Can I still apply for Naturalisation if I do not meet the absences requirement?

Naturalisation is a process in which a foreign national who is free from immigration time restrictions can apply to become a British citizen. Becoming a British citizen is a significant life event; but Naturalisation is not an entitlement. The application process for Naturalisation is subject to legal and residence requirements, which, can be waived to certain extend, but cannot be ignored altogether.

The residence requirements for Naturalisation include the absences requirement, which is a particularly sore subject due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic due to the associated borders closure and flights cancellations. Thankfully, the Secretary of State has powers to exercise discretion and to waive the absences requirement.

In this article we wish to discuss how discretion can be exercised in relation to the excess of the absences limits.

Residence requirement for Naturalisation

If the applicant is married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, they need to have met the 3-year lawful continuous residence requirement upon application (s.6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981) and be free from immigration time restrictions on the date of application. If not, the applicant needs to have met the 5-year lawful continuous residence requirement, and they need to be free from immigration time restrictions for 12 months before applying for naturalisation (s.6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981). This is known as the qualifying period.

For Naturalisation applications under s.6(1), in the qualifying period of 5 years, the number of days of absences (number of days the applicant was away from the UK) should be no more than 450 days. For applications under s.6(2), the applicant’s days of absences within the qualifying period of 3 years should be no more than 270 days. In addition, in the final year of the qualifying period, the applicant’s absences should be no more than 90 days.

What if the applicant does not meet the above requirements, for instance, having exceeded the days of absences? Prospective applicants should not feel discouraged as this does not mean the Naturalisation application will be automatically refused. According to the Home Office guidance document, where an applicant has spent more than 450 days for s.6(1) applications, or 270 days for s.6(2) applications, outside of the UK during the qualifying period, caseworkers must consider exercising discretion if applicants meet other requirements.

The applicant has absences of more than 450/270 days during the qualifying period

Where the applicant has exceed the permitted absences by 30 days, the caseworker when determining the application must exercise discretion unless there are other grounds on which the application falls for refusal.

Where the applicant has absences of 480-900 days when applying under s.6(1) or 300-540 days when applying under s.6(2), caseworkers are advised to only consider exercising discretion where the applicant has ‘established their home, employment, family and finances in the UK’. In addition, applicants also need to meet one or more of the following requirements.

  • At least 2 years residence (for s.6(1) applications) or 1 year (for s.6(2) applications) without substantial absences immediately before the start of the qualifying period. If the absence is above 730 days (for s.6(1) applications) or 450 days (for s.6(2) applications), the residence without substantial absences should be at least 3 or 2 years respectively.
  • The excess absences are the result of postings abroad in Crown service or in service designated under s.2(3) of the 1981 Act, or 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 frequent travel abroad.
  • Exceptionally compelling reasons of an occupational or compassionate nature to justify naturalisation, such as a firm job offer where British citizenship is mandatory.
  • The excess absences were because the applicant was unable to return to the UK because of a global pandemic.

The applicant has absences of more than 90 days in the final year of the qualifying period

Home Office caseworkers are advised to only exercise discretion for excessive absences during the final year of the qualifying period for s.6(1) applications if the future intentions requirement is met. The purpose of the requirement is that applicants wishing to be naturalised as British citizens should not already have decided, or intend, to break their links with the UK. Caseworkers usually determine the future intentions of applicants based on past behaviour.

Where the future intentions requirement is met for s.6(1) applications, or where the applicant is applying under s.6(2), caseworkers then need to look at the days of absences in the final year of qualifying period, and whether the residence requirement across the qualifying period is met.

For instance, if the days of absences in the final year are 100 or less, caseworkers would exercise discretion. Where the absences are 100-180, and the residence requirement throughout the qualifying period is met, discretion is only exercised if the applicant demonstrates strong links through presence of family, employment and their home in the UK. If the residence requirement is not met, they also have to prove that the absence is due to Crown service or by compelling occupational or compassionate reasons.

If the days of absences in the final year are over 180, where the applicant has met the overall residence requirement, discretion can be exercised if only the applicant has demonstrated that they have made the UK their home. If they are over 180 and the overall residence requirement is not met, discretion can only be exercised if the applicant has demonstrated that they have made this country their home, and that there are exceptional circumstances.


It is reassuring that the Home Secretary can exercise discretion in circumstances where the absences requirement has not been fully met. Whether the excess in absences has been the result of the ongoing pandemic, or an unavoidable consequence of the nature of the applicant’s career, it might be worth attempting the application relying on discretion.

If you would like to apply for naturalisation and you believe that discretion would be beneficial to your application, please do not hesitate to contact our Immigration team. At Chan Neill Solicitors LLP, we understand the nuances of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures well. Across our team, we speak many languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, Gujarati, Russian, French, Korean, Portuguese, Hungarian and Spanish. With access to our solicitors at two locations, one in City and one in Mayfair, we cover a very broad spectrum of varying clients’ needs.

Please note that requirements may vary from case to case based on the nuances of your situation, and the information on this page is not intended to replace legal advice.

What can I expect from a passport interview?

Becoming a British Citizen is a significant event in one’s life. In order to fully enjoy the rights as a new Brit, following the approval of a Naturalisation application, it is a mandatory requirement to attend a Citizenship Ceremony, and then apply for a first British passport. On a remark, children are granted a Certificate of Registration instead and are not required to attend the Citizenship Ceremony, unless have turned 18 during the application process for registration.

It is a common misconception that a British passport confers a right to British nationality. The British Nationality is conferred by the Certificate of Naturalisation, which is issued during the Citizenship Ceremony. The passport is merely a travel document, but an important one if one needs to travel abroad or prove their right to reside in the UK.

As a part of the application procedure for a first British passport, it can be expected that an applicant is invited to take part in an identity interview.  The invitation for an interview is usually sent to those, who are 16 or over, or likely to become 16 before they are issued with a British passport. Nowadays, it is extremely rare that adult applicants are invited for an interview, therefore, this article aims at children aged 16 and over.

Many fear this process; however, there is nothing to worry about. The interview merely helps the passport issuing authority to confirm the applicant’s identity and that the passport application, in fact, belongs to the applicant. The interview is an important part of the process to help reducing identity fraud. In other words, if you are who you claim to be, there is nothing to be afraid of.

The British passport interview lasts approximately 20-30 minutes during which the applicant is expected to answer the following set of questions (which may vary):

  • Their full name and spelling of their name
  • The full name of parent(s) and their current occupation
  • Their current and previous residential address(es) in the UK and abroad
  • The name and address of their school(s) and the name of their teacher(s)
  • The full names of their closest friends in the UK

Naturally, the answers to these questions should be familiar to the applicant and they are expected to answer these questions without overthinking.

If the interviewer is satisfied with the information provided, the British passport should then be issued without delays.

If you are concerned about your prospective passport interview or you may have questions regarding your visas, please do not hesitate to contact our immigration team. At Chan Neill Solicitors LLP, we understand the nuances of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures well. Across our team, we speak many languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, Gujarati, Russian, French, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish. With access to our solicitors at two locations, one in City and one in Mayfair, we cover a very broad spectrum of varying clients needs.

Please note that requirements may vary from case to case based on the nuances of your situation, and the information on this page is not intended to replace legal advice.



What is the Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme and how can this address the current shortages of workers in the UK?

After 2013, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) was closed as the government thought that the lower-skilled labour in the horticultural sector could be replaced by migrant workers through freedom of movement from the A8 countries. Six years and one Brexit referendum later, the UK government has announced the Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme in 2019, which allows migrants to come to the UK to work in edible horticultural jobs temporarily. This article will give a brief overview of the current Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme and how this has addressed the shortages of workers in the horticultural sector in the UK.

Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme

The Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme was first announced on 6 March 2019. This scheme allows workers to come to the UK to work on farms for up to six months within one calendar year. This scheme allows the pilot operators to recruit temporary migrant workers for specific roles in the horticulture sector. As a response to the success of the initial pilot for 2019 and 2020 and the growing demand of seasonal migrant workers in the edible horticultural and agricultural sector, the UK government announced that 30,000 seasonal worker visa will be made available in 2021, three times the amount compared to 2020. Following the end of EU Freedom of Movement, this scheme has also become available to EEA citizens.

Under the scheme, the Pilot Operator may not source labour for themselves, but only as a third-party provider, whereas in the pre-2013 Seasonal Agriculture Workers Scheme growers were licensed to recruit their own labour.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has identified that approximately 50,000 workers are employed seasonally on UK farms. The government also voiced their concern that the sector should show ‘greater urgency in modernising its business practices through automation for labour substitution and the recruitment of domestic UK workers’.

However, most of the employers in these sectors have become reliant on temporary migrant workers over the years, and the response to Pick for Britain campaign has shown that the current supply of domestic UK workers is limited as an estate of only 5-11% of Britons have taken up the 70,000 harvesting roles in 2020. If anything, it has highlighted the demand for seasonal migrant workers. In the short term, the demand for migrant workers in the seasonal sectors such as edible horticultural still remains.

Seasonal Worker Visa Requirements

Seasonal Worker Visas applicants and sponsors are subject to validity, eligibility, financial and other requirements as set out by the Home Office in the Immigration Rules.

First, the applicant needs to meet requirements for entry clearance such as fees, biometrics, valid passport, as well as receiving a Certificate of Sponsorship (referred to as “CoS” hereinafter) from a sponsor (the Pilot Operator employer). The applicant needs to be aged over 18 and applications can be made as early as three months before the start date of the role.

Second, the CoS must have been issued by a sponsor which has an endorsement from Defra in relation to the seasonal worker route; is licensed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority; and is listed as A-rated on the Home Office’s published register of licensed sponsors; and is still approved as a sponsor on the date on which the application is decided.

The job offer must not have been withdrawn since the CoS has been issued. The CoS must also not have been used in a previous application that was already decided, and must state the role is in the edible horticultural sector, which means those growing protected vegetables, field vegetables, soft fruit, top fruit, vines and bines, and mushrooms.

Third, on application a financial requirement has to be met by either the applicant or the sponsor. The applicant must show that they have held £1,270 for a 28-day period and as specified in Appendix Finance. Alternatively, the sponsor can certify that they will maintain and accommodate the applicant up to the end of the first month of employment up to at least the amount of £1,270.

Once the application has been approved, the applicant will be granted permission to work in the UK for either the period of the role on the CoS plus 14 days before and after, or a maximum of a 6 months stay in any 12-month period, whichever is shorter. The applicant will also have no access to public funds and the work is only permitted in the role the applicant is being sponsored for. The applicant is, however, permitted to study, subject to the ATAS condition.

Uptake of the Seasonal Worker Visa Pilot Scheme

According to the Managed Migration Datasets published by the Home Office, Since the introduction of the Pilot, the number of applications has increased year on year. The total number of applications made for this visa in the year of 2019 was 2,494. In 2020, despite the economic downturn and restrictions resulted from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the number of applications made in Q2 2020 alone was more than the whole year of 2019, at 3,229. Following the extension of the pilot and the increasing of the cap to 30,000 at the end of December 2020, this combination has resulted in a huge increase in the number of applications of this visa. In Q1 2021, the number of applications were 4,035 and in Q2 2021 alone the figure skyrocketed to 12,375.

When looking at the countries of origin of the applications, Ukraine, in particular, has been the most responsive country to this scheme, with 20,504 applications having been made since the pilot has opened to Ukrainian nationals. In Q2 2021, 8760 applications were made. Following Ukraine, the countries with more than 1,000 applications are Russia, Georgia and Moldova, with 1,427, 1,239 and 1,064 applications having been made respectively since the launch of the scheme for these countries. In total, as of Q2 2021, nationals of 45 countries have submitted applications to the Pilot.

Most applications under this visa category were approved.  From the launch of the pilot scheme in Q1 2019, 26,182 visa applications have been made and 25,975 visas have been issued under this scheme by the end of Q2 2021.

The above data have shown the response to this pilot has been positive, and that the scheme has provided temporary relief of seasonal labour shortages in the UK edible horticultural sector. As the current extension of the pilot is still ongoing, we await the figures for Q3 and Q4 2021 to understand the full extent of the uptake and response of the current extended pilot, particularly from EEA citizens.


One of the objectives of the Extended Pilot is to determine whether the Pilot might provide a longer-term model for responding to seasonal labour shortages in this sector. From the dataset published by the Home Office in relation to this Pilot, it is evident that migrants are responding to this visa route as the number of applications have increased almost eightfold, when comparing first halves of 2019 and 2021.The Pilot has temporarily alleviated shortages in the horticulture sector, and has helped to gather information for the Home Office, Defra, and employers in the horticulture sector, to get a possible approach for seasonal labour in the future. The Scheme has also been used to bring poultry workers and HGV fuel tanker drivers to address the current shortages.

If you have any enquiries, please contact us.

Update on the UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents under Covid 19

According to the latest regulation published on the government website on 28th Sept 2021, If you’re in the UK.

You are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK. You are allowed to access Visa and Immigration services as these are considered an essential public service. You must follow current COVID-19 rules for where you live, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you intend to leave the UK to return to a country or territory currently listed red but have not been able to do so and you have a visa, leave or ‘exceptional assurance’ that expires before 30 November 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’.

There may also be exceptional cases where you may be unable to return to a country or territory listed as green where that nation has closed their borders or where quarantine facilities are temporarily over-subscribed in which cases you may also request ‘exceptional assurance’.

Please submit your request for an ‘exceptional assurance’ by emailing with the following details:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • Home Office, GWF or any other reference number
  • type of visa
  • expiry date of visa
  • reason for request
  • evidence of flight or evidence showing reason you can’t leave

The subject header of your email should read “Request for an assurance”.

In your email you should attach evidence to show why you cannot leave the UK. For example, if you can’t leave the UK because you cannot find a flight before your leave/visa expires, you will need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket or evidence of flight unavailability.

During the time in which your request for ‘exceptional assurance’ is pending you will continue on the conditions as per your current or most recently expired visa.

If you are granted ‘exceptional assurance’ it will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during the period of your ‘exceptional assurance’. ‘Exceptional assurance’ does not grant you leave. It is a means to protect those who are unable to leave the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions and not to facilitate travel, other than to return home.

If you’ve already been given assurance but your circumstances have changed or you’re unable to leave the UK by the assurance date previously given, you must reapply using the process above. You will need to clearly state that you’re making a subsequent application. You’ll be asked to provide new supporting evidence.

If you intend to stay in the UK

In order to remain in the UK, you will need to apply for the relevant permission to stay. Where eligible, you’ll be able to submit a permission to stay application form from within the UK.

You can make an application for permission to stay in the UK if you hold permission in a route that would normally allow you to do so.

You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you’re applying for and pay the UK application fee. You will not be able to apply for a route for which there is no provision in the Immigration Rules for making an in-country application, such as T5 Youth Mobility Scheme, or Adult Dependant Relative.

The terms of your current permission will remain the same until your application is decided. If you are switching into work or study routes you may be able to commence work or study whilst your application is under consideration, depending on the terms of your current permission.

You are also able to apply for permission to stay to remain in the UK if you have been issued with an ‘exceptional assurance’. You must submit your application before the expiry of your ‘exceptional assurance’.

If you have any enquiries, please contact our immigration team.