There are seven requirements you need to meet before you apply:
To demonstrate the residential requirements for naturalisation, you must have:
been resident in the UK for at least five years (this is known as the residential qualifying period); and
been present in the UK five years before the date of your application; and
not spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the five-year period; and
not spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months of the five-year period; and
not been in breach of the Immigration Rules at any stage during the five-year period.
When does the residential qualifying period start?
The residential qualifying period is calculated from the day when your application is received. Most unsuccessful applications fail because the applicant was not present in the UK at the beginning of the residential qualifying period. You must make sure you meet this requirement before you make your application. For example, if your application is received on 25 March 2010, you must show that you were in the UK on 26 March 2005.
If you have spent time in the UK while you were exempt from immigration control, you cannot include this time as part of the residential qualifying period. If you were in the UK as a diplomat or as a member of visiting armed forces, or if you were in any place of detention, you are considered to have been exempt from immigration control during that time. This time is treated as absence from the UK when we assess your application.
Immigration time restrictions
You must be free from immigration time restrictions when you apply for naturalisation. Unless you are married to or the civil partner of a British citizen, you should have been free from immigration time restrictions during the last 12 months of the residential qualifying period.
If you are free from immigration time restrictions, there will probably be a stamp or sticker in your passport saying that you have indefinite leave to enter or remain or no time limit on your stay. But you may have a letter from the Home Office saying that you are free from immigration conditions. See The documents we require for naturalisation applications for details of how to prove you are free from immigration time restrictions.
We have discretion to allow applications from people who do not meet this requirement. For details of how we apply discretion, you should read the Discretion on immigration time restrictions page.
European Economic Area nationals and Swiss nationals
If you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, or you are the family member of such a person, you will automatically have permanent residence status if you have exercised EEA free-movement rights in the UK for a continuous five-year period ending on or after 30 April 2006. You do not need to apply for leave to remain. You should have held permanent residence status for 12 months before you apply for naturalisation.
If you have been outside the UK for six months or more in any one of the five years of the residence period, you will have broken your residence. This does not apply if:
the absence was due to military service; or
all absences were for under 12 months and were for important reasons such as pregnancy, childcare, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas posting.
If you leave the UK for a continuous period of two years or more, you will lose your permanent residence status.
If you have indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK, you will be considered to be settled here provided that you have not been away for two years or more since you received ILR.
Breach of immigration laws during residential qualifying period
You must have been in the UK legally throughout the residential qualifying period. We may refuse your naturalisation application if you have breached the immigration laws during that period.
Absences from the UK during the residential qualifying period
During the residential qualifying period, you must not have been absent from the UK for more than 450 days. You must not have been absent for more than 90 days in the last 12 months.
We have discretion to allow absences above the normal limits. For details of how we apply discretion, you should read the Discretion on absences from the UK page.
If you are applying on the grounds of your Crown service instead of your residence in the UK, you must show that you:
are serving overseas in Crown service on the date when your application is received; and
have been the holder of a responsible post overseas; and
have given outstanding service, normally over a substantial period; and
have a close connection with the UK.
Crown service is an alternative only to the residence requirements for naturalisation. You must still meet the other requirements for naturalisation.