Citizenship

Please check our COVID-19 section for up-to-date information, as the coronavirus outbreak may affect the advice given on this page.

Contents

01   FAQs

1. Do I have to take the Life in UK test to apply for Citizenship? 
Yes! All applicants have to take this test. Click here to book.

2. Do I have to take an English language test?
This depends on your nationality and whether you already have a degree taught in English. See below for further information

3. How much does an application cost? 
Click here for the current fees.

4. Do I have to have my biometrics taken?
Yes, all applicants over 6 years of age are required to have both fingerprints and digital photos taken.

5. Can I make a joint application with my family?
Each person applying has to complete a separate application, children apply on different forms. You can all apply together, but only if you all meet the eligibility requirements.

6. Is a joint application cheaper? 
No.

7. Is my child eligible for Citizenship once I am a British Citizen?
Not necessarily, you are advised to read the information in section 07 below and to contact the F&C team if you are unsure about the immigration status of your children.

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02   Main requirements for spouses and soldiers

  • Indefinite leave/settlement or Exempt stamp
  • Knowledge of Language and Life
  • Good Character requirement – Convictions
  • Good Character requirement – Overstaying and other requirements
  • Requirement to have been in the UK at the start of the five-year period – spouses only
  • Residential requirements – spouses (except Gurkha spouses) and soldiers
  • Residential requirements – Gurkha spouses
Indefinite Leave/settlement or Exempt stamp

Soldiers

During Service, soldiers are exempt from immigration control under section 8(4)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971. This exemption means that you can apply for Citizenship without first requiring indefinite leave/settlement. However, as soon you discharge, you are no longer exempt and will need to apply for ILR before you can apply for Citizenship.

Spouses

Spouses will need indefinite leave (or settlement under the EU settlement scheme) in all cases before you can apply for Citizenship. DO NOT make an application for Citizenship if you don’t have ILR/settlement as the application will be refused and you could become an overstayer. Refer to the relevant sections on this website for information on how gain ILR/settlement.

Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK (KoLL) & Q&A.

IMPORTANT – from 5 November 2015 you won’t be able to use ESOL qualifications as proof that you meet the KoLL requirement. Only qualifications on the UKVI SELT (Secure English Language Tests) list taken at an approved centre will be accepted, see below.

You can demonstrate your knowledge of language and life in the UK by:

There is also more information about this in Booklet AN page 21 onwards.

What happens if my qualification has run out?
Some recognised test qualifications only last for 2 years.  However you can still use a B1 level qualification that’s run out if you’re applying for citizenship and it was accepted when you applied to settle in the UK. It doesn’t matter if the B1 level test you took isn’t on the list of recognised tests now. You don’t need to take another test. Unfortunately as most soldiers don’t need to apply for ILR, this won’t apply.  However it may apply to some spouses who had to have a B1 qualification to apply for ILR.

Good Character requirement – Convictions

You should read the guidance in the booklet carefully – page 25 onwards. More detailed information can be found here.

The following convictions will usually prevent you from applying for Citizenship. You have to declare all convictions regardless of the date. If you have been charged with a criminal offence and are awaiting trial or sentencing, you are advised not to make any application for registration until the outcome is known.

This is just a summary – you are advised to read the guidance above for further information.

  • A custodial conviction* of 4 years or more
  • A custodial conviction of 12 months to 4 years (unless 15 years has passed since the end of the sentence)
  • A custodial conviction of less than 12 months (unless10 years has passed since the end of the sentence)
  • A non-custodial conviction** within 3 years of the date of application

*Custodial convictions include time spent in MCTC

** non-custodial convictions include summary hearings/courts martial and any court-imposed fine (e.g. for speeding, assault or drink-driving). They do not include fixed penalty fines. They do include cautions and suspended sentences.

Is my military conviction the same as a criminal conviction?

Guidance has been published, which should make it much clearer to work out whether your conviction in a military court (whether a summary hearing or court martial) is considered to be criminal or disciplinary and how it will affect an application for citizenship.

You should read the guidance at this link carefully.

If you are still unsure about your conviction, then you should speak to your chain of command (platoon officer or OC, discipline clerk or RAWO).

Good Character requirement  – Overstaying and other requirements

The Home Office has tightened up on the overstaying part of the good character requirement. You are now likely to be refused Citizenship if you have overstayed at some point in the 10 years prior to an application for Citizenship, unless the overstaying was for less than 28 days prior to 2016. We are not aware of a discretion for soldiers. If you are unsure whether you are eligible to apply you should contact the F&C team with full details of your immigration history.

The guidance booklet details other reasons why you may not meet the good character requirement. These include:

  • Debt and bankruptcy
  • Dishonesty (eg false claims for benefits)
  • Other immigration-related matters such as illegal working

You are advised to read the booklet to ensure your application will be successful.

Requirement to have been in the UK at the start of the 5 year period:

Soldiers: soldiers applying on form AN are not required to show that they were in the UK at the start of the 5 year qualifying period. If you were serving overseas or were on training/deployment on the first day this will be treated as though you were in the UK.

IMPORTANT: This discretion does not apply to BN(O) passport holders applying on form B(OTA).  It also does not apply if you were out of the UK on a non-work related trip.

Spouses – still need to meet this requirement.

  • If you are making a standard application then you must have been in the UK at the start of the 5 year residential requirement. The qualifying period starts 5 years before your application is received by UK. So for example if your application is received by UKVI on 1st December 2021, they will count the start of the 5 year qualifying period as the 2nd December 2016 and will look to see that you were in the UK then.
  • If you are applying as the spouse of a British Citizen you must have been in the UK at the start of the 3 year residential requirement. The qualifying period starts 3 years before your application is received by UK. So for example, if your application is received by UKVI on 1st December 2021, they will count the start of the 3 year qualifying period as the 2nd December 2018 and will look to see if you were in the UK then.
  • Although you can count all time spent overseas AFTER the first day as residence in the UK, you need to have been in the UK on this first date. If you were on an overseas assignment, your application will be refused.
  • If you are currently on an overseas assignment and the soldier is already British then you  may be able to make an application under the Crown Service rules which do not require you to have been in the UK on the 1st day. See below for further information.
Residential requirements – spouses (except Gurkha spouses) and soldiers
  • Lived in the UK (or on overseas assignment) for at least the 5 (or 3) years before the date of your application
  • Spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years (unless on an overseas assignment)
  • Spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months (unless on an overseas assignment)
  • All time spent serving overseas is counted as residence in the UK (except the first day of the five year period for spouses, see above).
  • Any time spent in the UK can be counted as residence, it does not matter what visa you had as long as you had a valid visa
  • Time spent outside the UK but not on overseas assignment does not count as residence
Residential requirements – Gurkha spouses

Unfortunately spouses of Gurkha soldiers are not able to count their time on an overseas assignment towards the residential requirement. The Home Office have confirmed that because Gurkhas are unable to apply for Citizenship during Service they cannot apply discretion to the spouses.

If you are the spouse of a serving Gurkha, and you have spent more than 450 days out of the UK on overseas assignments, your application is likely to fail. Once your soldier has transferred to the wider Army, you would be able to count your absences as residence in the UK.

We are aware of some spouses who have been granted Citizenship despite excess absences, because the caseworkers were not aware of the difference. However, we do not advise applying if you don’t meet the residential requirements as you are at risk of losing the application fee.

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03   Commonwealth soldiers

See below for a summary of the requirements that soldiers have to meet, for further detail refer to the Main Requirements section above. Click here for the link to apply online.

  • CAN apply for citizenship whilst serving as long as you have lived in UK (or on overseas assignments) for five years. When completing the online form you should write down all of your trips outside the UK – under ‘reason for trip’ you should write ‘Crown Service’ (unless you went outside the UK for non-Service reasons).
  • If you have spent more than 450 days out of the UK on overseas assignment complete the form as follows. In the box write I do not meet the residence requirements because I have spent more than 450 days outside the UK due to Armed Forces Service. I have provided a letter which confirms this.
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  • CAN count any time spent legally in the UK prior to joining the Army. This includes time spent on visit visas
  • DO have to have served for a minimum of 12 months prior to applying
  • DO have to include a unit letter to confirm date of enlistment and that time spent overseas was due to military Service.
  • DO NOT need ILR first. When  you complete the online form select the following option and put in your date of enlistment
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  • DO have to meet the Knowledge of Language and Life requirement (KoLL), regardless of how long they may have served for (refer to the main requirements section above). If you have an English language qualification which has expired you won’t be able to use it as you won’t have used it in a previous application.
  • DO NOT have to meet the requirement to have been in the UK on the first day of the five-year residential qualifying period
  • DO have to meet the good character requirement, including the requirement to have been lawfully resident for the previous 10 years. Please refer to the ‘main requirements’ section above
  • DO have to pay the fee
  • DO NOT have to send your passport in, a scan of your passport can be sent in along with the other supporting documents
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04   Gurkha soldiers

Gurkhas are not included in the above policy as they remain Nepalese citizens whilst serving with the Brigade.

Gurkhas seeking British citizenship may do so either by transferring to the wider Army after five years’ Service, or after discharge by initially applying for settlement and then naturalisation.

Once they have ILR, they can apply for Citizenship immediately if they meet the other main requirements. There is no requirement to wait for 12 months prior to applying.

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05   Spouses (except spouses on EU settlement scheme)

There are two ways to become a British citizen if you are married to a soldier. In both cases, you need to have ILR first. There are no discretions in place for spouses of soldiers when applying for Citizenship except that outlined in the section on residence requirements above.

Normal applications :

  • ILR for 12 months
  • Five years’ resident in UK (or on overseas assignments)
  • See ‘Main Requirements’ above

Spouse of British citizen soldier:

  • ILR
  • Three years’ resident in UK (or on overseas assignments)
  • See ‘Main Requirements’ above

Completing the online form – if you have spent more than 450/270 days out of the UK because you were accompanying your soldier on an overseas assignment complete the form as below. In the box write I do not meet the residence requirements because I have spent more than 450/270 days outside the UK due to Armed Forces Service. I have provided a letter which confirms this.  

You will need to provide a letter or some evidence which confirms the time you spent out of the UK was on assignment.

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06   EU/EEA spouses

You will need to meet all of the other requirements under the main requirements section above.

The guidance at this link on page 12 details the different ways you can prove settled status if you are an EU/EEA national.  

You should also be aware of the requirement to have held Comprehensive Sickness Insurance which is outlined at this link.

Please get in touch if you are unsure of your eligibility to apply.

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07   Children

The rules regarding a child’s eligibility for Citizenship are complex. The following scenarios cover most of the cases that the F&C team come across. If your case is not covered by the examples below then please get in touch with us at fcsupport@aff.org.uk

Automatic acquisition (just need to apply for a British passport):

  1. Child born in UK to serving soldier
  2. Child born outside the UK to parents who are British or settled

Entitlement to registration (you need to apply for your child to become British before you can apply for a passport)

  1. Citizenship for children born in the UK to a non-British parent who, after their birth, becomes a serving HM Forces member, gains settlement or becomes a British Citizen
  2. Citizenship for children born prior to 1 July 2016 to a British father who was not married to the mother
  3. Citizenship for children born outside the UK (whilst the soldier was/is on an overseas assignment) to parents who are not British or settled
  4. Citizenship for children born outside the UK, (but not during an overseas assignment) and to parents who are not British or settled
1. Child born in UK to serving soldier
  • Any child born legitimately in the UK to a parent who is in the Armed Forces is automatically a British Citizen. Click here – page 7
  • To get a passport you will just need to make a normal application, though it may be advisable to include a letter from the soldier’s unit confirming the soldier’s employment and date of enlistment.
  • It is not advisable to use a post office checking service as they will probably tell you your child is not eligible.
2. Child born outside the UK to parents who are British or settled

If a child is born overseas (regardless of location) and one of the parents is a British Citizen or is settled at the time of the birth, the child will be born British.

Information about this can be found on page 8 of the guide MN1.

  • If the child is born during an overseas assignment to British parents then the child will have full British Citizenship and can pass his/her Citizenship onto any children they have which are born overseas.
  • If the child is not born during an overseas assignment, the child will not have full Citizenship, he/she will be a British Citizen by descent only. Children born to parents who are British by descent have no automatic claim to British citizenship.
3. Citizenship for children born in the UK to a non-British parent who, after their birth, becomes a serving HM Forces member, gains settlement or becomes a British Citizen

Children born after 13 Jan 2010: Children in these circumstances are eligible to be registered as a British Citizen under section 1(3A) of the British Nationality Act. They are not eligible for a British Passport until they have been registered. Select the relevant category highlighted below on the online form:

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Children born before 13 Jan 2010: Eligible to be registered under section 1(3). Select the relevant category highlighted below on the online form:

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Apply on form MN1.

4. Citizenship for children born prior to 1 July 2006 to a British father who was not married to the mother

Complete the application at this link.

5. Citizenship for children born outside the UK (whilst the soldier was/is on an overseas assignment*) to parents who are not British or settled

All children of F&C personnel born outside the UK while their parent was/is on assignment are eligible to apply to be registered as British Citizens.

– If your child was born overseas after 13 January 2010 you need to select the option below on the form MN1.

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– If your child was born overseas before 13 January 2010 you need to select the option below on the online form. It is also advisable to send the following document in with the application, click here.

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– Your child will not be eligible for a British Passport until they have been registered as a British Citizen

– You will need to include a letter from the unit to confirm that the soldier was serving overseas at the time of birth, the date and place of birth of the child and the date and place of recruitment of the soldier.

– As of 1 April 2015 children born to non-British parents serving on an overseas assignment can be registered as British at public expense. For further information refer to 2015DIN01-130 ‘Family Migration Rules for UK Armed Forces family members who are Non-British’

*Please note: the child’s mother does not have to have been accompanying the soldier on the overseas assignment in order to be eligible to register. If the child was born in Ghana for example whilst the soldier was in Germany, he/she would also be eligible to register. However, if the child was born in Ghana whilst the soldier was serving in the UK, then it would not be eligible to register!

6. Citizenship for children born outside the UK, (but not during an overseas assignment) and to parents who are not British or settled

Most applications will be considered under section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act and registration will be at UKVIs discretion. For a list of criteria that are used to assess such applications, read page 27 onwards of the following caseworker guidance here.

Main requirements:

  • The child has ILR. The guidance for caseworkers above says ‘you should normally only register a child under section 3(1) who has not been granted ILR or permanent residence where there are strong compelling compassionate circumstances to do so.’
  • One parent should be a British citizen and the other should be settled or a British citizen (where the British citizen parent is the spouse, it is not necessary for the soldier to also be a British citizen as the exempt stamp acts as ILR). Parents with sole responsibility can apply once they are British themselves
  • The child is of ‘good character’ if aged over 10.
  • If the child is over 13 they have lived in the UK for at least 2 years (unless they were on an accompanied overseas assignment)

Complete the form MN1 and select the following option:

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08   BN(O) passport holders

2 options:

  • Form B(OTA)
    • 5 years resident in UK
    • Must have been physically in the UK on the first day of the 5 year period (any time overseas due to Crown Service after then can be counted as residence)
    • Have ILR for 12 months or an exempt stamp
    • You do not need to meet the KoLL requirement
    • Click here for guidance
  • Form B(OS)
    • Only available if you have evidence of no other nationality
    • Not full citizenship
    • No residential requirement or requirement to have ILR
    • Click here for guidance
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09   Dual Nationality

Click here for all information.

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10   Overseas applications

KEY POINT: Make sure you are not due posting within the next six months. UKVI will not usually return your documents until a decision has been made on your application. Applications take on average between four to six months to process. If you are due a posting and have not had your passport returned to you, you must inform your unit who should raise the issue to HQ BFG.

Click here for the form and guides to applying.

 Adult applications Q&A 

Soldier applications overseas:

  • Read the ‘Main requirements’ section above carefully.
  • Soldiers overseas can make normal applications for Citizenship, you are not required to complete the Crown Service section of the form.
  • You should get a certified copy of your passport to send in with the application. DO NOT send in the original passport.

Spouse applications under Crown Service rules:

  • Read the ‘Main requirements’ section above. You are not required to meet the residence requirements when applying under the Crown Service rules. However you must meet the KoLL and Good Character requirements
  • Must be married to a British Citizen
  • Soldier must have been recruited in UK (Crown Service not available to spouses of Gurkhas who have transferred to the wider Army*).
  • Letter from Unit to confirm you are accompanying the soldier on an overseas assignment. This is not a letter of support, merely a letter confirming facts.
  • Click here to download and edit the letter to include your details

*Spouses of ex-GurkhasOnly spouses of soldiers who were enlisted in the UK are eligible to apply using the Crown Service rules. This means that spouses of Gurkhas who have transferred to the wider Army are not able to apply. AFF has raised this issue and it has been discussed at top-level MOD/UKBA meetings. Unfortunately we have been informed that although UKBA agree this is an unfair rule, to change this will mean a change in primary legislation which realistically is not going to happen when this affects a relatively small number of people. You may be able to make a standard application instead, see below.

Spouse ‘standard’ applications:

  • Soldier is British
  • Spouse has ILR
  • Must meet requirement to have been in the UK at the start of the 3 year residential period as well as all other requirements. Read the ‘Main requirements’ section above. Your time out of the UK on overseas assignments if you are a commonwealth spouse will count as residence.
  • Unfortunately, if you are the spouse of a Gurkha soldier you are disadvantaged because you are not eligible to count your time spent out of the UK as residence in the UK.
  • It is recommended that you contact the F&C Team for a covering letter to go with the application.

Can we make a joint application?

AFF has recently assisted with a successful joint application, so it seems that this is a possible route if all main requirements are met. Both the spouse and soldier would need to meet the main requirements, see above. You would need to complete two application forms. It is also advised that you contact the F&C team for a supporting letter to send off with the applications. However it is no longer cheaper to make a joint application so it may be less risky to wait until the soldier becomes a British Citizen and then apply under the Crown Service rules if you are still overseas.

Can I still apply for Crown Service even if I have a valid visa?
Yes

Do I have to go to a nationality checking service in the UK to apply?
No, in fact this is not advised as your application may not be considered under the Crown Service rules and could be refused.

Can I send in certified copies of my passport?
Soldiers can do this through their unit. UKBA have informed us that spouses can use certified copies but every page of the passport will need to be certified. This will need to be done by an authorised legal professional.

What address should I put on the form?
You should put your home address not your BFPO address on the form. However, if possible, you should send your application special delivery with a self-addressed envelope pre-paid for special delivery back to your BFPO address. Unfortunately in Germany it appears that some documents are currently being sent to the British Embassy in Berlin instead of to individual addresses. This can delay the process by week.

What will happen next?
If the naturalisation application is successful, you will receive two letters; one from the Home Office confirming the application success which should come in the pre-paid envelope with all of your documents and one from your nearest consulate or High Commission which should come to your home address. You will need to contact the consulate to arrange a time to attend the citizenship ceremony; this must be done within 90 days of receiving the letter. The citizenship certificate is issued at the ceremony.

What do I do if I am refused Citizenship
You should contact the AFF F&C team on fcsupport@aff.org.uk. You will need to send us a copy of your refusal letter.

English Language and Life in the UK test centres overseas

Where can I take the English language test on an overseas assignment?
You need to use your nearest IELTS examination centre. These are usually offered in major cities worldwide on a regular basis and can be booked online. The exam has 9 levels but you only need to pass at level 4 to meet the B1 requirement. You should check that the course and test centre are listed on the SELT list.

The British Council in Dusseldorf is the only accepted place to take the IELTS exam in Germany. They offer the IELTS exam in Dusseldorf 2-3 times a month. This costs 220 Euros.

The British Council in Cyprus offers the IELTS exam once or twice a month. The test costs 204 Euros.

Where can I book and take the Life in the UK test?
Registrations for the Life in the UK Test are booked online and it still costs £50.00. Details must be correct and match EXACTLY to the personal details on the candidates’ passport. All rules and regulations can be found on the link above. The ID used to book the test (preferably something with a photograph) should be brought to the place of the test to confirm identity and to confirm personal details. Candidates are asked to arrive early to the test centre to confirm attendance and fill out any other registration paperwork. Failure to attend without good reason or due notification means that the fee paid is lost. Every test thereafter will cost £50.00.

  • Germany – book online and select BFPO option and location. Sennelager is now the location for the Life in UK test in Germany.  Contact 41 AEC – e-Learning Centre, Normandy Barracks  05254 982 4133.  Opening hours Mon -Thurs 08:30 – 16:30 and Fri 08:30 – 12:00 (subject to exams). Please note the centre cannot answer enquiries about the test, refer to the Life in UK Test website for information.
  • Cyprus – book online and select the BFPO option and location. The Life in UK test can be taken at the 55 Army Education Centre in Episkopi. There are only 6 available places per month. Contact Sharon Ollerhead based at 55 AEC Episkop on 00357 2596 2129.  Dii email: BFC-JETS-55AEC-ElecLearnCntrMgr@mod.uk

Biometrics
You are advised to write on the application form (part 6) which country you wish to take your biometrics in. You should be sent a letter with the nearest locations. If you receive a letter asking your to have your biometrics taken in a different country then you should email ocbeappointments@tlscontact.com stating your name, date of birth and reference number, country and city of application.

Children’s applications

UPDATE – As of 1 April 2015 children born to non-British parents serving on an overseas assignment can be registered as British at public expense. For further information refer to 20150408 DIN ‘Family Migration Rules for UK Armed Forces family members who are Non-British’.

All children of F&C personnel born outside the UK while their parent is on assignment are required to apply for a passport for them as soon as possible after the birth. If however one parent is British then the child will be born British and will have full British Citizenship.

IMPORTANT – Your child will not be eligible for a British Passport until they have been registered as a British Citizen

Citizenship for children born outside the UK whilst the soldier is on an overseas assignment:

  • Complete form MN1
  • You will need to include a letter from the unit to confirm that the soldier was serving overseas at the time of birth, the date and place of birth of the child and the date and place of recruitment of the soldier.
  • You should also send in the birth certificate and a copy of the soldiers passport.

Passports

2017DIN01-117:

All Service personnel and members of the civilian component and their dependants, regardless of their nationality, who are required to travel on official duty to, or are assigned to, a country that requires a valid passport, are to be provided with one at public expense.

One-year passport for soldiers update (2017DIN01-073):

On 26 February 2017, Her Majesty’s Passport Office waived the routine requirement for Service personnel in the UK and overseas applying for their first adult British passport to attend an identity interview. Only where there are concerns about identity will an interview still be required.

Service personnel who have already been issued a restricted validity passport will have a full passport issued at the point of renewal.

Please note:  The process for dependants is being reviewed and an update will be provided as soon as possible.

One-year passport for spouses

  • The passport grants you the same rights as a full passport
  • You will not be able to attend an interview at your nearest consulate; this service is not available to military personnel or their partners.
  • If your one-year passport is due to expire you should apply for a new one using the standard application form, which you can get from your unit – please refer to 2017DIN01-117. Do not apply online. This should be refunded by the unit in line with JSP 752 Annex A, Serial 5, Section 13, Chapter 10.
  • It is not advised that you attempt to travel to the UK to apply for a full passport whilst based overseas. A couple of spouses have tried this and have been left stuck in the UK for three months whilst waiting for their passports to be issued.
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11   I am an EEA national married to a British soldier, can I apply for Citizenship?

Refer to the guidance on our Brexit page.

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12   Contact Information

Click here for information on how to contact UKVI regarding Citizenship applications.

To request your documents to be returned: www.gov.uk/visa-documents-returned

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