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British citizenship by adoption

The rules governing adoption in British nationality law are complex and you will need specialist advice if claiming British nationality on these grounds.

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If a child was adopted in the UK after 1 January 1983 and a parent was a British citizen at the time of the adoption, then that child is a British citizen.

Adoption outside of the UK

If a child was adopted outside the UK, then one needs to look at the natural (or biological) parents to determine whether the adopted child has a claim to British nationality. The nationality of the adopting parents will normally have no bearing on the nationality of the child, though again there are some exceptions.

If either adoptive parent had a UK-born parent, then the UK Ancestry visa is available to the adopted child (as long as they meet the other criteria of this visa class).

Children under 18

For as long as the adopted child is still under the age of 18, then that adopted child will be eligible for the same UK visas that a natural child will have rights to. Also, it is possible to apply for a discretionary registration for British nationality if it can be shown that it is in the child’s best interest to do so.

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British citizenship: Birth out of wedlock

Recent legislation has addressed the question of illegitimacy in the former nationality law. Limited claims can now be made down the male line through a British father.

New legislation applies to all births

Legislation was made effective in 2006 to allow claims to be made for those born illegitimately to a father who was British otherwise than by descent (i.e. where a father could pass their British nationality down to children). It was only in 2014 that further legislation was passed to allow those born before 2006 to have a claim.

Claiming British nationality as an illegitimate child

This means that where someone has been disadvantaged in the past due to being classified as an illegitimate child, it may now be possible to lodge a remedial application to give the subject the rights that they would have had from the start but for this prior discrimination. The new law even allows some to qualify if they were disadvantaged as an illegitimate child with the relevant country's independence arrangements.

However, there are a few catches. We can deem some illegitimate children British by operation of law using the domicile laws of other countries. If someone is already a British citizen by operation of law, it would be wholly inappropriate to register that person as a British citizen

it would either:

  • Potentially remove rights from any children already born to that person, or
  • Remove nationality of another country because the subject has made a voluntary application to acquire nationality

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If your father was unmarried at the time of your birth, but he was born in the UK, you may still have a claim to British nationality.

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British citizenship by marriage

Marriage to a British citizen allows a person to potentially qualify for the UK spouse visa. However, old Colonial law also passed on further rights to women (but not men) who were married to British husbands before 1 January 1983 and to the children of women married before 1949.

We can help out in the following three situations:

  • Married to (or in a relationship with) a British citizen
  • Women married between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1982
  • Women married before 1 January 1949

You can qualify for a UK spouse visa if you are married to, or in a relationship with, a British citizen.

Women married between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1982

Women married before 1 January 1949

Right of abode

The right of abode is unique to the United Kingdom and is in recognition of Britain's historical role at the heart of the Commonwealth and its colonial past. It takes the form of a stamp in a passport and is considered the next best thing to a British passport. The right can never be lost.

The right of abode is available to:

  • A person born in a Commonwealth country that has never ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth before 1 January 1983 (so this excludes South Africa and Pakistan), where one of their parents was born in the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland and, before the 31 March 1922, the Republic of Ireland).
  • A woman who remained a Commonwealth citizen on 1 January 1983 (so this excludes South Africa and Pakistan) who was married to a British man before 1983.

The right of abode allows the candidate to live and work in the UK and counts time towards naturalisation as a British citizen.

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UK Crown service: Obtain British citizenship

Crown service means employment in the service of the Crown under His Majesty’s Government. It includes the British military, the Overseas Civil Service, the Colonial Service and the Diplomatic Corp.

Who can claim?

Claims are possible if you were born:

  • Between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1982, your parent was recruited in the UK and must have been employed in Crown service at the date of your birth.
  • After 1 January 1983, a UK-born grandfather* must have been employed in Crown service at the date of your relevant parent's birth.

    * As the law currently stands, claims only come from a UK-born grandfather, as gender discrimination in the grandparent generation has not yet been eliminated. We anticipate that legislation will be passed to allow claims to come from a UK-born grandmother.

Defining Crown service

Matters are complicated with the definition of colony, protectorate, protected state, etc., which will vary in line with the status of territories at different times in the past and within the meaning within the British Nationality Acts 1948 to 1981. The most common situation that this nationality solution would cover (but there are others) was where your father was on war duty (and recruited in the UK) between 1939 and 1945. So, an obvious indicator of eligibility in this instance is if you were born during these years. The position is complicated further with the definition of "Crown service" and what we term as "designated service".

As a general rule, UK Crown service would include service in the:

  • British military
  • Overseas Civil Service
  • Colonial Service
  • Diplomatic Corp

In the case of military service, it is entirely possible that even though military service was completed, the parent was still "on call" and placed on a reserve list. This period may count towards this provision.

Designated service is, as the name suggests, a service that is designated by law as being good for this purpose. There are numerous statutes adding new occupations to "designated service", including employment with a number of organisations which are not so obvious (such as the British Tourist Authority).

The broadening of the scope of “designated service”

After recent research by Philip Gamble, and a successful British citizenship application on behalf of a client in December 2014.

"designated service" can now reasonably include:

  • The Salvation Army
  • The NAAFI
  • The Red Cross
  • The YMCA and YWCA
  • The Church Army
  • The Seaman’s Missions
  • Roles within the Civil Service or local colonial government
  • The Australia, New Zealand and Malaya Defence Organisation
  • The BSAP in Rhodesia

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The list on this page is not exhaustive and there are numerous other scientific, defence, communication and international organisations that would qualify. You may have a claim to British nationality through Crown service.

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Renunciation and resumption of British citizenship

It is possible to renounce British nationality. In most cases, this is as a result of the nationality laws of another country which doesn’t (or didn’t) allow for dual nationality. It is possible to resume British nationality under certain circumstances, but you can normally only do this once.

Renunciation of British nationality

It is possible to renounce any form of British nationality. This can be necessary where the nationality laws of another country don’t allow dual nationality and you wish to retain the other citizenship.

Applications for renunciation of any form of British nationality can only be processed by the Home Office in the UK. Some forms of British nationality cannot be resumed after renunciation and given the severe consequences of the action, professional advice should be obtained on the ramifications before any application is lodged.

Resumption of British nationality

An application can be made to resume British nationality where a valid claim to British nationality would have been available had the prior renunciation not taken place.

There are two situations covered here - resumption after the renunciation of:

Resumption after the renunciation of citizenship of the UK and colonies (CUKC) or an old form of British nationality

An application can be made to register as a British citizen in the modern day where a person held (but later renounced) citizenship of the UK and colonies or any one of the previous statuses of British nationality.

This renunciation must have taken place before 1 January 1983 (at the time when the main British nationality status was citizen of the UK and colonies (CUKC). For renunciations that took place before 1 January 1983, the registration is a discretionary decision (made by the Secretary of State)

If one of the following applied:

  • The candidate has an appropriate connection with the UK
  • The candidate has been married to a person who has (or would have had if they were still alive) a connection to the UK

The "appropriate connection to the UK" is taken as, but not restricted to

Where the subject, his father or his father’s father was:

  • Born in the UK
  • Naturalised in the UK
  • Registered as a Citizen of the UK and colonies in the UK or a country mentioned in section 1(3) of the 1948 Act at the time of registration

In practice, the applicant should demonstrate that they had a reasonable belief that the renunciation was a result of being deprived of nationality of another Commonwealth country.

Resumption after the renunciation of British nationality

For renunciations that took place after 1 January 1983, the applicant does not need to demonstrate an appropriate connection with the UK.

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UK statelessness: Are you eligible for British citizenship?

Statelessness is a status where no nationality is held. It arises most commonly on birth, when the status of the parents and the country of birth mean that the child cannot take on the nationality of their country of birth nor the nationality of their parents.

Our consultants will handle the complexity of your case

Where a child is born stateless and a parent was British at the time of the child’s birth, it is often possible for the child to be registered as a British citizen. It is important to address this before the child turns 18, as many rights to register fall away and are lost forever.

Adults who find themselves stateless are in a more difficult position, and there is no general rule. This is a complex area of British nationality law, and the advice of a specialist should be sought.

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