British Nationality

If you are settled in the UK, you can stay here without any time limit, whatever your nationality. You do not have to become a British citizen, subject to complying with the Immigration Rules. However, many people who have made the United Kingdom as their permanent residence wish to apply for British citizenship.

For children, registration is the only way in which they can attain British nationality. Registration is also used for adults in special circumstances when applying for British citizenship.
Reliable Law Services Ltd advisers are qualified OISC Level 3 immigration advisers, and we are happy to discuss your matter and assist you in applying for your British citizenship either through naturalisation or registration.


  • Although there are many forms of British nationality, British citizenship is the only one that allows you to live and work in the UK without a visa. Other forms of British nationality are: British overseas citizenship; British overseas territories citizenship; British national (overseas); British protected person; and British subject. If you are eligible for a British nationality other than citizenship, you may become a naturalised British citizen.
To become a naturalised citizen of the UK, you must meet the set of standard eligibility requirements and residential requirements.
Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland automatically receive the UK permanent resident status if you live in the UK for a continuous 5-year period through the EEA free-movement rights. After this five year period you will receive a leave to remain and then may apply for citizenship as long as you meet the below requirements.
If you are married to or are the civil partner of a British citizen, see the section below for a different set of requirements.
Standard eligibility requirements:
  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be of sound mind
  • Intend to continue living in the UK, or to continue in Crown service, the service of an international organisation of which the UK is a member, or the service of a company or association established in the UK
  • Have sufficient proficiency in the English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic language
  • Have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK
  • Be of good character
  • Meet the residential requirements
Residency requirements:
  • 5 year continuous residence in the UK before the date of your application
  • Not spent more than 450 days outside of the UK during this 5 year period
  • Not spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in the year before applying
  • Have been living within the laws of the UK Immigration Rules during the entirety of this 5 year period
Married to a British citizen
Civil partners and spouses of British citizens have a slightly different set of eligibility requirements to naturalise.
Eligibility requirements:
    • Be over 18 years of age
    • Be of sound mind
    • Have sufficient proficiency in the English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic language
    • Have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK
    • Be of good character
    • Meet the residential requirements
    • Your husband, wife or civil partner is an in the Crown or designated service outside of the UK

Residency requirements:

    • 3 years continuous residence before the date of applying
    • Not spent more than 270 days outside of the UK during the 3 year residency requirement
    • Not spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in the year before applying
    • Have been living within the laws of the UK Immigration Rules during the entirety of this 3 year period

Form AN is the application for naturalisation as a British citizen. You will fill out the application according to your specific eligibility. You will be required to provide such information as: biographical data; proof of residency requirements; and employment information. If you are an EEA national, Swiss national, or the child, spouse, or civil partner of a UK citizen, you will need to provide evidence of this relationship.



Applicants who wish to migrate to the UK often have to arrange for applications for their dependants to accompany or join them. A dependent is any of the following:
  • Child under 18 years of age
  • Husband or wife or civil partner
  • Unmarried or same-sex partner
Migrants often mistakenly overlook many important factors when preparing and submitting entry applications for their children to accompany or join them in the UK and are often disappointed when applications are refused. Furthermore, if an applicant has children over the age of 18 that are dependent on them, they face tough decisions under the UK Immigration Rules. The applicant will, in most cases, need to arrange for their ‘adult’ child to enter the UK under an alternative immigration route.
In contrast, the EEA Regulations are more lenient with respect to the age at which children are considered “dependent”. European law permits children up to the age of 21 to accompany or join family members in the UK. However, in both cases (i.e. under both UK and European law) children who are not financially dependent on their parents and are leading independent lives or are married or have formed an independent family unit will not be considered as a ‘dependent child’.
There are also further issues which need to be addressed in situations where children have parents who are separated, divorced or share custody of the children. In such situations, the migrant coming to the UK must show they have had ‘sole responsibility’ for the child’s upbringing and such applications often fail owing to sole responsibility not being shown to the Entry Clearance Officer’s satisfaction. It is therefore recommended that applicants seek immigration advice to ensure the application is properly presented.
Reliable Law Services Ltd have extensive experience in handling dependent children applications.

Indefinite leave to remain

Those who have lived in the UK legally for some time may be able to apply for permission to settle permanently, known as indefinite leave to remain. Entitlement to apply for settlement depends upon the applicant’s current immigration category – more details are below. The only migrants who are eligible for application for settled status from outside of the UK are a select number of partners and family members of British citizens and already-settled persons. The application must be made prior to expiry, but applications more than 28 days prior to eligibility may not be accepted, with no refund of application fee. Those already within the UK that have not been a resident for a long enough period for a settlement application may be eligible to apply for an extension of temporary permission to stay.
Settlement protection route
Refugees and migrants who have been given permission to stay in the UK for five years after being granted humanitarian protection will need to apply for indefinite leave to remain when this expires.
Indefinite leave to remain application
The application form you’ll need to fill out depends on your situation – see below for details. Reliable Law Services Ltd will guide you in this matter; contact us to book an appointment.
Form SET(M) is used to apply to settle in the UK as the husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner of a person who is settled within the UK or a British citizen.
Form SET(F) is to be used for settlement applications by family members of British citizens or people who are settled here. Form SET(F) is not to be used by partners and is only for those who are:
  • Children under the age of 18 of a parent(s) or relative of a person currently living in the UK with permanent residency
  • An adopted child under 18 years of age of a parent or parents who are currently living in the UK and are permanent residents
  • The parent, grandparent or other dependent relative 18 years or over of a person who is currently living in the UK and is a permanent resident
Form SET(DV) is for applications for settlement of any victims of domestic violence. This form is for those who have been granted temporary authorisation to reside within the UK as the partner of a permanent resident, in the instance of relationship breakdown due to the applicant suffering from domestic violence.
Form SET(BUS) is to be used for application of settlement as a person that has since retired from employment and is not seeking further employment. The applicant must be of independent means or a sole representative of an overseas firm.
Form SET(O) is for various other forms of settlement application. Form SET(O) can be used by those currently in any of the following immigration categories if they have been living within the UK in a relevant category for five years or more:
  • Tier 1 or Tier 2 of the points-based system; this excludes the post-study work category of Tier 1
  • Businessperson
  • Innovator
  • Investor
  • Work permit holder
  • Representative of an overseas news agency, newspaper or broadcasting organisation
  • Self-employed lawyer
  • Writer, composer or artist
  • Overseas government employee
  • UK ancestry
  • Domestic worker in a private household
  • Private servant in a diplomatic household
  • Minister of religion, missionary or member of a religious order
  • Airport-based operational staff of an overseas-owned airline
  • Highly skilled migrant under the highly skilled migrant programme (HSMP) – however in the instance that the application was made to the HSMP prior to 3 April 2006 entering the UK on the basis of that application, applications can then be made again after being in the UK for only four years.
Former members of HM Forces are eligible to apply for settlement using the SET(O) form if they have been UK residents for four years. However, there are alternative requirements for former Gurkhas, with an application for settlement from outside the UK, provided they have served in the British Army for four years.
Those who have been granted temporary permission to reside within the UK as the partner of a British citizen or person settled whose partner then dies may be eligible to apply for settlement as a bereaved partner. Applications can be made using the SET(O) form but must be immediately after the death of the partner.
Any applicants within the UK for any other purposes or reasons that are not covered by any other application forms, excluding asylum, may be able to apply with form SET(O). This process can include any applications for reasons of long periods of residence, relevant to those who have been living continuously in the UK for 10 years or even 14 years in some instances.
Applicants are advised to use form HPDL to apply for settlement or form an extension of their authorised visit if they were granted any of the following:
  • Humanitarian protection
  • Discretionary leave to remain
  • Exceptional leave to remain for anything under four years, or for a series of separate periods that amount to a total of four years
Form SET (Protection Route) is for settlement applications from refugees or any people that have been granted humanitarian protection, whose five-year entry clearance is soon due to expire.

If you’re applying for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain 

The Life in the UK Test is mandatory for individuals applying for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). As well as passing the Life in the UK test, ILR eligibility criteria require you to also have a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 CEFR level or higher, or equivalent.

A number of exemptions can apply. You will NOT need to take the Life in the UK test if you:

  • Are under 18 years of age or over 65; or
  • Are suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts your mobility and ability to attend language classes; or
  • Have a mental impairment which means that you are unable to learn another language.

To qualify for the exemption, you need to complete the online exemption form or provide a letter from a doctor confirming your condition. Visual or hearing impairments are unlikely to exempt you from the test.

Guidance states that “Life in the UK test centres can cater for a variety of disabilities, such as blindness. An applicant may be able to do the test even if they produce evidence of a disability”. As such, you should contact your local test centre when booking your test to make a request to accommodate your disability or specific needs.

Note that illiteracy is not an acceptable ground for exemption.

If you’re applying for British Citizenship/Naturalisation

The Life in the UK Test is a mandatory requirement for British citizenship.

The requirement to demonstrate knowledge of life and language in the UK is stated in the law. As such, very few exemptions apply to the Life in the UK Test for citizenship applicants.

In fact, if you were exempt from taking the test when previously applying for ILR, you may now be required to pass the test.

You may be exempt when applying for citizenship if you:

  • Have already passed the Life in the UK test as part of your ILR application;
  • Are under 18 or over 65 years of age;
  • Are suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts your mobility and ability to attend language classes; or
  • Have a mental impairment which means that you are unable to learn another language.

Again, any health grounds for exemption must be confirmed in writing by a doctor or by completing the exemption form.

Note that there are no exemptions based on qualifications, long residence or financial means. Nationals of English speaking countries must also sit the test, although the English language requirement may not be necessary. 

Take advice on what the Home Office will accept in your circumstances.

Again,  illiteracy is not an acceptable ground for exemption.

Other Immigration categories

Returning resident rules and entry clearance

There are special rules for former UK settlers that left to reside abroad but want to return to settle in the UK.
A settler or resident is someone who has been granted express permission to reside within the UK indefinitely. A returning resident is a resident returning from a period of travel or residency outside of the UK.
Residents may return to the United Kingdom if they:
  • Were settled within the UK when they last left
  • Have been out of the UK for two years or less
  • Are returning to be a permanent resident
  • Will not be in receipt or expect any public funds to cover finances of residency or leaving the UK
If the applicant has been away for over two years, they may still qualify for the return of residency within the UK if they can demonstrate strong family ties, have lived in the UK for a notable period of time, or can show any other extenuating circumstances to support their case.
If the resident has been away for more than two years, application for permission to return must be made, also known as entry clearance. Applications should be made to the British diplomatic post within the country of origin. Entry clearance commonly takes the form of either an entry clearance certificate or visa.
If the stamp originally giving authorisation of settlement, or indefinite leave to remain, is in an old passport, both the old passport and new passport should be brought to the UK, supporting the settlement status that has been issued. If the entrant cannot produce the original stamp, they may not be authorised entry into the UK.
Applicants do not need to transfer the stamp to their new passport, provided they can supply both passports on demand; however, a transfer can be arranged if preferable. This is not available at UK passport control, however.
If an applicant is able to sufficiently demonstrate that they are entitled to return for settlement within the UK, an open date stamp will be issued in the new passport by the immigration officer. An application for residence permit should then be placed within the new passport.

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