The rules on obtaining UK citizenship have already changed with the introduction of citizenship ceremonies and the requirement that applicants prove that they have sufficient English or other UK language skills and knowledge of life in the UK. Going forward new citizens are also likely to have to satisfy lengthier residence requirements and prove that they have contributed to life in the UK.
Below is an overview of recent figures on citizenship applications, provided by the government. Most figures are rounded to the nearest 5 and percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.
Applications for Citizenship
In 2007 there were 160,890 applications for citizenship, an increase of 8% on the previous year. In 2006 the number of applications had dropped by 32% compared to 2005. That decrease in applications coincided with the introduction of the new life in the UK and language tests that all adult applicants must now take in order to obtain citizenship.
In 2007 the number of applications returned to about the same level as in 2005 – it is suggested that this increase may have been due, in part, to a surge in applications prior to an increase in the application fees in April 2007.
In 1997 there were only 66,000 applications for citizenship. In the period since then the largest year on year increases took place in 2000 to 2001 (from 62,475 to 109,005 applications – a 74% increase) and 2004 to 2005 (132,630 to 219,115 applications – a 65% increase).
Applicants Granted Citizenship
In 2007 164,635 applicants were granted British citizenship – an increase of 7% on the previous year. The figure is higher than number of applicants because some grants of citizenship will have been in respect of applications made in 2006.
UK citizenship was awarded for the following reasons: in 87,785 cases (or 53% of grants) citizenship was based on length of residence in the UK; in 30,425 cases (or 18%) citizenship was based on marriage; and, 40,535 of the new citizens (or 25%) were children under the age of 18.
15,630 applications ended in a refusal, were withdrawn or the applicants were found to be already British. 9% of all applications for citizenship, where a decision was made, resulted in a refusal to grant citizenship.
In 1997 only 37,010 people were granted citizenship. In the ten years since 1997, the number of people granted citizenship grew steadily every year until 2006 when the number of grants dropped by 5%. On average, since 1997, about 9% of all applications for citizenship have been refused.
There were 119,490 UK citizenship ceremonies in 2007 – an 11% increase on 2006.
Where Do Applicants for UK Citizenship Come From?
New British citizens come from all over the world. In 2007 the largest single area from which new citizens originated was Asia – with 44% of the total. Next came the 31% of new citizens who were from Africa, followed by the 9% who were from European countries outside of the European Economic Area.
The main countries of those granted citizenship in 2007 were: India with 14,490 or 9% of the total; the Philippines with 10,840 or 7%; Afghanistan with 10,555 or 6% – an increase of 211% on the previous year; South Africa with 8150 or 5%; and, Pakistan with 8140 or 5%.
Age and Gender of New UK Citizens
The age of foreign nationals granted citizenship in 2007 breaks down as follows: 31% of new citizens were aged between 25 and 34; 24% were children under 18; 23% were aged 35 to 44; 10% were aged 45 to 59; 8% were aged 18 to 24; and, 3% were over 60.
Of all new citizens in 2007, 39% (or 63,770) were females aged 18 or older and 37% (or 60,665) were males aged 18 or older.
Reasons Why Applications for UK Citizenship Are Refused
Some believe that it is currently too easy to obtain UK citizenship and new rules being introduced emphasise that citizenship is a privilege to be earned and not a right to which one is automatically entitled. Overall in 2007 there was an 8% increase in refusals.
Following are some of the main reasons why 14,725 applications made resulted in a refusal to grant citizenship:
- 28% or 4135 did not satisfy the residence requirements;
- 17% or 2535 did not have a British parent;
- 16% or 2365 failed to pass the English language and / or life in the UK tests;
- 15% or 2230 delayed in responding to questions from the immigration authorities;
- 11% or 1695 because the applicant was not of good character;
- 6% or 930 were incomplete applications.
In 2007 4% of applicants for citizenship were found to be British already.