How to get British citizenship if you’re on a UK Tier 2 visa

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British citizenship is the goal for many who make the move to live and work in the UK. But before you can get your hands on that prized passport, you’ll have to satisfy specific requirements. Here’s how to become a British citizen on a Tier 2 visa.

Why become a British citizen?

UK citizenship has a ton of benefits. It gives you free access to the National Health Service (NHS), a government-funded medical and healthcare service that you and your family can use without having to pay a cent. And once you get your British passport, you’re eligible to travel without a visa to a lot of places in the world. Citizenship also allows you to purchase property, apply for any job and vote in parliamentary and local elections.

Citizenship on a Tier 2 visa

Before you can apply for citizenship, you need to qualify for indefinite leave to remain. One of the requirements for indefinite leave to remain is that you must have lived and worked in the UK for five continuous years. Because your Tier 2 visa is valid for five years, meeting the continuous residence requirement is quite easy – provided that you meet all the criteria.

If you’ve switched to a Tier 2 visa, you will have to start building up your five years from scratch. It’s best to speak to a professional immigration advisor about your circumstances to ensure you haven’t breached any immigration rules.

What’s the difference between British citizenship, indefinite leave to remain and permanent residency?

In the UK, permanent residency allows EU nationals and family members who hold that status the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely, without needing to apply for a UK visa to remain in the country.

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is for all other nationals who are in the UK on a visa and meet the requirements. You can apply for permanent residency or indefinite leave to remain after living in the UK for five years and meeting all the requirements.

British citizenship gives you the full rights of a British national, which means that you can live and work without restriction in the UK, vote, run for public office and apply for a British passport.

UK indefinite leave to remain

Once you’ve spent five continuous years in the UK, you can apply for ILR. This means that once your Tier 2 visa comes to an end after five years, you may be eligible to apply for ILR. This status allows you to live and work in the UK indefinitely. It also allows you to leave and enter the country as often as you like without restrictions.

Are you eligible for ILR?

The earliest you can apply for ILR is 28 days before your visa expires. Tier 2 visa holders will need to earn a minimum of £35,000 per year at the time of application. As part of your application, you need to prove that:

  • You are of good character
  • You have enough knowledge of life in the UK and the English language
  • You have not spent more than 900 days outside the UK over your five-year period in the UK
  • You have not spent 180 days or more outside of the UK in the 12 months prior to your application for ILR

Once you’ve spent 12 months on ILR in the UK, you may become eligible to naturalise as a British citizen and gain UK citizenship.

British citizenship by naturalisation

UK naturalisation is the process of becoming a British citizen through a period of qualifying residency in the UK. To qualify for citizenship through this route, you’ll first have to attain ILR.

In addition, you must:

  • Intend to continue living in the UK
  • Pass the English language test
  • Meet the requirements of the good character test
  • Pass the Life in the UK test
  • Have held ILR or permanent residence for 12 months prior to making an application for citizenship
  • Have lived and spent enough time in the UK for five years

Naturalising as an EU national

Currently, EU nationals can live and work in the UK unrestricted until the implementation period comes to an end on 31 December 2020. After having lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period, you may be eligible for settled status.

Settled status will allow you stay in the UK indefinitely. After holding this status for 12 months, you can apply to naturalise as a British citizen.

Good character test

For your British citizenship application to be successful, the Home Office must be satisfied that you are of good character.

The good character test is a mandatory requirement for anyone over the age of 10 who is applying for naturalisation or registration as a British citizen. The test comprises several criteria against which your character is assessed. These include, but are not limited to, criminal activity, financial affairs, dishonesty and deception, immigration issues, notoriety and war crimes.

Life in the UK Test

The purpose of this test is to evaluate your knowledge of Britain. You will need to score above 75% to ensure a successful citizenship application. The test is 45 minutes long and consists of 24 questions which are based on information in the official handbook for the Life in the UK Test.

Here are some examples of questions you could be asked:

  • Who built the Tower of London?
  • The Union Flag is comprised of four crosses, one for each part of the UK. True or false?
  • What is the capital city of the UK?
  • At what age can you vote in a general election in the UK?
  • Who appoints life peers in the House of Lords?

The questions will be quite varied, so you’ll need to be well prepared.

The English language test

You won’t need to take a test if you can prove your knowledge of the English language by having either an English qualification at B1, B2, C1 or C2 level, or a degree taught or researched in English. If your degree is from a UK university, you can use your certificate as proof. If your degree is not from a UK university, you’ll need to provide a copy of your certificate and an Academic Qualification Level Statement from UK NARIC that confirms your degree is equivalent to a UK qualification.

If you need to take the test, you must ensure it’s at an approved testing centre. If you don’t do this, your results won’t be recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). This will lead to delays and extra costs of reapplying.

You should speak to an immigration specialist about your circumstances first, before deciding to take the test or not.

What happens after your citizenship is approved?

Once your application is successful, you’ll be invited to attend your British citizenship ceremony. At the ceremony, you’ll have to make an oath of allegiance and a pledge that serve as promises to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK. You’ll then receive your official certificate of British citizenship.

What about dual citizenship?

Most countries, such as Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and Canada, allow their citizens to hold dual nationality. However, it gets complicated if you’re from South Africa.

South Africans must first apply for and be granted permission to retain their South African nationality before they can obtain a foreign one. Without this permission, you will automatically lose your South African nationality.

Apply for UK citizenship by contacting our immigration team today. Get in touch with us at citizenship@sableinternational.com or +44 (0) 20 7759 7581.