Please note the following requirements:

You need to have been physically present in the UK:
  • 3 years ago on the date you submit your citizenship application if you are married to a British citizen at the time of your application; or
  • 5 years ago if not married to a British citizen.
The relevant date is defined on page 14 of the Nationality Policy:

To identify the start of the qualifying period you use the day after the application date minus the length of the qualifying period. For example in an application under section 6(1) made on 1 March 2016, the applicant must have been legally in the UK on 2 March 2011.
A similar principle would apply to applications on the basis of marriage, where the qualifying period is 3 years rather than 5.

The relevant date is not the date of the UKVCAS appointment.

There is no requirement to provide any evidence of having been present in the UK on the relevant date when submitting your application.

This would be worked out from the list of trips abroad on the AN form.

The form should have the DATE OF APPLICATION showing the submission date at the top, regardless of when the email confirmation was issued or received.

What happens if you submit the application on a date you were not in the UK 3 or 5 years ago?

People who have submitted their applications on a date when they were not in the UK 3 or 5 years ago have been asked to resubmit their applications on a different date when they meet this requirement. Recently, applicants have received emails from the Home Office asking them to resubmit their application and given a deadline of a few weeks to do so.

Bear in mind this is a concession and cannot be relied upon every time. You should make sure you submit the form on the right date in accordance with this requirement.
Page 14 of the Nationality Policy, says:

Where the applicant fails to meet the requirement to be in the UK at the start of the qualifying period by 2 months or less, either side of the application date, you must consider using discretion to allow them to re-declare their application. Where discretion is being exercised you must request that the applicant re-declares their application, by using Doc Gen letter 4746.

Where they fail to meet the requirement by more than 2 months, you must normally refuse the application. In these cases it will not be appropriate for a refund to be issued. The exception to this is where the applicant meets all other statutory requirements but misses the requirement by a month or less, and cannot meet the requirement by re-declaring. In these cases a refund, less the non-returnable part will be appropriate. Any refund must be authorised by the finance section.

Where an application is re-declared, the original application date is superseded by the date on which the re-declaration is received by the Home Office. You must ensure that applicants are aware that they need to ensure that the new application date does not fall on a date that they would still not meet the qualifying period. If there has been a fee change between the original application date and the date that they submit their re-declaration they must pay the fee in force at the time of the redeclaration.

There may be cases where it is appropriate to invite an applicant to redeclare their application on an exceptional basis. This might be where a person did not meet the unwaivable requirement at the date of application, but it was significantly delayed due to departmental error, and they would now do so.
If you have not yet had your biometrics appointment, you should consider withdrawing the application, that way you will ensure you get a full refund of the fee minus an admin charge of £25.

Absences

You are only allowed a limited number of days absent from the UK (absences) during the years prior to your citizenship application:
  • Usually no more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately before your application; and either
  • No more than 270 days in the last 3 years if you are married to a British citizen at the time of your application; or
  • No more than 450 days in the last 5 years if you are not married to a British citizen.
Source: Page 9 of the AN booklet

There is some discretion regarding absences.

See Absences for more information.

The absences numbers cut off on the day the application is submitted.

Further absences after the application is submitted are not taken into account.

There are no travel restrictions after submitting the application.

However, applicants should make sure they are able to attend their UKVCAS appointment and, once approved, their ceremony within the specified deadlines.

You also need to provide evidence of residence for the relevant period, which is:
  • The last 3 years if you are married to a British citizen at the time of your application; or
  • The last 5 years if you are not married to a British citizen.
See Evidence of residence for more information.