Naturalisation. Residence requirements. Presence in the UK at the start of the qualifying period

If you apply to naturalise as a British citizen, you must satisfy the residence requirements. One of these requirements is that you must have been physically present in the UK at the beginning of the “qualifying period”.

The qualifying period is the period of three or five years ending with the date of the application. Three years if you are married to a British citizen, five years if you are not.

How is the start of the qualifying period calculated?

If your application for citizenship was received by Home Office on 1 April 2021, and you are married to a British citizen, the beginning of the period of three years ending with the date of the application is 2 April 2018. You must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the UK on 2 April 2018.

If you are not married to a British citizen, your qualifying period is the period of five years ending with the date of the application. In the above example, the date on which you must have been physically present in the UK is 2 April 2016.

There is no discretion for the Home Office staff to waive this requirement, but there is discretion to allow you to “re-declare” your application. This means that, if you have not been physically present in the UK on the first day of the qualifying period, and if you failed to meet the requirement by 2 months or less (either side of the application date), the original date of application may be “superseded” (replaced) by the date on which the re-declaration is received by the Home Office.

Example: the date of your application is 1 April 2021. You are not married to a British citizen, therefore you must have been physically present in the UK on 2 April 2016. But you were not in the UK at 2 April 2016. You have been in the UK from 15 May 2016. As between 2 April 2016 and 15 May 2016 are less than 2 months, the caseworker might exercise discretion and allow you to “re-declare” your application on or after 14 May 2021.

If you have not been physically present in the UK on the first day of the qualifying period, and you failed to meet the requirement by 1 month or less (either side of the application date), and for some reason you cannot meet the requirement by having your application “re-declared”, then your application will be refused, and you may get a refund of the application fee paid (less the non-returnable part).

If you have not been physically present in the UK on the first day of the qualifying period, and you failed to meet the requirement for more than 2 months, your application will normally be refused, and you will not get a refund of the application fee paid.

You are exempted to show that you have been physically present in the UK at the beginning of the qualifying period if you are applying only on the grounds of Crown service, if you are or have been a member of the UK armed forces, if you are the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen in Crown or designated service overseas, or in other limited cases.

If you want to apply for British citizenship or for a British passport and need specialist advice, feel free to contact me. Please note that I am an accredited immigration adviser, not an employee of the UK Visas and Immigration. I charge fees for the advice provided.