If you are settled (have Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR or, in the case of European (EU) nationals, permanent residence) in the UK then you can stay here without any time limit, whatever your nationality. You do not have to become a British citizen. However, many people who have made the UK their permanent home wish to apply for British citizenship.
How do I become a British Citizen?
There are now three main ways to do this:
- The first is to be born one.
- The second is to be registered as one.
- The third is to be naturalised as one.
In addition, there are circumstances in which a person who was not born a British citizen automatically becomes one, without the need to be registered, naturalised or apply for British Citizenship. For example, this can happen in certain circumstances where a child is adopted by British citizen parents.
Whether or not you were born a British citizen depends on a combination of where and when you were born and the nationality of your parents. British nationality law is one of the most complicated in the world, in part because of Britain’s history and historical relationship with other countries in the world. In some cases, it will be necessary to go back several generations to identify whether you are a British citizen or are entitled to apply for British citizenship.
Naturalisation is the most common way for adults who were not born British to become British. People who have Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residency can, subject to fulfilling residence requirements, apply for naturalisation to become British citizens. It is necessary to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language and of Life in the UK and to be of good character. Knowledge of English and Life in the UK is formally tested; good character entails meeting specific requirements, the most important of which relate to the applicant’s criminal record. Naturalisation takes place at a public ceremony.
Registration is the only way in which children can become British and is also used for adults in special circumstances when applying for British Citizenship. It is necessary for those over ten years old to be of good character, but it is not necessary to demonstrate knowledge of the English language or of Life in the UK.