Applicants for British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain must usually pass the Life in the UK test before being eligible to apply. The are exceptions for EEA settlement, age and disability.

The Life in the UK test is a tool the Home Office uses to check an applicant’s eligibility for indefinite leave to remain or citizenship. It is designed to test the applicant’s knowledge of life in the UK including customs, history, law and politics.

The test consists of 24 multiple choice questions. Applicants must score at least 75% to pass. To prepare for the computer-based test, applicants will need to study the official Life in the UK book issued by the Government.

Our animation below covers 24 of the questions you may be asked.

Other than in very limited circumstances, it is not possible for a non-exempt person to apply for British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain without a valid pass certificate. The Life in the UK test does not expire; it is therefore possible to use the same certificate for subsequent applications.


Citizenship is the status you hold as a national of a country which gives you access to the freedoms and rights of that country. Those born in the UK to British parents will automatically have British citizenship. There are a number of other circumstances where applicants will be able to register as a British citizen using hereditary rights, depending on the circumstances of their parents.

Once you have obtained British citizenship, you may apply for a British passport. Citizenship confers the right to live, work and study in the UK permanently and entitles access to benefits, the welfare system and use the NHS. It also enables you to leave and re-enter the UK without the need for a visa. Citizenship will only be revoked in rare circumstances.

The UK, unlike some other countries, permits dual citizenship (also referred to as dual nationality) meaning you can hold British citizenship alongside citizenship of another country. The UK authorities cannot give you protection against the actions of the other country, however.


Naturalisation is the process of acquiring British citizenship which is not based on ancestral entitlement. This is usually based upon completing a qualifying period of lawful residency in the UK and meeting the additional qualifying criteria, set by the Home Office. Applicants may meet the lawful period of residency requirement having held status as, for example, a UK employee sponsored under Tier 2 (General) of the Points Based System, as an investor with permission to remain in the UK under Tier 1 of the Points Based System or as the spouse of a British citizen. There are multiple circumstances in which an applicant may meet this requirement by other means.

In addition to specific the requirements set by the Home Office, there are a few basic requirements which you must meet in order to qualify for naturalisation:

  • In most circumstances, you must have lived in the UK for a least 5 years, this is reduced to 3 years if applying as the spouse of a British citizen;
  • You must currently reside in the UK;
  • You must meet the day count requirement for maximum permitted days outside of the UK during the qualifying period;
  • You must have passed the Life in the UK test, and hold a valid pass certificate;
  • You must meet the ‘good character’ requirements which include having no serious criminal convictions;
  • You must be able to demonstrate the required level of English language proficiency; and
  • You must have Indefinite Leave to Remain and to have held it for a prescribed period usually, but not always, 12 months.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a status which, in most circumstances, must be acquired before obtaining citizenship. Indefinite Leave to Remain does not entitle you to hold a British passport, but it does mean that there is no time limit on your living, working and studying in the UK. As the name suggests, it allows you to stay in the UK indefinitely, but if you are away from the UK for a continuous period of 2 or more years, or no longer have your main home here, you may lose your ILR.  

The requirements to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain are broadly similar to those for naturalisation. Specific eligibility criteria set by the Home Office include requirements that you:

  • have lived in the UK for a qualifying period and have the required documents to evidence this;
  • have not been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period during the qualifying period;
  • have passed the Life in the UK test, and hold a valid pass certificate;
  • meet the ‘good character’ requirements which include having no serious criminal convictions; and
  • are able to demonstrate the required level of English language proficiency.

Before applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, you should ensure that you meet all requirements as there is a significant cost to applying which is not refundable if your application is unsuccessful.

The information in this article is general in nature. It is not a substitute for legal advice in individual cases and should not be used for this purpose. There are exceptions to the requirements set out above and these may apply in your circumstances.  

Our team of specialist immigration lawyers have unrivalled experience in advising employers, investors and educational establishments on their immigration needs, linking organisations and the Home Office and applying creative thinking to solve complex immigration problems.  

About the author

Matthew Davies Partner

Matthew is an expert in business immigration law, advising employers, business people and investors on how best to navigate the complexities of the UK’s immigration rules and minimising delays, costs and risks in hiring talent from overseas.