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Can UK citizenship be taken away?

Unfortunately, UK citizenship can be taken away in some exceptional circumstances. The rules around British citizenship and the removal of citizenship rights are controversial subjects. This article explains what you should know about when citizenship can be taken away from UK citizens.

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Reasons why UK citizenship can be taken away

The power to remove UK citizenship rests with the Home Secretary and it is at their discretion whether to strip citizens of their rights under certain circumstances.

Under the British Nationality Act 1981, the Secretary of State may deprive an individual of their citizenship where the Secretary “is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good.”

Since 2014, a person can have their British citizenship taken away if the following conditions apply to the case:

  • The individual acquired citizenship by naturalisation
  • The individual’s conduct/ beahviour was “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory”
  • The Secretary of State can demonstrate “reasonable grounds” for believing that the individual can acquire citizenship of another country

In the past, citizenship deprivations have mostly involved the Home Secretary’s decision on alleged terrorism or national security cases.

In the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, a provision protecting individuals born British was removed, making it no different for citizens who had naturalised and those who were born a UK citizen.

The difference between nullification and deprivation of citizenship is that nullity would occur in situations where the following circumstances apply:

  • The applicant provided false information regarding their personal details on their application for citizenship
  • The applicant created a new false identity or was using someone else’s identity
  • The applicant is already a UK citizen and does not need to be naturalised

If the Home Office begins the process of taking away a person’s citizenship they are required to only serve written notice at the individual’s last known address in the UK, with no requirement to contact the individual if they are overseas.

Skilled worker visa

Who is eligible for citizenship?

Although citizenship can be taken away, it occurs only in the rarest circumstances. However, figures show that the Home Secretary has increasingly been using their power in recent years to take citizenship away from individuals meeting the above criteria.

Obtaining British citizenship means that individuals will be officially recognised by the country they live in and it can be an exciting time for people who have made the UK their home.

There are strict eligibility requirements that individuals must meet to naturalise as a citizen. The primary conditions include:

  • Aged over 18 years old
  • Can demonstrate they are of “good character” and do not have a record of unacceptable behaviours
  • Meet the required standard of English language level
  • Passed the Life in the UK test
  • There is no reason relating to matters of public interest why the application should not be accepted
  • Qualifies under the residency requirement, including the following points:
    • You were in the UK at least five years before submitting your application
    • You were not absent from the UK for more than 90 days during the 12-month period prior to your application
    • You were not absent from the UK for longer than 450 days during the five-year period
    • You did not breach any UK immigration laws during this time period

One of the most difficult aspects to prove is the residency requirement. You must show that you are settled in the UK, that you meet the length and legality requirements, and that your periods of absence during the qualifying period do not exceed the maximum time allowable.

Depending on the route you choose, you may apply as the spouse of a UK citizen (or not, as relevant).

Ways of becoming a British citizen

There are many ways of becoming a British citizen. If you are in any doubt over the best route for your circumstances, it is recommended to speak with a specialist immigration lawyer who can assess your case and advise you on the best options.

As well as naturalising as a British citizen (for example after holding indefinite leave to remain for one year), there are routes based on marriage, birth, and family connections.

British citizen by marriage

British citizenship by marriage may be an appropriate route for you if you are married to, or in a civil partnership with a UK citizen. To apply for this route, you must already hold settled status (i.e., indefinite leave to remain).

British citizenship by birth

Although it may seem to be a simple process, it can actually be quite complex and it depends on the immigration status of the child’s parents and their place of birth. Depending on their parents, children born in the UK are not automatically granted British citizenship and if your child is eligible, you must apply to register them as a British citizen by birth.

British citizenship for a child born abroad

In many cases, British citizenship will be passed down to the next generation when a British parent gives birth to a child abroad (citizenship by descent). However, it is likely that the child must be registered for citizenship to become a citizen. It is important that this is completed before the child turns 18 years old.

Dual citizenship

If you apply for, and you are granted British citizenship, it is not a requirement that you must give up your citizenship of your home country (unless it is a stipulation of that country’s rules – take care to check the nationality law before applying). The UK system allows for dual citizenship meaning that you can enjoy the rights of both countries.

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Benefits of having British citizenship

There are many benefits to holding British citizenship. Some of these benefits include:

  • The right to live permanently in the UK
  • The right to gain employment in the UK without restrictions or sponsorship
  • Recourse to public funds, including access to the National Health Service
  • Receiving support from British embassies while overseas
  • Travelling between Ireland and the UK without many restrictions due to the Common Travel Area
  • Holding a British passport which allows visa-free travel to many countries
  • The right to vote in elections or stand for election

If a person holds indefinite leave to remain, they will have many of the same rights (but not all) as British citizens. However, the cost of applying for British citizenship can be prohibitive for many individuals.

If you wish to apply for citizenship status, it may be worth making the application when it is possible for you to do so to ensure that you give yourself the strongest possible rights.

What can Birmingham Immigration Lawyers do for me?

As experienced immigration lawyers with an excellent reputation for supporting our clients, we have offices throughout Britain and Ireland.

Our team of immigration lawyers in Birmingham are experts in all areas of immigration law, including British citizenship and indefinite leave to remain.

We understand the importance of these immigration applications and the impact it has on your life and the lives of your family members.

No matter how simple or complex your case, we will give you the most effective advice and support based on your circumstances to maximise your chances of a successful application.

Some of the services we offer include:

  • Advice package: offering comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your specific situation and the goal you are trying to achieve
  • Application package: allows you to trust in our experts to complete the immigration application on your behalf
  • Fast track package: gives you the opportunity to submit your application rapidly to meet a deadline
  • Appeal package: offers you peace of mind to have an expert immigration lawyer appeal a negative decision on your behalf

Call 0121 667 6530 for urgent support and legal advice with your case. Our immigration advisers look forward to speaking with you.

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