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UK citizenship application and referee requirements

In March 2020 I was asked by a friend to be a referee for a citizenship application. Naturally I wanted to know the latest information about what requirements such referees have to meet, and what they're supposed to do, but my friend was unable to tell me, because, she said, she's filling in an online form that only asks her one question at a time, insisting on getting an answer before telling her any more. Prior to 2020 it was possible to see the entire form before starting to work on any of it, but in this "brave new world" of online applications, they simply were not letting applicants look ahead in the question sheet.

This is bad user-interface design (in the Cognitive Dimensions framework they need to read up on "premature commitment" and "visibility"). It is likely inspired by the "E-commerce" websites that want to "funnel" the customer into buying an item, not revealing details like delivery costs until quite late in the process, presumably hoping to capitalise on "sunk cost fallacy" when the customer realises the total cost is more than they thought but they've already invested the effort. If you don't want to buy something but still want to know these details---for example, to help you advise somebody else about suppliers---then the only way to make it tell you is to pretend to be a customer, go through all the steps, and cancel just before it actually takes your payment. Pretending to be a customer may seem a bit dishonest, but if we all know there's a "checkout" process before you commit, then I suppose it can be compared to walking into a physical shop and taking an item to the checkout when all you want to do is ask for more information about the item, rather than make an immediate purchase---if no staff are available other than at the checkout, then it's reasonable for the shop to expect that some members of the public will approach the checkout merely to ask for information, even if the checkout has a sign saying "pay here": it's not an agreement to buy, just as long as you don't remove the physical item from the premises unless you do buy it.

In the spirit of "taking something to the checkout just to get information", I decided to register a temporary email address for a "Mr Just Testing", and started the process of applying for Mr Testing's citizenship, just to find out what the whole process looks like. Since I stopped before the payment step, I do not believe this was making a false declaration, since it wasn't actually entered in as a paid-for application and therefore won't have come to human attention (with the possible exception of engineers debugging the system, and for them I wrote an explanation of what I was doing in various text boxes, such as the one that asked me to explain why Mr Testing couldn't provide his passport).

And so here, for your viewing pleasure, is what the complete process looked like as of March 2020 (my numbering might differ from theirs).

  1. Are you already in the UK? (Yes)
  2. Register an email and password (they send you a message with a link to verify you can receive at that address before you can see any more questions; you might need to check a "spam" folder for this message)
  3. To whom does this email belong? (Actually they wrote "Who does this email belong to?" but I don't think that was Queen's English although they're supposed to be representing... oh never mind.) I said it belongs to the applicant, so as to avoid having the system tell me to go away or not asking me all the questions.
  4. Do you have an immigration adviser based in the UK? (no)
  5. Are you completing this form on behalf of someone else? (I said "no" for the same reason as above)
  6. Name (Mr Just Testing)
  7. Any other names: "In addition to the names already provided, are you now or have you ever been known by another name?"
  8. Can we use this email address to contact you?
  9. Telephone number (I ticked the box saying "I cannot be contacted by telephone" for this test)
  10. Postal address (the postcode was validated, so I just gave them the address of a large institution---they shouldn't send anything to it as my test application was never completed, but in the worst-case scenario I'm confident that institution would deal with the spurious item of mail without worry)
  11. When did you start living at this address? (I said 2000 for the test)
  12. Have you lived at your current address for 5 years? (yes)
  13. Do you want to attend a ceremony in a different council? (no)
  14. What is your gender, as shown in your passport or travel document?
  15. What is your relationship status? (single, married, divorced, etc)
  16. EEA national?
  17. Country of nationality
  18. Country of birth
  19. Place of birth
  20. Date of birth
  21. Passport (I said Mr Testing had lost his passport, and in the box to explain I told them why I was running this test, just in case somebody checks the incomplete applications)
  22. Do you currently hold, or have you ever held, any other nationality or citizenship
  23. Date indefinite leave to remain was granted
  24. NI number (I said Mr Testing didn't have one)
  25. Have you passed the Life in UK test? (yes)
  26. Enter your Life in the UK test unique reference number (I just copied the example number)
  27. Do you have a previous visa, entry clearance or leave to remain where you had to prove your knowledge of English?
  28. Did you meet the knowledge of English requirement as part of an indefinite leave application made on or after 28 October 2013?
  29. Do you have a degree that was taught in English? (I said yes to this one)
  30. Country your degree was taught in (UK)
  31. What will you use to prove your degree taught in English? (certificate)
  32. Give details about your parents (names, date and place of birth, current nationality, and nationality when you were born)---I called each of them "Just Testing" as well
  33. Convictions and other penalties (none)
  34. Are you on the sex offenders register (no)
  35. Have you ever been declared bankrupt (no)
  36. Do you have any dependants not applying with you at this time (no)
  37. War crimes (none)
  38. Terrorist activities (none)
  39. Terrorist organisations (none)
  40. Terrorist views (none)
  41. Your first referee. Now this is the start of I wanted to know:
    Referees must:
    • not be a relative, solicitor or agent of the applicant
    • not be related to the other referee
    • not be employed by the Home Office
    • know or have known the applicant personally for more than 3 years
    • they are willing to give full details of their knowledge of the applicant
    • advise the Home Office of any reason why the applicant should not be registered
    Referees must also not have been convicted of an imprisonable offence. A single non-custodial sentence may be disregarded if (conditions listed).

    Give your first referee's details. This referee must be the holder of a British Citizen passport (and either a professional person or over the age of 25).

    Title (choose from Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Doctor or Reverend; as they've written out "Doctor" in full I'm not sure if they also take it to include people with non-medical PhD degrees)

    Given names, family name, gender, date of birth, address, Have they lived at this address for more than 3 years? (yes---if you say 'no' it says "Please provide all other addresses the referee has lived in for the past 3 years, Maximum of 500 characters")

  42. The next page was called "Additional details for your first referee":
    • What is their phone number?
    • What is their email address?
    • What is their profession?
    • Does your referee have a British passport? Passport number
    • How does the referee know the applicant?
  43. Your second referee---given names, family name, gender, date of birth, address, Have they lived at this address for more than 3 years (if No, other addresses required as above)
  44. Additional details for your second referee (as above)
  45. Your biometric residence permit (BRP). Are you able to provide a biometric residence permit (BRP) card with this application?
  46. Have you made any previous UK immigration applications in the UK or abroad?
  47. If you said you're currently married, it asks for your spouse's details, citizenship status, date, town and country of birth, address, marriage date. Otherwise this question is skipped.
  48. Have you previously been married or in a civil partnership?
  49. Do you have any children whose birth parent is not your partner?
  50. Current employment
  51. Previous employment (10 years)
  52. When did you first arrive in the UK? (date)
  53. Where did you first arrive in the UK? For example, Heathrow Airport
  54. Have you had any trips outside of the UK? You do not need to tell us about trips of 2 days or less. If you are the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, provide details about trips from the last 3 years, otherwise provide details from the last 5 years.
  55. Do you plan for your main home to be in the UK if your application is successful?
  56. Residence requirements:
    If you are the husband, wife, or civil partner of a British citizen, you must have been in the UK for the last 3 years. If you are not the husband, wife, or civil partner of a British citizen, you must have been in the UK for the last 5 years. This is called your 'qualifying period'. You must have been in the UK on the first day of your 3-year or 5-year qualifying period. You must not have spent more than 270 days outside the UK during a 3-year qualifying period, or 450 days during a 5-year qualifying period. You must not have been outside the UK for more than 90 days in the last 12 months. You must not have been here illegally in the 3-year or 5-year qualifying period.
    Do you meet these residence requirements? (yes)
  57. Special circumstances: Are there any reasons why you cannot meet the requirements to become a British citizen (for example, you have had too many absences from the UK)? (no)
  58. If you do not meet the statutory requirements to become a British citizen, are there any special circumstances why you think the Home Secretary should still grant your application? The statutory requirements can be found in Booklet Form AN. (no, and 'no way' do I want the Home Secretary to be bothered with a test application)
  59. Other information: Do you have any other details that you would like to be considered regarding this applicant and their application to be registered as a British Citizen? (yes: this applicant is not real, I'm only testing to find out what questions the computer asks. Hopefully it won't even make it as far as human consideration because I didn't confirm and pay, but just in case, I did write explanations like this in some of the "details" boxes.)
  60. Additional applicants (the entire process is repeated for each additional applicant; I didn't add any)
  61. "From the list of documents below, provide as many as you can. Tick each document to confirm that you have read the requirement, even if you cannot send it. If you are unsure about any of the evidence, read the guidance." For Mr Testing, they asked for his degree certificate, proof of freedom from immigration time restrictions, passport/other, proof of living in the UK (3 years if married to a Brit, 5 if not), and two referee declarations. (At this point it didn't say what a "referee declaration" is, but see below.)
    You will be able to upload copies of your documents on our commercial partner's website, or you can take your documents to your biometrics appointment to be scanned and uploaded by our commercial partner for a fee. You'll be told how to book an appointment and upload your documents after you submit your application. You do not need to send any physical documents to the Home Office or UK Visas & Immigration unless you are advised to do so.
  62. On the next page (after you'd ticked the box to say you'll provide referee declarations, without necessarily knowing what they are!) it finally gives you a link to the referee declaration forms in PDF format: first referee declaration and second referee declaration. (That's what I wanted to know---look how many steps it took me to get there!)
  63. Confirmation and payment (I didn't).

Usual disclaimers apply---information might have changed since I last saw it, and my posting these notes does not make me legally responsible for any mistakes you make on any website: use my notes at your own risk.

All material © Silas S. Brown unless otherwise stated.