
Non-custodial sentence/out of court disposal recorded on your criminal recorded
Your application will likely be refused if made within 3 years of the conviction.
Your ‘good character’ may also be questioned if you have used deception in any Home Office (or other Government Department) application in the last 10 years.
This includes providing false information or documents. Your application will be refused if you attempted to deceive in the last 10 years.
c) Immigration Related Questions
This is the one which catches many people! Most people seem to think that they must only be free of immigration related offences within the 3 year legal residence period.
However, people often fail to realise that if they committed an immigration related offence in the last 10 years, their application may be refused.
Immigration related offences include entering the UK illegally, evading immigration control, assisting a person in the evasion of immigration control or employing illegal workers.
d) War Crimes, Terrorism and Other Dubious Activity
This one wont apply to most of you (hopefully!). So we wont go in to any further details on this one.
What if I am not married yet?
So what is the process if you are not yet married to a British citizen?
- Get married to a British citizen.
- Either apply for entry clearance as a spouse (or civil partner) if you are outside the UK or apply for further leave to remain with Form FLR(M) if you are in the UK.
- Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). You will need to show sufficient knowledge of English and Life in the UK at this stage.
- Apply for British citizenship.
How much does British Citizenship by marriage cost?
Well that depends….on where you are in the visa process.
First, lets have a quick rundown on the costs of each application and test.
Application Type or Test
Entry Clearance Application as a Spouse plus IHS fees (£1,200)
£1,523 + £1200 = £2,723
In country Application as a Spouse on FLR(M) plus IHS fees (£1000)
£1,033 + £1000 = £2,033
British Citizenship Application
Please note, there are other hidden costs involved in making these applications (such as the English language and Life in the UK test) and we would advise you to refer to our article ‘5 Hidden British Citizenship Fees’ for further details of these.
#1 British Citizenship Cost if Not Married Yet
Firstly, you would need to pay for your application for entry clearance (£2,723), your extension on Form FLR(M) (£2,033), your application for ILR (£2,389) and your British citizenship application on Form AN (£1,330).
Example: Ron and Rhonda, have decided to marry each other. Ron is a British citizen and Rhonda is a South African national. They want to know how much it will cost in order for Rhonda to become a British citizen. It will cost Rhonda a total of £8,475 (£2,723 + £2033 + £2,389 + £1,330) to apply for citizenship.
#2 British Citizenship Cost if Entry Clearance Granted
Additionally, you would need to pay for your extension as a spouse on Form FLR(M) (£2,033), your application for ILR (£2,389) and your British citizenship application on Form AN (£1,330)
Example: Carl and Joanne are happily married, and Joanne has been living in the UK for almost 2.5 years. She is now ready to apply for her extension as a spouse and would like a reminder as to how much it will cost her to obtain citizenship. It will cost Rhonda a total of £5,752 (£2,033 + £2,389 + £1,330) to apply for citizenship.
#3 British Citizenship Cost if Extension Granted
You would also need to pay for your application for ILR (£2,389) and your British citizenship application (£1,330).
Example: Imran has now been in the UK for almost 5 years and is ready to apply for ILR. He would like a reminder as to how much it would cost him to obtain citizenship. It will cost Imran a total of £3,719 (£2,389 + £1,330) to apply for citizenship.
#4 British Citizenship Cost if ILR Granted
You would simply need to pay for your British citizenship application (£1,330) using Form AN.
Example: Kristofer has recently obtained ILR and is ready to apply for British citizenship. It will cost him a total of £1,330 to apply.
What if my partner has died?
Unfortunately, you are unable to apply for citizenship (as the spouse of a British citizen) if your British partner has died.
If you have already obtained ILR, you may apply for citizenship 12 months after obtaining ILR under the 5 year legal residence requirement (this is the residence requirement when not applying as a spouse of a British citizen).
On the other hand, if your partner dies before you obtained ILR, you may be able to apply for ILR as a ‘bereaved partner’ under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, then apply for citizenship under the 5 year legal residence requirement.
In these circumstances, you do not need to take the Life in the UK test or prove you meet the English language requirement.
You could either apply for citizenship using Form AN or apply online.
The advantages of applying online are that you may be able to retain your documents whilst your application is being decided. However, you will only be told when you apply.
We hope that we have clarified the process of applying for British citizenship through marriage for you.