British citizenship and nationality

Immigration Solicitors 

People who are settled in the UK (i.e. those with indefinite leave to remain - or permanent residence, in respect of EU national) can choose to become British citizens. It is not compulsory for you to do so, but many people see it as a distinct advantage, and indeed there are many advantages to becoming British.

For those who are not born British, there are two methods of applying to become British citizens; registration and naturalisation. Additionally, some people who are not born British Citizens automatically become British without the need to register or be naturalised, such as adoptees of British Citizens.

The question as to whether a person is a British citizen is not always an easy one to answer, and you may have to go back several generations in your family in order to determine the question. Furthermore, sometimes it is a question of the status of your parents coupled with your birth country, so that a child born in the UK to settled refugees will be born a British citizen, whereas, if the parents only became settled after the child was born, the child will not automatically be British, but would have to apply to be registered. This complexity of British citizenship is because of the complex nature of Britain's historical relationship to other nations, and has led to the most complex nationality laws in the modern world.


People who are 18 or over can apply to become British by naturalisation. Such people must have been settled in the UK for at least one year and resident for at least 5 years (or three years if settlement was obtained by marriage to a British citizen), as well as fulfilling other residence and character requirements. Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of the English language and pass the Life in the UK test, and must attend a public ceremony.

Changes to the citizenship by naturalisation process were introduced by the Labour government in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. Those changes were not to be implemented and become law until July 2011. The change in government, however, has cast doubt on those changes ever becoming law, with Theresa May announcing that the provisions will not now become law.


Children under the age of 18 can only become British by registration, which is also used for adults in some special circumstances. Where the child to be registered us over the age of 10 years, they must be of good character, but there are no language requirements and they do not have to pass the Life in the UK test.

British Nationalities

UK nationality law is further complicated by the numerous forms of nationality, for example, in addition to British Citizenship, there is British Overseas Territories Citizenship, British Subject and British National (Overseas). However, these other forms of British nationality do not entitled the holder to the right of abode in the United Kingdom, although such nationals may be a step on the road to becoming British citizens and also give a wider range of opportunities to make immigration applications, for example applications based on UK Ancestry.

Aylish Alexander Solicitors are expert in dealing with nationality matters, so please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can discuss your requirements.