Citizenship Factsheet

The Facts

Achieving refugee status in the UK is not the same as citizenship.  Any foreign national who has unconditional leave to remain in the UK can apply for British citizenship if he or she has settled status for at least 1 year and has lived in the UK legally and continuously for 5 years previously.

British citizenship is granted at the discretion of the Home Office.  The Home Office expects the applicant to meet certain requirements including having mastered the English language and having a knowledge of life in the UK.

Achieving citizenship means that you have a right to a British passport, the right to vote in national elections and the opportunity to play a more active role in the local and national community.

Life in the UK Test

Applicants for citizenship are now expected to take a citizenship test at one of the Life in the UK test centres across the UK.  Applicants whose English is at or above ESOL Entry level 3 will be able to undertake a short test on the computer at one of these centres. 

This test consists of 24 questions based on chapters 2,3 and 4 of the handbook ‘Life in the UK: a journey to citizenship.’  The test will also include a number of questions which ask you about the part of the UK you live in – England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The handbook is available from The Stationary Office and can be ordered online at http://www.tso.co.uk/bookshop.

The test costs £34 and should be taken before applying for naturalisation as a British citizen.

On passing the test, you are given a letter which proves you have been successful. This is called a pass notification letter. This letter should be attached to your completed citizenship application form and sent to the Home Office. The Home Office will retain the information it gets from test centres for a reasonable period, however, it is advisable to submit an application as soon as possible after taking the test. 

Life in the UK Language Courses
Applicants with English language ability below ESOL Entry level 3 are required to complete new ESOL with citizenship classes.  These are language courses which incorporate information about life in the UK.  Successful completion of the courses will signify that the applicants have met the language and life in the UK requirements. Successful applicants will not be required to take the Life in the UK test.
You can take these classes at a local further education or community college. You will need to make sure the college course that you enrol for includes the "language with citizenship" materials and that the college will give you a letter to this effect when you have successfully gained your certification.
To find out more about ESOL and citizenship classes, contact your local college, or call the Life in the UK Test Helpline on 0800 0154245.  You can call the learndirect helpline on 0800 100 900 to find out where your nearest college is and details of ESOL providers.

You can find application forms and guidance notes on the Home Office website www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk

Nationality Checking Service (NCS)

The Nationality Checking Service is a partnership between the Home Office Immigration & Nationality Directorate and local councils in England and Wales. It allows those people applying for British citizenship to make their applications, in person, at their local council offices.
Participating councils will check that applications are completed correctly and have been submitted with all the necessary supporting documents and the correct fee. They will photocopy and certify valuable documents such as passports and will send the applications to the Home Office by special delivery post. Those using the service will be able to keep their passports rather than sending them to the Home Office.
Applications are usually dealt with more quickly than those submitted by more conventional means. NCS offers better customer service.
Each council will charge an administrative fee. This will cover the cost of providing the service and is typically in the region of £30 plus VAT. This is in addition to the normal fee payable to the Home Office for processing an application for nationality. The administrative fee for the local council must be paid separately from the Home Office fee.

To find out if your local authority provides this service visit :

The Nationality Group Call Centre
A government helpline can help you with any queries about applying for citizenship. Phone lines are open from 9.00am until 21.00pm Monday to Friday.
The number is 0845 010 5200 and calls are charged at local rate

Citizenship ceremonies
Once accepted for a naturalisation or registration by the Home Office as a British Citizen, you must take a citizenship oath and pledge at a Citizenship Ceremony. 
The ceremony centres on prospective citizens making an oath/affirmation to Her Majesty the Queen and a pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom.
New citizens are called up one at a time to receive their certificate, information pack and commemorative gifts. The nationality certificate is presented by a local dignitary on behalf of the Home Secretary and can subsequently be used to support passport applications and to prove the individual is a British citizen. Citizenship Ceremonies will normally be conducted in groups to reinforce the community nature of citizenship and you are allowed to invite two guests to attend the ceremony with you.

Potential issues useful suggestions

Preparing for the test: the test demands a wide range of knowledge about the UK, much of which surpasses what many who have lived in the UK all their life would consider to be general knowledge.  Here are a few things that mentors and mentees could do together to better prepare for the test:
- Mentors could familiarise themselves with the content of the test so that they are prepared to answer any questions mentees may have and to interesting facts in context.
- Mentees could learn a particular topic of the test before each mentoring meeting and then get their mentors to test them on their knowledge.
- Mentees could log down anything that they don’t understand as they go along and then go through all these points together at the next mentoring meeting.
- Complete practice questions together.
- Mentors could think of ways to make mentee’s revision more exciting: incorporate learning into an exploration of the city. If studying different regions and dialects of the UK, look at pictures of key UK regions or TV programmes which illustrate different dialects (Eastenders for the classic cockney, Coronation Street for the Mancunian etc…). If studying British government and laws perhaps look at a recording of Prime Ministers Question Time, go on a trip to the Houses of Parliament or take the online virtual tour etc…
- Use the test as an opportunity to learn about the mentee’s culture too! Talk about the cultural differences and learn about different experiences. 
Useful Websites

Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate:

Life in the UK:
Contains all you need to know about the Life in the UK test including what to expect and how to prepare the test.

Information about courses and colleges

Online examinations:

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