Becoming a British Citizen
Every year thousands of South Africans make the UK their permanent home by becoming a British Citizen. There are many different routes to citizenship for South Africans but the most comment is through naturalising as a British Citizen.
You will be eligible for naturalisation once you’ve been a resident in the UK for a certain period under a relevant immigration category. The British citizenship requirements vary depending on the citizenship route you’ve chosen but generally to become a UK citizen you need to have Indefinite Leave to Remain, meet certain language requirements and must prove that you are of “good character”.
English language requirements
Although many people in South Africa speak English, it is not recognised by the Home Office as a majority English speaking country due to it’s 11 national languages.
This means that when applying for British Citizenship, South Africans will need to demonstrate that they can read, write, speak, and understand the English language.
To do this you will need to sit and pass an accredited English language test at level B1 or above. You may not have to sit an English language test if you have a qualification of degree level or higher that was taught in the English language.
Life in the UK Test
The Life in the UK Test, also known as the British Citizenship test, is designed to test your knowledge of British history, values, and traditions. The test is done on a computer and consists of 24 questions which you will have 45 minutes to answer, to pass you must achieve a mark of at least 75%.
Some people are exempt from this requirement, this includes people who have already passed the test, those over the age of 65, and people who are unable to complete the test due to special circumstances such as a mental condition.
The test must be taken at one of the 30 test centres located across the UK, it currently costs £50 and must be booked at least 3 days in advance.
Continuous residency requirement
For a South African to become a UK citizen they must have lived in the UK for at least five years. If you are married to a British citizen, you may be able to apply after living in the UK for just 3 years.
It’s important to note that whilst residing in the UK during these five years you cannot have spent a total of more than 450 days outside the UK, including visits back to South Africa. This is reduced to 270 days if you are applying for British citizenship by Marriage as the spouse of a UK citizen. As well as this, you can’t have left the UK for more than 90 days during the last 12 months before your application.
To prove that you meet the continuous residence requirement you should try to keep any physical records you have to explain any absences from the UK.
Good Character requirement
The “Good Character” requirement can seem confusing as there are no clear criteria to define the meaning of good character. However, it generally means that an individual has shown respect for the UK’s laws and values.
To assess whether you meet the Good Character requirement, the Home Office will scrutinise several aspects of you and your background, this could include:
- Whether you have any criminal record
- Any breaches of immigration law
- Your financial soundness
- Any history of war crimes or terrorism activities
- Evidence of deception or dishonesty
Any convictions you may have had in South African will only affect your good character if they are in line with an offence that is also recognised in the UK.
You can only apply for Citizenship if you have been granted settled status before you make make your application. In most cases, you’ll need to have held Indefinite Leave to Remain or another form of settled status for at least 12 months before you make your application. If you are applying for Citizenship by Marriage you can apply as soon as you are granted ILR.
Many immigration routes can lead to ILR, including Spouse Visas, Tier 2 Visas, and some Tier 1 Visas. To be eligible you will need to have resided legally in the UK for a specified amount of time under one of these routes, usually five years.
As well as this you will need to meet some other criteria to qualify for ILR, this includes:
- Passing the Life in the UK exam
- Demonstrating your knowledge of the English language
- No more than 180 days spent outside the UK in 12 months during the qualifying period
- No breach of immigration laws or criminal convictions
British citizenship ceremony
The final requirement to become a British citizen is to attend a citizenship ceremony. You must have a citizenship ceremony to finalise your British citizenship status. You can book your ceremony once your application to become a British citizen has been accepted.
The ceremony is usually held in the UK and during it you must make a pledge to respect UK laws and values. If you are outside of the UK when your application is accepted and it will be a while before you are back in the UK, you could attend a citizenship ceremony at the British embassy in South Africa.
Requirements for British Citizenship registration
South Africans who already have strong ties to the UK may be eligible to register as a British Citizen, in this circumstance the English language and Life in the UK requirements would not apply.
You could be eligible to register as a UK national if:
- You have evidence of your close ties to the UK (this could be if you are a British overseas citizen, or a child of qualified UK nationals)
- You do not have a criminal record
- You can prove you’ve lived in the United Kingdom for at least five years with no more than 450 days spend abroad in this time
Requirements to register a child
Children who are born in the UK don’t always automatically acquire British Citizenship. If your child is born in the UK whilst you are still a South African Citizen then you will only be able to register them as a British Citizen once you hold ILR or citizenship yourself. If your child’s other parent is a British citizen then this does not apply.
To be eligible to be registered as a British citizen, your child must:
- Have at least one parents who is a UK national or settled person (for children born in the UK), or must have acquired citizenship other than descent (for children born abroad)
- Be of good character (if they are over the age of 10)
How can IAS help?
Here at IAS, our attorneys know just how difficult the British Citizenship application process can be, particularly when there are so many specific criteria that you must meet. This is why they are passionate about helping to make this process easier.
Our attorneys will make sure that you can meet all of the requirements before submitting your application. They can also help you to gather all the documents that you will need as evidence that you can do this. Your portfolio of evidence is the most important part of your application, with the help of our lawyers you will have a strong portfolio and they will ensure that all of the documents submitted are accurate.
To find out more about how our IAS lawyers can assist you with your British Citizenship application, get in touch with our friendly team today on 0333 305 3612.
Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.
Designed to make your visa application as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Fast Track Package
Premium application service that ensures your visa application is submitted to meet your deadline.
Ensure you have the greatest chance of a successful appeal. We will represent you in any case.
The Advice Package
With our untimed Advice Session, our professional immigration lawyers will review your case and provide you with comprehensive advice, completely tailored to your needs and your situation.
The Application Package
With our Application Package, your dedicated caseworker will advise you on your application process and eligibility. Your legal advisor will then complete and submit your forms to the Home Office on your behalf.
The Fast Track Package
Our Fast-Track Application Package is a premium service for those who need to submit their application in time with their deadlines. Your case will become a top priority for our lawyers and you will benefit from our highest-quality services.
The Appeal Package
By choosing our Appeal Package, you can rely on our lawyers’ legal knowledge and experience to ensure you have the highest chance of a successful appeal. We will also fully represent you in any hearings/tribunals.
In order to apply for British nationality you must provide many documents when you submit your application to prove that you can meet the criteria.
Just some of the documents you must have include:
- A Life in the UK test pass certificate
- Evidence of your knowledge of the English language (SELT test results or degree taught in English)
- Passport or travel documents that cover the last three years
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- Your completed application form.
The Home Office may require you to submit more documents depending on your circumstances.
Yes, our IAS attorneys can assess your eligibility for British nationality and will help you to meet all the requirements before you apply for citizenship.
They will clearly explain everything you need to do to meet the criteria and can even help you to gather all the evidence you must have to prove that you can do this.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our team on 0333 305 3612.
Once you’ve been granted citizenship you will have the same rights as all other British citizens. This means you will be permitted to have permanent residence in the UK without immigration restrictions.
As a UK citizen you can apply for a British passport to travel in and out of the United Kingdom with. You will also be able to register to vote in all UK elections and can even run for public office.
Yes, a person can sometimes be exempt from the English language criteria.
The exemption applies if:
- You are from a recognised majority English speaking country
- You have a qualification of degree level or higher that was taught in the English language
- You are a refugee or person with humanitarian protection
If you are married to a British Citizen then you could be eligible to apply for British Citizenship through marriage. The criteria is mostly the same as other citizenship routes but there are some differences under the marriage route. Rather than the five years required for other citizenship routes, if you’re married to a British Citizen you only need to have lived in the United Kingdom for more than three years.
However, you must still have settled status in the UK by the time you submit your application. You also must not have spend more than 270 days outside the UK during the three year qualifying period, or more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months prior to your application.