Tue | Jul 27, 2021

Immigration Corner | Criteria for a spouse to apply for British citizenship

Published:Tuesday | April 6, 2021 | 12:11 AM

Dear Mr Bassie,

My husband is a British citizen. Please advise me under what circumstances can I apply for British citizenship.

– U.G.

Dear U.G.,


With respect to eligibility, spouses 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.

Spouses should be aware that they can apply as soon as they have one of the following:

• Indefinite leave to remain in the UK;

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

• Indefinite leave to enter the UK (permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad);

• A permanent residence document to prove they have permanent residence status.

Please note that new permanent residence documents were no longer issued after December 31, 2020. From January 1, 2021, persons cannot apply for citizenship with a permanent residence document if they also have settled status. Those persons will instead need to use their settled status to apply for citizenship.

Persons must also:

• Prove they were in the UK exactly three years before the day the Home Office receives the 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. (Persons should read the naturalisation guidance.)

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


Persons must have lived in the UK for at least three years before the date of their application. Persons cannot include any time spent in the UK when they were exempt from immigration control as a:

• Diplomat;

• Member of a diplomat’s staff or household;

• Member of visiting armed forces.

Persons should also not have broken any UK immigration laws (for example, living illegally in the UK).

With respect to the time persons have spent outside the UK. To be eligible, those 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.

Those 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.


Persons must have been physically present in the UK exactly three years before the Home Office receives their application. The application may be rejected if they cannot prove this.

Example: If the Home Office receives the application on June 20, 2022, but the applicant left the UK on June 10, 2019 and returned to the UK on June 25, 2019, the applicant would not qualify. That applicant would need to wait until June 24, 2022 to apply.

The date the Home Office receives the application depends on how the application is made. If the application is made online, the application will be received on the same day. It will take longer if the application is made by post.


It costs £1,330 to apply, and persons must also pay £19.20 to have their biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) taken. They will be told how to do this after they have applied. Persons will usually get a decision within six months – some applications can take longer.


Persons who are EU citizens and who have not already started a citizenship application can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme instead to continue living in the UK after June 30, 2021. They can then apply for citizenship if they are successful in obtaining settled status.

With respect to children, a child is usually automatically a British citizen if they were born in the UK and when they were born, either their other parent was a British citizen or the applicant had indefinite leave to remain in the UK or permanent residence status. Otherwise, persons should check if their children are eligible to apply for citizenship in another way.

Just for completeness, persons should be aware that they cannot apply for citizenship as the partner of a British citizen if their partner has died. Persons should check to see if there are other ways to be eligible, for example, if they have indefinite leave to remain in the UK or permanent residence status.

All the best.

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, global vice president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: lawbassie@yahoo.com