Requirements for naturalisation – residence in the UK (absences)

One of the key requirements for British Naturalisation applicants is to meet the residence requirements which in a nutshell means not to have too many absences from the UK. Applicants have to be present in the UK during the relevant time (5 years or 3 years, depending if married to a British citizen on the date of Naturalisation application) and do not exceed the limit of permitted absences.

Proof of residence for Naturalisation

Acceptable proofs of residence in the UK for the purpose of Naturalisation application include:

  • passports or travel documents which have been stamped to show arrival in th UK and entry and departure from other countries: these should be checked against the list of absences provided on the application form
  • Home Office records
  • if the applicant does not have passports to cover the qualifying period, other evidence such as employers’ letters or tax and National Insurance letters: in such cases an assesment should be made whether there is sufficient evidence to show that that applicant has been resident in the UK during the qualifying period, giving them the benefit of any doubt where claimed absences are within the limits we would normally allow and there are no grounds to doubt the accuracy of the claim

In case where the above described evidence is not available it is possible to use other types of proof of residence. Those include for example doctor notes from a therapy or regular visits. That type of evidence is, however, not treated as a proper one and is subject to caseworker discretion.

Only whole days are counted as absences. Thus the departure and arrival to the UK days are not taken into account when counting absences.

Absences limits

Applicants for Naturalisation in the UK should not exceed the limits of absences during qualifying periods for their application. Those limits are:

No more than 450 days for applicants relying on their own status – for example Skilled Worker visa holders, in the 5 years immediately prior to application. (section 6(1) applications)

No more than 270 days for applicants who are married to a British national, in the 3 years immediately prior to the application.(section 6(2) applications)

Exceeding the allowed absences limits

Exceeding the allowed absence limits does not always mean that the application will be refused automatically. Exceeding the limits by 30 days or less falls into the Home Office discretion. Unless there are other reasons for refusal caseworker should overlook excessive absences up to 30 days.

Nevertheless, the limits stipulated by the Home Office should be adhered to. By exceeding them the applicant places himself at the mercy of the Home Office and jeopardises his chances for successful application.


Where the applicant has absences of between 480-900 for applications under section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981, or 300-540 for applications under section 6(2) and otherwise meets the requirements you must only consider exercising discretion where the applicant has established their home, employment, family and finances in the UK, and one or more of the following applies:
• at least 2 years residence (for applications under section 6(1)), or 1 year (for applications under section 6(2)), without substantial absences immediately prior to the beginning of the qualifying period.

If the period of absence is greater than 730 days (for section 6(1)) or 450 days (for section 6(2)) the period of residence must be at least 3 or 2 years respectively
• the excess absences are the result of:
o postings abroad in Crown service under the UK government or in service designated under section 2(3) of the British Nationality act 1981.
o accompanying a British citizen spouse or civil partner on an appointment overseas
• the excess absences were an unavoidable consequence of the nature of the applicant’s career, such as a merchant seaman or employment with a multinational company based in the UK with frequent travel abroad
• exceptionally compelling reasons of an occupational or compassionate nature to justify naturalisation now, such as a firm job offer where British citizenship is a statutory or mandatory requirement
• the excess absences were because the applicant was unable to return to the UK because of global pandemic

Where the applicant’s absence exceeds those covered above as a result of Crown Service overseas, discretion should normally be exercised where:
• before an overseas posting the applicant was resident in the UK and Islands
• the excess absence was due to either:
o a period of absence from the UK and Islands on a posting on Crown service
o a period of absence from the UK and Islands accompanying a spouse, civil partner, partner or parent on a posting on Crown service
The person in Crown service should provide evidence of their employment and posting from the relevant Government department.

In other cases, where an applicant’s absences exceed those covered above it is highly unlikely that discretion would be appropriate. Home Office would normally refuse the application and advise to re-apply when they are able to bring themselves with the statutory requirements, unless there are specific circumstances that warrant exceptional consideration at a senior leave

Final year absences

You must only exercise discretion for excessive absences during the final year of the qualifying period under section 6(1) if the future intentions requirement is met. Where the applicant is applying under section 6(2) or has met the future intentions requirement the following will apply. Total absences:
• of 100 days or less; exercise discretion
• between 100 and 180 days, where the residence requirement across the qualifying period is met – discretion is only appropriate where the applicant demonstrates strong links through the presence of family, employment and their home in the UK
• of more than 100 days but not more than 180 days where the residence requirements over the full qualifying period are not met – consider exercising discretion if both the following apply:
o applicants have demonstrated that they have made this country their home by establishing a home, employment family, property and finances in the UK
o the absence is justified by Crown service or by compelling occupational or compassionate reasons, including inability to travel because of a global pandemic
• exceeding 180 days where the residence requirements over the full qualifying period are met – consider exercising discretion if the applicant has demonstrated that they have made the UK their home exceeding 180 days where the residence requirements over the full qualifying period are not met – you must only exercise discretion where the applicant has demonstrated that they have made this country their home and there are exceptional circumstances such as Crown Service.

Technical absences

Technical absence is where a person is regarded as absent from the UK even though they are physically present here. This is where they are: Page 18 of 49 Published for Home Office staff on 10 November 2021
• exempt from immigration control under section 8(3) of the Immigration Act 1971
– diplomats
• exempt from immigration control under section 8(4) of the Immigration Act 1971
• – members of home, Commonwealth or visiting forces
• detained in hospital or other place of detention or unlawfully at large in the UK following a conviction for an offence
• detained, or on temporary admission or immigration bail, or unlawfully at large under the immigration laws
The following are not technically absent from the UK:
• locally engaged non-diplomatic members of missions
• people exempt from immigration control under section 8(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 – consular staff and certain employees of international organisations
Treatment of technical absence for naturalisation purpose
There is discretion under paragraphs 2(b) and 4 of schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981 to treat:
• technical absences as residence for naturalisation purposes
• an applicant as present here on the date at the start of the qualifying period if it comes within the period of technical absence