Applying for UK citizenship

March 28, 2022
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Back in 2010, I first arrived in the UK, to do my degree. Eleven years passed by so quickly, and I recently applied for and became a UK citizen. It was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, mostly because there aren't many people you can talk to about it and at £1330, it is expensive! In this article, I describe my experience of applying for UK citizenship. This is just my personal experience. Please rely on the official guidance if you are applying for it.

Table of contents

Timeline

  • Day -30
    Prepare application

    I started filling in the form and scanning required documents.

  • Day -10
    One year since receiving Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR]

    I could have applied on this day, but I was not fully prepared yet.

  • Day 0
    Submit application online

    On submitting my application, I was able to book my biometrics appointment immediately. I booked the earliest free appointment which was about a month away. I paid £46 for the optional UKVCAS document checking service. Following the booking, I uploaded my documents. The deadline for uploading them was 2 days before the biometrics appointment, so I had plenty of time.

  • [+4] Day 4
    Document checking service

    I got an email confirming that my documents were in order.

  • [+21] Day 25
    Biometrics appointment

    The appointment took about ten minutes. They scanned my current passport and that was it. Following my appointment, I travelled to India on holiday.

  • [+34] Day 59
    Citizenship ceremony invitation

    I received an invitation via email asking me to book my ceremony within 6 months (under non-Covid circumstances it would have been three months). However, I had to wait until I was back in the UK to book it.

  • [+34] Day 93
    Make citizenship ceremony booking

    Once I got back to the UK, I emailed my council. They called me back in a day or so and booked me in for the ceremony the week after.

  • [+10] Day 103
    Citizenship ceremony

    I collected my certificate of naturalisation.

  • [+2] Day 105
    Return ILR and apply for UK passport

    I returned my ILR biometric card as legally required. Without a new UK passport, I would not be able to travel abroad. I applied for a new passport. I posted my Indian passport and certificate of naturalisation to the passport office.

  • [+31] Day 136
    Receive new passport

    Free to travel abroad as a British citizen.

  • [+13] Day 149
    Receive old passport and certificate of naturalisation

Fill in the online application form

The form itself took a couple of days of effort to fill. Travel history was easy because I already had prepared it for my ILR application the year before. The hardest bit to fill in were details about previous UK immigration applications. I had to search through emails from years ago. I didn't find application reference numbers or dates for all of them, but that was okay because those fields were optional. Overall, the citizenship application didn't feel as difficult as the ILR application.

When I applied, it gave me some further actions (see what it looked like for me).

Book a biometrics appointment

The earliest available appointments cost about £100 or more if I recall correctly. The only free biometrics appointments I could find were a month away. According to UKVCAS FAQ, appointments are released daily, 28 days in advance. As soon as I booked the appointment, I was allowed to upload my supporting documents.

Upload supporting documents

I uploaded the following documents to UKVCAS (see what it looked like for me). It required them to be grouped by type - so I had to guess which type to put them under. I used my ILR to meet two of the requirements. I also was not sure what to submit as proof of living in the UK for 5 years. I submitted as many documents as I could think of. Fortunately, the document checking service I had paid for confirmed that everything was in order.

RequirementWhat I submittedDocument type

Passport

My current passport (front and back only)

Proof of application

Proof of living in the UK for 5 years

All pages for my current and previous passports, P60s for the last five years, and reference letters from my current and previous employer.

Proof of identity / Travel History

Proof of freedom from immigration time restrictions

ILR

Residence in the UK

Degree certificate to prove level of English

Certificate from my UK university

Educational

Two referee declarations

Referee letters from two of my friends

Sponsors / Employment

Current Biometric Residence Permit

ILR

Residence in the UK

Biometrics appointment

This took about ten minutes at most. They only wanted to scan my current passport as I had uploaded all my other supporting documents already.

Citizenship ceremony

My ceremony was at Redbridge Town Hall. When I got there, I queued up with ten or so other attendees. Due to Covid none of us was allowed to bring any guests with us. I had to show an id proof and the email inviting me to the ceremony before I could get seated. A lady explained the process to all of us, following which each of us had to stand up and read the affirmation (or oath) of allegiance and the pledge. Following this, we were given a few minutes to take photos of ourselves in front of a picture of the Queen. It took about 45 minutes in all.

Check out the official guidance about what will happen at the ceremony.

The two main things I was required to do following the ceremony were:

Applying for a British passport

It's fairly straightforward to apply for the British passport online. I opted for the 50-page frequent traveller passport which costs £85.50.

Since this was my first passport application, I was also required to post my current passport and my certificate of naturalisation to the passport office. One thing I found annoying was that it took them three weeks to update the website to say they had received my documents.

Conclusion

For all of my previous VISA applications, I had a company lawyer supporting me. However, for my citizenship, I had to apply on my own. It was quite stressful not to have a qualified person to check my application or clarify my questions. Luckily, I was able to consult a friend of mine who had applied recently. I also found a few helpful videos on YouTube.

It felt pretty good to get my British citizenship after such a long wait. If you're pursuing British citizenship, I hope my article was of some use to you. Good luck!

In my case, as I'm Indian, I sadly also have to surrender my Indian passport and apply for an OCI card which will allow me to travel to India freely.

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