The four most common errors in British citizenship applications

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Hi, I'm Nick Nason, director of Edgewater Legal.

I review around three British citizenship applications a week, and have done so via our popular review service for the last several years.

So I have seen A LOT of naturalisation applications.

The following is my list of problems areas most commonly encountered by clients.

Insufficient evidence of residence

The Home Office guidance on what is required from applicants in respect of their evidence of residence in the UK lacks clarity, so it is not surprising that applicants get confused.

You need to show (a) you’ve been physically present in the UK for the qualifying period without excess absences.

But you’ve also got to show (b) that the period you’ve been in the UK has been lawful.

I see lots of applications where insufficient evidence is provided in respect of these two criteria.

EU nationals in particular often have to work harder when attempting to address physical and lawful presence.

This is because (i) almost none have their passports have been stamped into the UK at the border and (ii) there was no requirement to hold a visa for EU nationals in the UK until Brexit.

In respect of the physical presence requirement, EEA nationals are therefore in the same position as other nationals who aren’t stamped at the border (e.g. Americans), and who need to provide alternative evidence of presence.

Check out our presentation covering these points, and what alternative evidence of residence might be provided (from 5:15 onwards).

Further background is given in our "How to complete your British Citizenship Application" video where we go through an online form (see 28:30 onwards).

Poor document presentation

I think I spend most of my time advising on this during application reviews.

Organising your documents in a user-friendly way and including a covering letter with the application and supporting evidence can really help a decision-maker navigate your application.

I review lots of applications where document files are unnamed, are in no particular order, are blurry or not properly sized, or where it is not entirely clear why they have been submitted in support of an application for naturalisation.

A covering letter acts as a useful “guided tour” to the application, enabling applicants to list enclosures, provide a (very) brief background (e.g. main activities during time in UK, with dates etc), which is sometimes difficult to figure out based on the form alone.

We offer a complementary template covering letter as a part of our review service.

Misunderstanding the referee requirements

All applicants for British citizenship must provide two referees to establish their identity.

Applicants must provide details of referees within the application form itself (e.g. name, contact details etc).

But a sizeable minority of applicants don't appreciate that referees also need to sign a declaration, on a form downloaded from within the application portal.

Because the form can't be downloaded until after an applicant has moved through all of the application questions, it sometimes comes as a surprise where an applicant is looking to submit, and can delay applications.

Completing the form itself - with confusing guidance from analogue pre-digital application days - can sometimes lead to questions from clients, with misleading directions to applicants, for example, to write their name on the back of the photo (which is unnecessary, given that the photo is going to be attached onto a scanned document).

And it is the photo of the applicant which should be placed on the declaration form, NOT a photo of the referee (have seen this quite a few times)!

I wrote a pretty detailed explanation of the referee requirement here.

Non-disclosure of minor character issues (e.g. traffic offences)

This is another regular discussion point.

The application form is confusingly worded, and requests information to be provided for driving offences, but then gives two examples ("for example disqualification for speeding or no motor insurance").

Lots of my clients take the view that unless their driving offence relates to those two examples, they do not need to be declared.

My view has always been that the requirement is not to be read in that way, and that all driving offences (e.g. fixed penalty notices for speeding etc) and other - even minor - matters should be declared.

Moreover, the risk of non-disclosure is made clear in the guidance

Where the applicant fails to disclose information that would result in the application being refused on good character grounds, the application must be refused and any further application for citizenship will normally be refused for the next 10 years. This applies unless it is accepted that the failure to disclose was unintentional and a genuine error.

You can read the good character guidance here which lists the conduct the Home Office can consider (and which should therefore be declared).

If you are in doubt about this requirement then we strongly suggest you seek independent legal advice before submitting your application.

This post is intended to provide general background on the relevant issues and does not constitute legal advice. The law may have changed since the date this article was published. You should always take legal advice relating to your individual circumstances.