Fri | Aug 14, 2020

Immigration Corner | Automatic citizenship for spouse

Published:Monday | September 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
John Bassie
Wedding rings

Dear Mr Bassie,

My spouse is a British citizen, and I would like to know whether I automatically qualify for British citizenship. Thanks in advance for any advice.

- D.N.

Dear D.N.,

Persons do not automatically become British citizens when they marry a person from the United Kingdom. Those persons will need to apply as the spouse of a British citizen.

It should be noted that in some countries, a married person is automatically counted as having their partner's nationality and children may also automatically have a parent's nationality even if born abroad. Just to be cautious, persons should check their country's laws on dual nationality.




Persons can apply for British citizenship by 'naturalisation' if they are 18 years or over; are married to, or in a civil partnership with someone who is a British citizen; or if they have lived in the United Kingdom for at least three years before the date of their application.

Those persons must also be able to prove that they were in the United Kingdom exactly three years before the day the Home Office receives their application. They will also need to prove their knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic and that they have passed the Life in the UK test. In addition, they will need to be of good character. It is advisable that applicants read naturalisation booklet 'AN' before making the application, and this can be obtained online.

Persons from the European Economic Area (EEA) must have one of the following:

- A permanent residence card to prove they have permanent residence status

- Indefinite leave to remain in the UK

- Indefinite leave to enter the UK

Please note that persons may have lost their indefinite leave to remain or enter if they have been away from the UK for more than two years at any time since they received it.

Persons from outside the EEA must have either:

- Indefinite leave to remain in the UK

- Indefinite leave to enter the UK

It should be noted that 'Indefinite leave to enter' is permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad, for example, on a returning resident visa.

With respect to residency requirements, persons should not have

- spent more than 270 days outside the UK during the three years before their application;

- spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months;

- broken any UK immigration laws (for example, working illegally in the UK).

Please be aware that persons may be exempt from the residency requirements if their partner works abroad either for the UK government or an organisation closely linked to government. It is important to note that this is one way to apply for British citizenship.

Persons should check if they are eligible another way - including through the Windrush scheme.


How much it costs


It costs £1,330 to apply, and applicants should be aware that if the wrong fee is sent, the application will not be processed and they will have to apply again.

After applying, persons must also pay £19.20 to have their biometric information, that is, fingerprints and a photo, taken. Applicants will be sent a letter explaining what to do.

Please be aware that children are usually automatically British citizens if they were born in the UK and when they were born either their other parent was a British citizen or the parent had indefinite leave to remain in the UK or permanent residence status. If this is not the case, persons should check if their children are eligible to apply for citizenship in another way.

Just for completeness, persons cannot apply for citizenship as the partner of a British citizen if their partner has died. Those persons should check if they are eligible to apply another way, for example, if they have indefinite leave to remain in the UK or permanent residence status.

I hope this helps.

- John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator, and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: