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Can I Live Permanently in the UK Without Applying for British Citizenship?

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For some people applying for and getting British citizenship is their dream and something that they have worked hard to achieve since first applying for a UK visa and arriving in England. For others, the decision to apply for British citizenship is based on whether the benefits of British citizenship justify their application. Other people are anxious about losing their nationality of origin by securing British citizenship.

Our immigration solicitors understand that some people want to live permanently in the UK without applying for British citizenship and we regularly help individuals and families look at their UK settlement options so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on UK settlement call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Living permanently in the UK

If you are a non-UK national there are several ways that you can live permanently in the UK, including:

  • Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme if you are an EU national or the family member of an EU national
  • Indefinite leave to remain
  • British citizenship
  • Dual citizenship

The deadline for EU nationals to make a new settled status application under the EU Settlement Scheme was 30 June 2021 but some late applications can still be made. If you need information on the EU Settlement Scheme, call our immigration lawyers on 0203 959 9123.

Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or British citizenship

Indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship both give you the right to live and work in the UK free from immigration control and without needing a student, family, business, or work visa.

If you do not apply to settle in the UK then you remain subject to immigration controls and only have limited leave to remain. With repeat Home Office visa applications, you risk not securing a visa as well as having to pay regular visa fees to the Home Office. You also have to keep proving that you have the right to live and work in the UK. Your right to work could be limited, such as part-time employment under a student visa or limited to sponsored employment with an employer who holds a sponsor licence if you are in the UK on a skilled worker visa.

The difference between indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship can be confusing partially because you have to apply and obtain indefinite leave to remain before you can apply for British citizenship. However, indefinite leave to remain amounts to settlement in the UK and you do not have to make an application for British citizenship to continue to live in the UK. The question needs to be asked what benefits will British citizenship offer to you?

For some people, it does not matter what benefits British citizenship offers. That’s because they feel that nothing less than British citizenship will recognise their commitment to making a new life in the UK. Other people adopt a more analytical approach to whether they should apply for British citizenship after securing indefinite leave to remain.

The benefits of British citizenship

The key benefits of British citizenship as opposed to indefinite leave to remain are:

  • British passport. Holding a British passport may entitle you to travel to other countries without needing a visa for entry clearance. With indefinite leave to remain you may need a visa to travel to a third country because you are not a British citizen even though you are a UK resident and settled in the UK
  • British citizenship is retained even if you later decide to live overseas. With indefinite leave to remain if you are absent from the UK for 2 or more years, you need to apply for a returning resident visa to re-enter the UK
  • British citizenship for your children if they are under the age of 18. The immigration rules say that whether or not a child was born in the UK they can acquire British citizenship. A child born in the UK on or after 1 July 2006 is a British citizen if one of their parents was a British citizen at the time of their birth and the parent is entitled to pass on their British citizenship to their child. A child born outside of the UK may get British citizenship by descent
  • Right to vote in UK elections – this includes national and local elections

UK settlement and dual nationality

If you do not want to lose your nationality you may want to investigate the option of dual nationality so you retain your nationality of origin as well as acquire the benefits of British citizenship. However, there are some differences in the help available to you if you are overseas and you have dual nationality as opposed to British citizenship.

The UK allows British citizenship applicants to acquire dual nationality if that is the applicant’s preference. However, not all countries allow dual nationality. In addition, dual nationality may raise additional considerations, such as taxation. If you want to explore the option of British citizenship or dual nationality, call 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Indefinite leave to remain as a UK settlement option

British citizenship solicitors say indefinite leave to remain is a good settlement option as it gives you many of the same rights as British citizenship, such as:

  • The right to live in the UK
  • The right to work in the UK – you do not need a sponsoring employer with a sponsor licence
  • Unlimited leave to remain so you no longer need to make visa applications
  • Family reunification – you can sponsor a husband, wife, or partner on a spouse visa or family visa or a dependant on a dependant visa
  • State benefits entitlement if you meet the criteria for the benefit
  • Access to NHS healthcare without having to pay an immigration health surcharge

With indefinite leave to remain whilst you can travel back and forth to the UK free from immigration control, you do not hold a British passport. In addition, if you leave the UK for 2 years you will need a returning resident visa to get back into the UK.  That involves an application to the Home Office and establishing that you have ties to the UK.

In most scenarios, you can apply for British citizenship after you have held indefinite leave to remain for 12 months. Immigration solicitors recommend that if you know that you want British citizenship that you apply for citizenship as soon as you meet the eligibility criteria rather than wait and risk no longer meeting the criteria because of a future rule change or new personal circumstances.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on UK settlement call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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