Successful naturalisation application: exceptional circumstances
It is always a pleasure when a client’s immigration or nationality application has a successful outcome. But there are cases that make us particularly proud for the outcome that we have helped to obtain. One such case was a recent successful Naturalisation application.
Our client was a lady with an extremely sad story, who had lost people very dear to her and was grief-stricken. She had come to the UK as a spouse of a British national, but had sadly lost her husband after only a few years of life together. When she approached us, she had just been granted indefinite Leave to remain as a bereaved spouse of a British National, but did not have five years of residence in the UK, or 12 months after her ILR being granted. Had her husband been alive she would not have to meet the five year residence requirement, or the one in respect of being free from immigration controls for at least a 12 months period. She had read information about naturalisation online and had little hope that she could qualify for it.
When I first spoke to her,I explained the requirements that one would be expected to meet before applying for naturalisation with a chance of success.
The following requirements are what we normally would look to ensure are satisfied before making an application:
1. The person applying is at least 18 years old;
It is important to remember that those who are under the age of 18 cannot apply to naturalise. There is, however, another way of becoming British, for children under 18, such as registration as British, which has different requirements.
2. They have been lawfully residing in the UK for at least 5 continuous years (this requirement is reduced to 3 years for those who are married to British Nationals at the time of the application);
This requirement is met, if the person has continuously held leave to remain for the relevant period of time,or was exempt from having such leave. For example the EU nationals, for the time spent in the UK prior to Brexit.
3. During these years they did not have excessive absences
- no more than 450 days in total, unless there are special circumstances;
- no more than 180 days in any 12 month period;
- and no more than 90 days in the final year before application.
It should be emphasised that excess absences do not always disqualify a person from obtaining British nationality via naturalisation. There are exemptions that apply.
4. There is also a requirement that the applicant should be free of immigration restrictions, meaning they should have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. For most applicant this needs to be the case for the last 12 months at least. For those married to British nationals at the time of the application, there is no minimum time requirement and the application can be made immediately after obtaining the ILR.
Irrespective of their prior immigration status, all applicants making naturalisation applications, need to demonstrate that they are free of immigration restrictions. This means holding either ILR or settled Status under the EUSS.
5. Finally, there is a requirement for the applicant to be of a good character.
The good character requirement is one of the most complex elements of the naturalisation process and requires a separate blog entirely.
It is essential to understand that naturalisation is a discretionary process and becoming a British national is a privilege, rather than a right. These two elements mark significant differences in naturalisation process.
Our client’s circumstances
Our client was failing under the residency requirements, as at the time of the application she was a widow, so not a spouse of a British National, she had less than 5 years of residence in the UK and she had been granted her ILR for only a few months.
I initially suggested that she just wait to meet the requirements and then submit her application. However, having listened to my client, about how she and her late husband had dreamt for her to claim the privilege of becoming British, I realised the deep significance the matter held for her. It was clear this was not a simple case, but also was not a case I could have refused to attempt.
I explained to the client that naturalisation applications are discretionary by their nature, almost all the requirements can be waived, should the Secretary of the State consider it to be warranted. This is the route I suggested we take, put together a case where her compassionate and compelling circumstances were set out clearly and ask for a discretion in waiving the requirements.
I was very honest and transparent with our client in respect of the possibility of having a refusal, but given her circumstances, I was also hopefully that with good work, we could put together a strong case, that would achieve her desired outcome.
Our team soon started their work. We worked with the client on getting all the relevant evidence in respect of her residence and ties in the UK. We paid particular attention to her compelling and compassionate circumstances, and even obtained a physiological assessment to highlight the importance of British Nationality to our client and her mental well-being.
Once we were satisfied with the evidence we prepared the online form and then started to work on comprehensive representations, to support our client’s application. The cover letter explained in detail, our client’s circumstances, why and how obtaining British Nationality was important to her and so on.
Application was submitted, and in under 3 months from the submission, our client received the awaited outcome. Her Naturalisation application was granted and her dream was fulfilled.
As lawyers who had witnessed her struggles with this journey, we were delighted to give her the wonderful news.
As an immigration lawyer, I know that human lives are nearly impossible to put in neat little boxes. In most cases we will find ourselves with circumstances that do not exactly fit this or that rule. I strongly believe that there is a solution to every problem and this is the approach that my team and I take with all our clients and their matters.
To discuss your matter with one of our team members, give us a call at 020 3372 5125.