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British citizenship – New application process

The Home Office has made changes in the process of applying to be naturalised as a British citizen, including a new option to prepare and submit the application online.

The new online process is expected to be more streamlined. The Home Office also introduced a ‘nationality document return service’.

Paper application forms remain available to those who do not feel confident using the online process.

Nationality document return service

Submitting an application via the nationality document return service allows applicants to keep their documents while the Home Office processes their application for British citizenship.

Applicants are expected to submit their application forms online, and book an appointment at a participating local authority where all original supporting documents would be photocopied. The local authority will then send the copies to the Home Office on the applicant’s behalf.

The nationality document return service is available to the main applicants as well as their family members.

Preparing for the application process

We advise applicants to have all of their supporting documentation ready when submitting the online application.

Applicants need to prove these criteria during their applications for naturalisation:

  • Continuous residence in the UK for at least five years, or three years if married to a British citizen. Please be aware of the absence restrictions as the Secretary of State applies the restricted limit of days an applicant is allowed to spend abroad, strictly
  • Good character
  • Right to remain in the UK without any immigration restrictions (i.e. be in possession of Indefinite Leave to Remain or Settlement) for at least 12 months prior to the application date
  • Knowledge of English language and life in the UK

The Home Office expects all applicants to submit documentation to prove that they meet the eligibility requirements.

Once the applicant is ready to submit the online application and has gathered their supporting evidence, they must contact a local authority to book an appointment to use the nationality document return service. Applicants must make the appointment within 10 working days of submitting the online application. We advise to check availability before submitting the online application.

The local authority will charge a fee for this service. The fee is in addition to the Home Office’s application fee.

Applying for a British passport

Another great advantage of using the nationality document return service is an option to apply for a British passport at the same time as submitting an application for naturalisation.

Applicants will be required to prepare a paper passport application form. Paper passport application forms can be obtained at the Post Office.

Professional advice

Using the nationality document return service does not guarantee that the application will be successful. Officers at a local authority will not be able to advise about applicant’s eligibility or suitability of documents. They would merely copy and submit the application on the applicant’s behalf.

From our experience, a well prepared application with a covering letter assists the Home Office to make a decision efficiently. We can assist with full preparation (i.e. advise about eligibility, requirements and required documents, prepare the application form and covering letter) or to check an already prepared application and documents before they are submitted.

The Home Office application fee currently stands at £1,282 and it is not refundable where the application is refused. It is therefore advisable to have at least the eligibility and application documents checked before they are submitted.

Useful links on GOV.UK


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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