Check if you can become a British citizen

There are different ways to apply for British citizenship (or ‘naturalisation’) based on your circumstances.

If you’re eligible in more than one way you can choose which way to apply.

It is taking longer than usual to process applications because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This will not affect the decision. Extra time will be allowed to enrol biometrics, provide additional information and arrange a citizenship ceremony. Do not apply by post if you’ll need your documents back by a specific date.

If you were born in the UK

You do not automatically get British citizenship if you were born in the UK. It depends on when you were born and your parents’ circumstances.

You may be eligible to apply for citizenship if you were born in the UK and are not a British citizen.

If you’re married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen

To apply as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen you must have lived in the UK for the last 3 years.

You’ll also need to have one of the following:

  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
  • settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • a permanent residence document to confirm you have permanent residence status

If you do, you’ll be eligible to apply for citizenship immediately.

You cannot apply for a permanent residence document after 31 December 2020.

If you have indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

You can usually apply for ILR after you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years.

To apply for citizenship with ILR you must usually have lived in the UK for 12 months after getting it.

If you have ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme

If you and your family member are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can apply for ‘settled status’ after you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years.

To apply for citizenship with settled status you must usually have lived in the UK for 12 months after getting it.

Settled status is also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme’.

From 1 January 2021, if you have settled status you must apply for citizenship on that basis. You cannot apply with permanent residence status.

If you had permanent residence status before you got settled status

From 1 January 2021, if you had permanent residence status before you got settled status, you can count that time towards the 12 month qualifying period.

Example You came to the UK in 2013 and gained permanent residence status in 2018. In 2020, you applied for settled status.

Usually, you would need to wait 12 months after getting settled status to apply for citizenship - but because you had permanent residence for 2 years, you can apply straightaway.

You do not need a permanent residence document to apply with settled status.

If you have ‘permanent residence’ status

If you or a family member are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you usually get permanent residence status automatically after living in the UK for 5 years.

To apply for citizenship with permanent residence status you must usually have lived in the UK for 12 months after getting permanent residence status. You also need a permanent residence document that proves you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years - this can be any 5 year period.

This means that if the 5 year period was more than 12 months ago, you’ll be able to apply for citizenship as soon as you get your permanent residence document.

Permanent residence status and citizenship from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021, you can only apply for British citizenship with permanent residence status if:

  • you already have a permanent residence document
  • you do not also have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme

You cannot apply for a permanent residence document after 31 December 2020.

If you have settled status, you must apply for citizenship with this status instead of permanent residence status. Do not apply for citizenship with your permanent residence status if you have settled status. If you do, your application will be rejected.

You can apply for citizenship with settled status 12 months after you first got permanent residence status. You do not need a permanent residence document.

Staying in the UK after 30 June 2021 if you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen

You must apply for permission to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.

If you have not been granted citizenship and had a citizenship ceremony, apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.

Citizenship applications usually take around 6 months to process and may take longer. You cannot stay in the UK after 30 June 2021 while you wait for citizenship, unless you have permission to stay here in another way. For example, if you have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

You can apply for citizenship after you get settled status.

Other ways you can be eligible

You may be eligible to apply for citizenship if:

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen

You may be eligible to apply for citizenship under the Windrush Scheme if both:

  • you or one of your parents arrived in the UK before 1973
  • you’ve lived in the UK and not been away from it for more than 2 years

If your parent arrived in the UK before 1973, you must have either:

  • been born in the UK
  • arrived in the UK before you were 18

Some Commonwealth citizens have ‘right of abode’ in the UK. This means you can live or work in the UK without immigration restrictions. Check if you can apply to prove you have right of abode in the UK.