On my drive to work at the end of last week I heard the joyful news on the radio that singer Katy Perry and British actor/comedian Russell Brand have announced that they are going to get married. Wonderful! The second part of the announcement was that Katy Perry loves the UK so much that she wants to obtain British citizenship. The announcement made it seem so easy to be naturalized as a British citizen and it’s just not that simple. Getting married to a Brit does not automatically confer British citizenship upon the foreign national spouse. In the interests of informing Katy Perry fans everywhere, here is a quick primer on the requirements for obtaining British citizenship (which is interestingly only one of six forms of British nationality) through marriage or a civil partnership. You must:
- Be over the age of 18 years and find a spiffy British citizen that you want to marry or enter into a civil partnership with;
- Be of sound mind and good character;
- Be able to communicate to an acceptable degree in English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic;
- Have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK by passing a test, which includes questions on basic government functions, as well as essentials such as “where are Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken?”
- Meet certain residency requirements, unless your significant other is in Crown or other designated service outside the UK; and
- Have not breached any immigration rules during the residency requirement.
The residency requirements are quite hefty and require the spousal applicant to live in the UK for three years of continuous, unconditional residence – that is, they must be lawfully present in the UK and free from immigration restrictions for three years prior to the date of the application for citizenship. Unconditional residence is typically demonstrated by the applicant having a passport with a stamp in it stating that they have indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) in the UK. Whilst the term used by the Home Office is continuous residence, the spousal applicant is not on ‘lock down’ in the UK. They may spend time outside the country during this time, but this may not exceed two hundred and seventy days over the three year period, and no more than ninety days outside the UK in the last twelve months of the three year period. There is, however, some discretion by immigration authorities to disregard certain absences in excess of these amounts if other criteria are met.
The UK does not currently have any restrictions on dual citizenship, so Katy will not have to make any difficult decisions there. But, unfortunately, she might find it’s not so simple to obtain British citizenship by marrying Russell.