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Immigration Corner | The criteria for applying for British citizenship

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:06 AM
John Bassie
John Bassie

Dear Mr Bassie,

I am the spouse of a British citizen and I would like to know what are the eligibility criteria for applying for British citizenship. I would greatly appreciate any information that you can provide.

FB (move to right)

Dear FB,

Persons who are spouses of British citizens can apply for British citizenship by ‘naturalisation’ if they:

• Are 18 years old or over;

• Are married to, or in a civil partnership with someone who is a British citizen;

• Have lived in the United Kingdom (UK) for at least three years before the date of their application.

They can apply as soon as they have one of the following:

• A permanent residence document to prove that they have permanent residence status;

• Indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom;

• ‘Settled status’ (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain under the European Union (EU) Settlement Scheme’);

• Indefinite leave to enter the United Kingdom (permission to move to the United Kingdom permanently from abroad).

Persons must also:

• Prove that they were in the United Kingdom exactly three years before the day the Home Office receives their application,

• Prove their knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic;

• Show that they have passed the life in the UK test;

• Be of good character – how this is shown can be read in 'The naturalisation guidance' online.

This is one way to apply for British citizenship. Persons should also check if they are eligible another way -- including through the Windrush scheme.


Persons should not have:

• Spent more than 270 days outside of the United Kingdom during the three years before their application;

• Spent more than 90 days outside the United Kingdom in the last 12 months;

• Broken any United Kingdom immigration laws -- for example, living illegally in the United Kingdom.

Persons may be exempt from the residency requirements if their partner works abroad either for the United Kingdom government or an organisation closely linked to government.


It costs £1,330 to apply, and persons must also pay £19.20 to have their biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken. They will be told how to do this after they have applied.


With respect to children, they are usually automatically British citizens if they were born in the United Kingdom and when they were born, either:

• Their other parent was a British citizen;

• The parent had indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom or permanent residence status.

Otherwise, persons should check if their children are eligible to apply for citizenship in another way.


Persons cannot apply for citizenship as the partner of a British citizen if their partner has died. Persons should also check if they are eligible another way -- for example, if they have indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom, or if they have 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: