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Having obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain or permanent residency in the UK, many people do not go the extra mile and apply for British citizenship.

Many Countries now allow dual (or more) citizenship and the cost of applying is modest in comparison to the benefits of full citizenship..

The Home Office has announced further important changes to the Immigration Rules relating to settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR]). As from the 3rd April, 2006, the qualifying period for ILR was raised from 4 to 5 years of lawful residence in a specific category, and as from the 2nd April, 2007 all applicants who would normally become eligible for ILR (including Spouses and Dependants between the ages of 18 to 65 years) must take and pass the “Life in the UK” Test (as do applicants for British Citizenship) before ILR will be granted, otherwise they will only be granted Further Leave to Remain, until they pass the test.

There are obvious problems just merely remaining with Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR].

You cannot remain outside the UK for more than 2 years at any one time, otherwise you will loose your ILR. There are other instances where you can lose your ILR (e.g. being convicted of criminal offences). You may have read the recent case of a Filipino (having been in the UK since the age of 4) being removed/deported from the UK to the Philippines for being in breach of an ASBO.

When your passport expires you will have to go to the expense of paying the Home Office fee (£160.00 for postal applications or £500.00 for a personal Home Office attendance application), and inconvenience of completing a Home Office No Time Limit [NTL] form, for your ILR to be endorsed in your new passport.

If you are applying for a no time limit stamp, you must produce original documentary evidence to demonstrate that you and any dependant(s) included in the application have resided continuously in the UK since being granted indefinite leave. This, in some cases, is causing some applicants problems, because of the lack of documentation and/or lost passports, and can sometimes end up in refusals.

Every time you want to travel outside the UK (other than to your Country of origin) you have to take the time and go to the expense of obtaining visas for other Countries where required. Over a number of years this can be very time consuming and expensive.

By being a British Citizen and having a British Passport, from the British Immigration Authorities’ point of view, you can remain outside the UK for a long as you like, and you do not have to waste a lot of time and go to a lot of expense to obtain visas in many cases.

When you have completed at least five (5) years lawful residence in the UK, and have had your Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR] for at least one (1) year, you would be eligible to apply for British Citizenship, subject to certain other conditions.

For applications on or after the 1st November, 2005, brief details of the additional requirements for applying for Naturalisation as a British Citizenship are as follows:-

You will need to supply evidence that you have sufficient knowledge of English (minimum ESOL Entry Level 3), and demonstrate that you have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK, in the following way:-

1. By successfully completing a course of study in ESOL with citizenship. You will need to provide a certificate showing the level you have attained together with a letter from the college certifying that the course citizenship content had the requisite citizenship content.

2. Passing a short test on knowledge of life in the UK at a Life in the UK Test Centre. This test is set in English and passing the test will indicate both knowledge of English and Life in the UK.

If you are aged 65 or over or have a mental or physical disability you may apply for an exemption.

The ESOL Skills for Life courses are available at many Further Education, Adult and Community Colleges across the UK. You should be able to obtain addresses from your local telephone directory, or by contacting your local library or Town Hall.

If you choose to undertake and pay for a course at a private language school you must ensure that it will confirm that it is offering an approved ESOL course with citizenship content. You should also ensure that the college is approved through the English UK scheme. You can contact English UK at their website on http://www.englishuk.com/.

You will satisfy both the knowledge of English and the knowledge of life once you have obtained a certificate from the awarding body (not a college certificate) and a letter from the college confirming that the course was delivered using approved citizenship materials. Both the certificate and letter must be attached to your naturalisation application.

Before attempting the tests you should read the publication “Life in the United Kingdom. A Journey to Citizenship”, which is published on behalf of the Life in the United Kingdom Advisory Group by TSO (The Stationary Office) ISBN011 3413025, online www.tso.co.uk/bookshop TSO PO Box 29, Norwich NR3 1GN. See USEFUL WEBSITES

Once you feel confident that you have sufficient knowledge from the handbook, you may apply to take a test at a Life in the UK Test Centre. If you feel you need extra English tuition, you may enquire for English courses at Learn Direct – See USEFUL WEBSITES.

When you have completed the course, passed the tests, and you have received the appropriate certificate and letter, you will then be able to proceed with an application for Naturalisation as a British citizenship.

Representatives cannot help or assist you up to this point. They can only help and assist you after you have completed the course, passed the tests, and you have received the appropriate certificate and letter. At that point you may wish to instruct an Immigration Adviser in preparing the application to the Home Office.

Those applicants who had to take and pass the “Life in the UK” test to be able to obtain ILR do not have to take the test again for British Citizenship applications.

Immigration Law, Regulations, and Policy are constantly changing, and what might apply today, may not apply tomorrow.

The matters mentioned above really require specialist advice and work, and in such circumstances it is advised to seek professional help from a registered Immigration Adviser.

If you need immigration advice and would like a free consultation please email me at: info@immigrationmatters.co.uk

For the latest immigration news visit: http://www.immigrationmatters.co.uk

Mike Higgs is a Level 3 registered Immigration Adviser and Director Equalisers Ltd

If you wish to contribute an article to Immigration Matters, please email me.

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