For many applicants who have to go through the UK immigration system, it will take 6 years in order to become a British citizen.
This article will cover several different paths you can take to become a British citizen and how long it will take you, dependent upon the path you are on.
This guide covers:
- How long does it take to become a British citizen as a Spouse (partner route)?
- How long does it take to become a British Citizen as a EEA National (or a family member of an EEA National)?
- How long does it take to become a British Citizen as a Refugee?
- How long does it take to become a British Citizen on a Tier 2 (General) Visa?
There are various other paths to British citizenship, but as these are some of the most common, we will deal with these first.
How long does it take to become a British Citizen as a Spouse (partner route)?
The time it takes to become a British citizen through marriage to another British citizen will not be exactly the same for everyone. There are many variables involved, however the general process is as follows:
The typical journey to citizenship as a spouse would look like this:
- Marriage (getting married);
- Applying for entry clearance as a spouse – visa processing times are different in each country but are generally no more than 6 months;
- If you are successful in your application, you will be granted leave to remain for 2.5 years (no greater than 33 months);
- If you are still in a relationship with your British spouse, you can apply for further leave to remain as a spouse on FLR(M) for another 2.5 years (no greater than 30 months);
- Once you have completed a continuous period of at least 5 years (60 months) as a spouse, the next step is to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). ILR is when you have unlimited leave to remain in the UK, and have many of the benefits of a British citizen (such as access to public funds and the NHS), however you are still a national of your country of birth; and then…
- Once you have ILR, you can apply for naturalisation as a British citizen straight away if funds allow – the process is very expensive!
So to conclude, you can generally apply for citizenship after approximately 5 years as a spouse – however, you may need to wait a few months before each of your applications are granted.
Other factors to consider
- The natural inclination as soon as the marriage has taken place would normally be to apply for entry clearance as soon as possible. However, this will only be possible if you meet the immigration rules. In order to ensure a simple application process, you may need to wait until your UK partner has been in employment for 6 months or more (Category A).
- You can apply for entry clearance if your UK partner has been in employment for less than 6 months (Category B), however the rules do get slightly more complicated.
- If you are applying to enter the UK as a fiancé, your initial leave to remain will be for 6 months, after which you apply to switch into a spouse visa using Form FLR(M). Therefore, applying as a fiancé can add 6 months on to your journey to citizenship.
- It can also take some time to prepare your application and gather documentation.
- If you do not meet the English language or financial requirement, you may need to wait for 10 years before you can apply for ILR. Therefore, under this route it may take you at least 10 years to gain citizenship
How long does it take to become a British Citizen as a EEA National (or a family member of an EEA National)?
Again, the time it takes for an EEA national to become a British citizen will not be the same for everyone. Also, due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, we are not sure what the future holds. However, the current general process is as follows:
- Enter the UK as an EEA national – you simply need a valid EEA passport or a national identity card issued by an EEA country. If you are a non-EEA family member of an EEA national, you must apply for an EEA family permit before entering the UK. This is valid for 6 months;
- You can apply for a registration certificate/residence card to prove your right to live and work in the UK – this is not necessary but makes it easier to prove you have the right to live and work in the UK;
- After having lived in the UK continuously for 5 years, you can apply for permanent residence. You must have been a ‘qualified’ person during the 5 years.If you are a non-EEA family member, your partner must either have been a ‘qualified’ person or had permanent residence during the 5 year continuous period; and then…
- One year after the date in which you acquired permanent residence, you can apply for British citizenship (provided you have the document certifying permanent residence).
So to conclude, it generally takes at least 6 years to be able to apply for citizenship as an EEA national.
Other factors to consider
- If you have left the UK for over 2 years within the 5 year period, then you must restart your 5 year period as it will no longer be classed as 5 years ‘continuous’ residence.
- If you had a break in exercising your Treaty Rights during the 5 year period, you must also restart the 5 year period.
- It may take an extra few weeks/months to process your citizenship applications.
- If you are married to a British citizen, you do not need to have held your permanent residence card for 12 months and can apply for citizenship straight after gaining PR.
How long does it take to become a British Citizen as a Refugee?
Again, the time it takes for a person with refugee status to gain British citizenship can vary, however the general process is as follows:
- Claim asylum in the UK;
- If your claim is granted, you will be given 5 years leave to remain as a refugee or permission to stay for humanitarian reasons;
- After 5 years, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR);
- You must have ILR for at least 12 months before making an application for British citizenship;
So to conclude, it generally takes at least 6 years to apply for British citizenship as a refugee.
Other factors to consider
- When applying for British citizenship, a lot of refugees are caught out on the ‘good character’ requirement of the naturalisation application.
- They believe they can apply for naturalisation after being legally resident in the UK for 5 years.
- However, in the last few years, the Home Office has introduced a 10 year ban on those who have been involved in immigration related issues. This can include entering the UK illegally or evading immigration control.
- Many asylum seekers enter the UK illegally whilst fleeing for their lives and are adversely affected by this 10 year ban.
- If you have been involved in any immigration related issues, you may need to wait 10 years before you can apply for citizenship.
How long does it take to become a British Citizen on a Tier 2 (General) Visa?
As previously, the time it takes for a person on a Tier 2 (General) visa to gain citizenship can vary, however the general process is as follows:
- Apply for entry clearance on a Tier 2 (General) if you have been offered a skilled job in the UK. The processing times are usually less than 3 weeks if you apply from outside the UK. This is usually granted for no more than a period of 5 years and 1 month. However, the period of leave typically reflects the length of the employment contract plus 14 days if that time is shorter than 5 years and 1 month.
- Apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after spending a continuous period of 5 years lawfully in the UK as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant.
- You must have ILR for at least 12 months before making an application for British citizenship.
So to conclude, it generally takes at least 6 years to apply for British citizenship as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant.
Other factors to consider
- Any absences from the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 months period breaks the continuity of residence and you may need to apply for further leave to remain instead – this will increase the amount of time it takes to gain citizenship.
We hope that we have given you an idea of how long it can take to gain British citizenship, and also the different factors which can affect the length of time under these different categories.