Depending on your circumstances, there is more than one way to become a British citizen. If you are married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, you can apply for citizenship through a process known as naturalization. As a British citizen, you have the freedom to live and work in the U.K. free of any immigration controls.
Can I Become a British Citizen by Marriage?
You can become a British citizen by marriage if you are married to, or in a civil partnership with, a British citizen.
You must also have lived in the U.K. for at least three years, while holding Indefinite Leave to Remain. ILR is basically settlement, meaning you can stay in the U.K. without any time restrictions.
You must be over 18 years old at the time of your application for naturalization and be able to speak English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic. Additionally, you cannot have a criminal record or have broken any immigration laws, including overstaying any visa or working illegally in the U.K.
Residency requirements also apply to an application for naturalization. You should not have spent more than 270 days outside the U.K. during the immediate three years before your application, and you should not have spent more than 90 days outside the U.K. in the last 12 months.
However, you may be exempt from the residency requirements if your partner works abroad, either for the U.K. government or an organization closely connected to the U.K. government.
You can apply for naturalization yourself, through an agent or representative, or use the Nationality Checking Service, a partnership with local authorities in which people make their application in person at their local Register Office. For a small fee, a local authority officer helps you complete your application form, checks that you have paid the correct fee, and copies and certifies valuable documents before returning the originals to you in person.
If you apply yourself, you can do it online via the GOV.UK website or by post.
Before you apply, you must pass the "Life in the UK Test" and provide the pass reference number on your application for naturalization. You need to provide details of two people willing to provide a reference for you, and proof of your knowledge of the English language.
You must also provide one of the following: evidence of ILR, a European Economic Area (EEA) Permanent Residence Card, or a certificate of entitlement to the right to abode.
It's a good idea to read the document "Guide AN" before making your application. This tells you everything you need to know about the application process, so familiarizing yourself with this ahead of time reduces the risk of making mistakes.
An application for naturalization requires personal information, such as your name, date and place of birth, marital/civil partnership status and home address for the past five years.
If you don't live in the U.K. at the time of making your application, you must apply by post. Form AN, "Application for Naturalisation as a British Citizen," is available to download from the GOV.UK website. You must also use the paper form if you choose to apply through the nationality checking service.
Send your completed application (with the correct fee and all supporting documents) to: Department 1, UKVI, The Capital, New Hall Place, Liverpool, L3 9PP.
The fee for a British citizenship application is £1,330, which is payable at the time of application by credit or debit card if you apply online. If you apply using the paper form, you must use the payment slip to send your payment (by check or credit or debit card) with your application.
What Happens After Application?
Your application will be acknowledged, typically, within two to four weeks. You can expect a decision on your application within six months, although it can take longer.
Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be interviewed by the police or another Home Office representative, to provide more details to support your application. This may take place at your home in the U.K.
If your application is successful and you are living in the U.K., you will be invited, by letter from the Home Office, to attend a citizenship ceremony. You have to contact the local authority stated on the letter to arrange your ceremony. It's very important to do this within three months of receiving the invitation, or the invitation will expire and you will have to go through the entire naturalization application process again.
If you live abroad, your citizenship ceremony will take place at the embassy or consulate in the country where you are currently living.
How to Get a British Passport After Marriage
After you have received your Certificate of Naturalisation, you are able to apply for a British passport, the most common proof of ID for British citizens.
You can apply online for a British passport via the GOV.UK website. If you'd rather apply by post, you can get the application forms from your local Post Office. You can also use the Post Office Check and Send service, which means a Post Office employee checks to ensure that you have filled in the right sections of the paper form, included the right supporting documents and photos, and paid the correct fee. Post Office staff then send your application to Her Majesty’s Passport Office by special delivery.
If you apply online, you’ll need to include your debit or credit card details for payment. As of October 2018, the fee for a first British adult passport is £75.50 if you apply online and £85 if you apply by post. The standard British passport has 34 pages; you can apply for a 50-page passport for £85.50 (online) or £95 (by post). The Post Office’s Check and Send service costs an additional £9.75.
It generally takes around six weeks to receive your passport, although it can take longer.
Do You Need a Visa if You Are Married to a British Citizen?
If you want to live in the U.K. with your spouse or civil partner for more than six months, you need a "family of a settled person" visa. You need this visa if you are married to, or have a civil partnership with, a British citizen, someone who is settled in the U.K., or someone who has humanitarian protection, for example has refugee status in the U.K.
You can apply for this visa from outside or inside the U.K. If you apply from outside the U.K., the cost is £1,523. If you apply from inside the U.K., either online or by post, the cost is £1,033.
The decision on your application is typically made within 12 weeks if you apply outside the U.K. and within eight weeks if you apply in the U.K., either online or by post. It costs £1,643 to use the premium service, which provides a same-day decision.
To apply, you and your partner both need to be 18 years of age or older, and you must intend to live together permanently in the U.K. after you apply.
You must be able to prove that you are in a civil partnership or marriage that’s recognized in the U.K., you’ve been living together in a relationship for at least two years at the time of application, or you are a fiance, fiancee or proposed civil partner and will marry or enter into a civil partnership within six months of your arrival in the U.K. If the last option applies to you, you must prove that any previous marriages or civil partnerships have ended.
You must demonstrate that you have a good knowledge of English and can financially support yourself and your dependants.
A minimum income requirement applies to a family of a settled person visa. If you are applying as a partner and want to get ILR within five years, you and your partner must have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year. If you have children who are not British citizens, EEA nationals or permanently settled, you must prove you have an extra £3,800 for your first child and £2,400 for each additional child.
These are all considered part of your income:
income from employment earned in the
(before tax and National Insurance)
income from self-employment
cash savings above £16,000
money from a pension
money from property rentals or dividends
You must send proof of all income, such as bank statements, payslips and employees' letters.
If you cannot meet the minimum income requirement, you may be able to settle in 10 years.
If your application is approved, you’ll get permission to stay for two and a half years, or for six months if you’re applying as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner. After this time, you’ll need to apply to extend your stay.
Can You Work on a Spouse Visa in the U.K.?
After your application for family of a settled person visa is approved, you’ll receive a biometric residence permit, which lets you work or study in the U.K. However, you cannot usually get benefits or other public funds for yourself or any dependent children.
A biometric residence permit includes your name, date and place of birth, your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo of your face), your immigration status and any conditions of your stay, and whether you can receive benefits or other public funds. You can use your biometric residence permit to confirm your identity and your right to work or study in the U.K.
How to Get a Spouse Visa in the U.K.
You can apply for a family of a settled person visa online via the GOV.UK website. If you’d rather apply by post, complete form FLR(M) if you can meet the requirements. If you cannot meet the requirements, complete form FLR(FP). However you apply, you must provide certain details. You need to give the name and date of birth of yourself and any dependent children, your national insurance number if you have one, details of any previous immigration applications and criminal convictions, and your parents’ dates of birth and nationality if you are applying from outside the U.K.
Similar information is required about your spouse or partner, such as name, date of birth, nationality and details of any previous spouses or partners. You must provide information to prove your relationship with your spouse or partner, including how you met, how often you see each other, how long you've lived together and expenses you share. If you're applying from outside the U.K., you must provide digital proof of your relationship, such as photos of you together, WhatsApp messages and Skype history.
You have to provide details of all children (both yours and your partner's) even if you're not applying for citizenship for them, and information about your life outside the U.K., such as countries you've lived in and visited and family and friends in the country you were born.
You’ll also need to give proof of your finances and how well you speak and understand English.
With your completed application, you must send your current passport or other valid travel ID, any previous passports, your biometric residence permit, if you have one, and two passport-sized color photos.
- GOV.UK: Check if You Can Become a British Citizen
- GOV.UK: Apply For Citizenship if Your Spouse is a British Citizen
- GOV.UK: Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs)
- GOV.UK: Family Visas: Apply, Extend or Switch
- GOV.UK: Fees for Citizenship Applications and the Right of Abode From 6 April 2018
- GOV.UK: Naturalisation as a British Citizen – A Guide for Applicants
- GOV.UK: Passport Check and Send Service
- GOV.UK: Passport Fees
Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.