Benefits of a UK citizenship – for first time UK Passport holders

UK guard standing

Key Takeaways 

  • If you have what is called the Right of Abode, you can move to the UK. The 4 types of non-citizen British Nationalities do not have right of abode.
  • If you are a British National but not a citizen, you need Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to have free healthcare through the National Health Service (NHS).
  • You can exchange your foreign driving license for a British license of you are from a list of Commonwealth countries.
  • To open a bank account, you will need proof of residence in the UK – like a utility bill, for example.
  • If you have Home Status, you will pay lower tuition fees at UK schools.

What are the benefits of a UK passport? So, you are about to apply for your first British Passport, and you have lots of questions. This article will address them, and yes, we know the most pressing question on your mind is once you have your citizenship, can you become prime minister and finally set the country straight, the answer is YES!  

British citizenship: Do I have to pay taxes if I get the passport?  

Sorry, taxes must be paid on any income, profits, dividends, interest etc. earned in the United Kingdom. However, you have a personal allowance set at £12,570 annually which is tax free. The remaining tax brackets are as follows: 

  • Basic rate of 20% on income from £12, 571 – £50,270 
  • Higher rate of 40% on income from £50,271 – £150,000 
  • Additional rate of 45% on income above £150,000.  

If you’re living overseas you should understand that non-residents only pay tax on income with a UK source. If you earn income/profits/dividends/interest etc from that source, you pay taxes on it even if you live abroad.  

Watch out for what are called double-tax treaties. The UK has them with over 130 countries and they can make managing your tax obligations a complicated matter. 

Can I move to the UK after getting my first British Passport?  

This depends on whether you also have British citizenship or if your nationality does not include citizenship. Remember there are 6 types of British Nationality and only one of them involves citizenship.  

Citizenship gives you what is called Right of Abode which means that you can live and work in the UK with no restrictions.  Non-citizen Nationals, on the other hand, do not have unrestricted right to live and work in UK and are still subject to immigration controls. This means that as a non-citizen National, you must have what is called Right to Reside which means one of the following must be true:  

  • You have a right of abode. 

  • You have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE). 

  • You’re an Irish citizen or you have settlement rights from the EU. 

Tip: Read about visa-free travel with your UK passport

What do I have to do once I have moved to the United Kingdom?  

The National Health Service (NHS) is free for people who are “ordinarily resident” which means being in the UK on a lawful basis. To be considered “ordinarily resident” if you’re a British National but don’t have citizenship, you need Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). However, a British citizen does not need any such proof. 

    • You do not need your NHS number to get service and you are no longer given an NHS card.
    • To register for an NHS number (10-digit number) find a GP practice (also called a GP surgery) near you and which offers services you might need and register there.
    • Go here to this NHS webpage to find a GP practice near you. You’ll be assigned an NHS number, and you’ll get a registration letter in the post with your NHS number.  
  • While you do not officially need any ID to register, it’s a good idea to bring your passport with you when you register.  
    • Prescription costs, eye care, and dental charges must be paid for by all residents as NHS does not cover these.  
    • If you’re staying temporarily for more than 6 months and don’t have ILR, you’ll have to pay a surcharge when you get your visa: 
        • £470 per student and per dependent (if any) 
        • £624 per person for everyone else on a temporary visa
        • There are some exemptions for example for military dependents 
    • If your visa is cancelled before its expiry date and you stay in the country, you may be charged additional fees for medical services you use. 

Getting a Driving Licence. To exchange a foreign driving licence for a British driving licence, you start the process by going here to this government webpage and answering some questions. Applies to people with driving licences from: 

    • Designated countries: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Republic of North Macedonia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe. 
    • EU countries 
    • You can drive in the UK with your old licence for up to 12 months, then exchange it for a UK driving licence valid for up to 5 years. You need to: 
        • Order Form D1 from DVLA (Driver Vehicle & Licensing Agency). 
        • If necessary official translated copy of your original licence. 
        • Pay a £43 fee. 
        • It takes 6 to 10 weeks for your new licence to arrive. 

National ID Card. A national ID card was issued for 5 years starting in 2006. However, they were scrapped in 2011 and the National Identity Register or NIR was destroyed. The legislation had been passed to comply with EU standards but was controversial and much criticized.  

  • Nonetheless, foreign non-EEA nationals do have to have what is called a biometric residence permit. This is an ID card issued by the UK Border Agency and are required by European law.  

How to get the benefits of a bank account in the UK

While you can have a standard bank account, you can also have an account at a Building Society, a Credit Union, or you can have a National Savings and Investment Account (formerly called a Post Office Savings Account). If you want to get a mortgage or to pay your utility bills, it’s much easier if you have a bank account. And remember that if you continue to use your foreign bank account, you’ll likely incur higher fees. If that’s not a problem, all good and well. However, here are some quick banking solutions for newcomers to the UK.  

Some easy-to-open bank accounts are: 

Basic Bank Account: for people with poor credit scores, it’s a no-frills account that offers basic services like a debit card, direct debits, free access to ATMs in the UK, and online or phone banking.  You will not be able to have an overdraft, nor enjoy other typical features of a normal bank account like cheques, cashback or interest earned. You normally will not have to undergo a credit check to get a basic account, but your identity will need to be confirmed. Most services are free, but some fees do apply, and your deposit is insured for up to £85,000 per person.  

    • Banks often don’t like to publicize these cheap-to-use accounts, so you’ll likely have to be proactive and demand to be given one. 

The following banks actively promote their basic accounts: 

    • Co-op’s Cashminder account 
    • Santander’s Basic Current account 
    • Virgin’s Money M account  

Another option offered by the larger banks are what are called International or Non-resident accounts that you can use in the UK and overseas. If you already bank at somewhere like HSBC, you may already have one.  

An interesting option is mobile and online-only banks. If you’re comfortable using your mobile as a digital wallet and bank, then this might be your option. But you’ll need to know how to keep it digitally secure and not leave it on a table in a jam-packed pub in Brixton in the middle of footy match to go to the loo. Just saying. The following are mobile-only banks: 

      • Leopay
      • Monese
      • Monzo
      • Revolut
      • Starling Bank 

As well large traditional banks like Barclay’s, HSBC, Lloyd’s, NatWest, and Santander also offer mobile banking. Both types of banks – traditional and mobile-only – offer services like paying bills and international transfers between accounts.  

Finally, remember that to open most bank accounts in the UK, you will need proof of residence like a utility bill or rental contract as well as personal ID like your passport.  

Getting your Credit Card after you move.

When you move to the UK you have to start building your credit score all over again because your credit score in your previous country of residence is NOT transferable often because of legal restrictions. So, your first step is to get a Credit Card and begin building a credit score so in the future you can apply for a mortgage or get a car loan or any other form of credit. . To be eligible for a credit card in the UK, you must: 

    • Be at least 18 years old 
    • Be a resident 
    • Earn a minimum income which varies depending on the card and the financial institution providing the card.

To start building your credit score here are some additional tips 

    • Get a bank account (see above) 
    • Pay your bills on time 
    • Get a mobile phone contract and make sure it’s always paid up 

Interestingly, some people suggest getting a higher-interest credit card that’s designed for people with poor credit scores or not credit history is a good way to get your first credit card. If you do use this strategy, make sure you pay more than the minimum monthly payment, or your credit card balance will explode. Here are some credit cards designed for higher risk or no-history clients: 

    • Vanquis Bank’s Chrome Credit Card 
    • Aqua Classic Credit Card  
    • Capital One Luma Card 
    • Marbles Credit Card 
    • Barclay’s Forward Credit Card 

Finally, if you’re a UK citizen or from a Commonwealth country, getting on the electoral roll is a good way to start building your credit record.  

Setting up your mobile phone

When seeing if your mobile phone will work in the UK, you should know that the UK uses the GSM network rather than the CDMA network so many phones from places like Canada and the US. To solve this, you can: 

    • Get a pre-paid mobile when you arrive, though this will almost certainly be a step down from your I-can’t-live-without-it smart phone. 
    • Or before moving, you can purchase what the British call a World Phone which is also called a Global Cell Phone in North America. Essentially, they come with an international SIM card which gives you one international phone number rather than facing high roaming charges when you use your phone outside your country of residence.  This applies to non-EU immigrants or visitors to the UK – like Canadians and Americans – as the EU prohibits roaming charges within the European Union countries. It remains to be seen if post-Brexit, roaming charges come back for EU citizens. 
    • Or you can buy a new smart phone with a new number and message all your contacts all over again to get them to use your new number.  

What government ID does a British citizen or a resident need to have?  

  1. If you’re thinking of national ID cards, the UK no longer has a National ID card so that’s one piece of ID you won’t have to worry about.  
  2. Although a driving licence is not obligatory, especially if you live in a large city with good public transport, it’s useful to have. See above for more information on UK driving licences. 
  3. However, if you’re a teenager or young adult who needs a proof-of-age card, the Post Office PASS Card is a national identity card accepted as proof of age.  
      • It costs £15 to obtain, 
      • Does not require ID to obtain, 
      • Is accepted across the UK as it is Home-Office-approved, 
      • And is accepted as proof of age and as a UK-wide identity card.

Can I buy property there?

If you’re going to live in the UK, there’s no stamp tax but you will have to pay 28% capital gains tax on any profit made when selling the property.  

If you’re going to live abroad, there’s a 2% stamp tax on property for overseas buyers + 3% duty if the property is a second residence. Capital gains taxes of 28% also apply when you sell the property. You also must be 18 or older; be able to prove your money is legitimate (you can show your source of funds); and you should really open an account at a UK bank to pay for your property

What are the benefits of a First UK Passport when going to a UK school? 

The main benefit is lower tuition fees. A British passport will usually give you what is called Home Status when a school is calculating your fees, especially if you also have British citizenship. This means you’ll pay much lower tuition fees than an overseas student would. To have home status, you must be residing in the UK for more than just the purpose of studying. In other words, you must have a connection established by residency.  

This is why as a British National to have Home Status you must have lived in the UK or a British Overseas Territory for 3 years or have Indefinite Leave to Remain or Indefinite Leave to Enter. Family members of UK Nationals also qualify for Home Status after living in the UK for 3 years.  

See our FAQs just below for information on tuition fees for students with home status as compared to the rates overseas students pay.

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With my passport, do I need a visa to bring my family and/or significant other with me to the UK?  

This depends on what type of nationality you have and what UK visa you use to enter. Remember, a British passport is available to all British Nationals. Here are some useful ways a British National (for those who are non-citizens and for those who have citizenship) can bring family members with them. 

    • British National (Overseas) (BNO) Visa: gives you right to work and study in UK but you have to apply to get special permission to receive government benefits. Your dependents (family members dependent on you: spouses/partners/dependent children/dependent parents and grandparents) can also apply for a visa. This applies only to people from Hong Kong who have BNO status. Valid for 2.5 years or for 5 years. 
    • UK Ancestry Visa: to be eligible you must be: Commonwealth citizen, British Overseas Territories, British Overseas National, British Overseas citizen, or Zimbabwean citizen AND prove that one grandparent was born in the UK, Channels Islands, or Isle of Man. Your partner/spouse and dependent children can also apply to join you. Valid for up to 5 years. 
    • For a British citizen to sponsor a partner/spouse you need to meet income requirements much like in Canada. To sponsor only a partner, you must earn £18,600 a year. To sponsor a partner and a dependent child under 18 you must earn £22,400 and an extra £2,400 for each additional child you wish to sponsor. 
    • If everyone has a UK Passport, it depends on if they have citizenship or are a non-citizen British National. Non-citizen Nationals do not have automatic entry to the UK and generally face some immigration controls. However, if everyone has a UK Passport – even if they’re not citizens – bringing these family members to the UK will be easier.
    • UK Family Visa for when some or all other members of the family do not have a UK passport. If the other family members are from a non-EU/EEA country then you can always apply for a UK Family Visa but only for spouses/partners, dependent children under 18, or dependent children 18 and over. In other words, a UK Family Visa cannot be used for parents and grandparents. Another option when family members don’t have a UK passport is to use the UK Ancestry Visa which we describe above. You will have to prove your family relationship with the passport holder is genuine and that you do not have health issues.
    • If your family members are from the EU or EEA, then you could have used the EU Settlement Scheme through June 30, 2021. However, as of 2022, most people will no longer have access to this.  

Can you tell me about some more benefits I’ll gain by having a UK Passport?

  • Once you have a UK Passport, it’s for life, meaning that unless you are associated with serious criminal or security issues, you cannot have your passport taken away. As well, remember that it’s much easier to renew your passport than go through the immigration process on a foreign passport.  
  • It also makes traveling in Europe and commonwealth countries simpler. Although Brexit has muddled things a little, you will still find travel within the EU or EEA faster and easier with a UK passport than with a passport from outside Europe and the UK. Remember that a British Passport is one of the most recognizable travel documents on the planet.  
  • Additionally, when you obtain your passport, also having a British bank account and credit card will make it cheaper and easier to travel for extended periods of time. The last thing you need is to have your credit cards rejected overseas when you’re travelling. Having your bank account and credit cards coincide with your country of residence and your passport makes you a less risky and more attractive client to businesses around the world. 
  • Not least, a British Passport raises your economic value to an employer. It will open doors, especially for younger people. Why? It’s a lot cheaper for multinationals to transfer you to their UK branch office if you already have a UK Passport. That’s because with the passport the immigration process becomes much simpler, even when you’re a non-citizen National.    

In today’s volatile world having as many passports as possible give you a “Plan B”. A conflict, or more typically a recession, can leave you needing to pull up your roots and move somewhere with more opportunity. Having a second or third passport opens up doors that would otherwise be harder to open and gives you far more options in today’s chaotic world.  

However, getting a second passport for most people is very, very expensive and time consuming because they choose the immigration track and apply under an immigration program. That takes months or even years and can cost thousands of dollars. However, there’s another way and it’s amazingly cheap and easier getting a second passport this way. Getting a UK Passport by Descent is cheaper, faster, and easier. To see if this might apply to you, read our blog on registering as a UK citizen.

Can I get health coverage overseas with NHS? 

If you get residency, and qualify for NHS, it makes traveling a lot safer knowing you are covered in case of medical treatments or emergency. However, to avail yourself of overseas coverage you’ll need to apply for what is called a UK Global Health Insurance Card or UK GHIC. Go here to this NHS page to see if you qualify and to apply for one.  

How much do I have to pay in university tuition as a British Passport holder?  

The gap has been closing between home fees and overseas fees for universities in the UK, but it still remains significant. For example:  

      • At Bangor University a home fee runs at £9,000 while overseas fees will set you back £15,000 to £18,000.  
      • At Edinburgh University home fees run up to just over £9,000 while overseas fees come in at around £14,000 to £16,000. 
      • At London’s Imperial College home fees are £9,250 while overseas fees – hold onto your wallet – come in at the astounding levels of £32,000 up to £45,300.  
      • At King’s College home fees are £9,250 compared to overseas fees that range from £20,790 to over £45,000. 
      •  At Liverpool University home fees are £9,250 while overseas fees are a slightly more reasonable £16,100. Still, that’s almost £7,000 a year in added costs. Think of all the beer you could buy. Or textbooks and a cool smart phone and a few weekends in Majorca with your mates.   
      • The London School of Economics (LSE) charges £9,250 in home fees and £14,900 to £24,900 for overseas students.  

Is military service mandatory in the UK? 

No, it is not. There is currently no conscription in the United Kingdom, seeing military service has been voluntary since 1963. Commonwealth nationals can sign up to serve in the UK military as can other UK nationals. There may be limits on the availability of places for Commonwealth nationals. If you are a Commonwealth national serving in the British Military, you are exempt from immigration controls for the duration of your UK military service.  

Disadvantages of UK citizenship for British citizens and UK passport holders

      • Brexit fallout is making life in the EU a little trickier for some British expats, as the risk of further requirements and restrictions is always a possibility. However, it is unlikely to prove a significant obstacle to working and living throughout the EU, but Brexit fallout is, unfortunately, a factor that has to be considered. 
      • The other main disadvantage is the possible confusion over UK passports and UK citizenship. In almost every other country of the world, having a passport indicates you are a full-fledged citizen. However, in the UK, as we explain in our blog here, there are 5 non-citizen types of British Nationalities all of which give you the right to hold a British Passport. This means you can have a British passport and not be a UK citizen.  Your passport will state whether you are a citizen or not, of course. However, in the UK, having a passport doesn’t automatically mean you have citizenship, and people need to be clear about that.  

 All in all, there are substantial advantages to having a UK Passport, especially if you also have British citizenship. However, British Non-Citizen Nationals also enjoy considerable benefits from having their UK Passport as we’ve just explained. It just might be the best second passport in the world. Or even the best first passport