British citizenship, and how to get it

Adult Dependent Relatives: care options for family living abroad
British citizenship by descent
Adult Dependent Relatives: care options for family living abroad
British citizenship by descent
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British citizenship, and how to get it

As a result of the complicated arrangements following the end of the British Empire, British citizenship law remains some of the most complicated in the world.

First things first: British law refers to citizenship as “nationality”. The overwhelming majority of people with British nationality are in a category called “British citizens”. Other common types of British nationality include that of British National (Overseas) – a nationality for those with a connection to Hong Kong in the British colonial period, who do not have the automatic right to live in the Isle of Man or UK.

While many modern countries only issue two or three different passports (for instance, normal and diplomatic passports), there are over 15 different types of British passports, including variants for each and every Crown Dependency and Overseas Territory.

In this article, we will deal with British citizenship, which is the type of nationality that can derive from naturalisation or registration in the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man is not part of the UK, but as it is a Crown Dependency and one of the British Islands, Manx residents can derive full British citizenship, which is not necessarily the case for people living in the British Overseas Territories.

Types of British citizenship

Within British citizenship, there is a further sub-division into two classes of British citizen:

1.         British citizenship by descent, which is most commonly acquired by birth outside the British Islands to a British citizen parent who was born in the British Islands; and

2.         British citizenship otherwise by descent, which can be acquired by various means, usually either by birth inside the British Islands to a British parent, or by naturalisation or registration.

The key difference is that British citizens by descent cannot typically pass that citizenship on to children born outside the British Islands.

In our experience, some clients may be entitled to acquire citizenship by more than one route, both by descent and otherwise than by descent. It is very important to take professional advice before applying for citizenship by naturalisation or registration, as once a person is registered as a citizen by descent, they are not permitted to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen otherwise than by descent.

Naturalisation and registration

The most common misconception among British citizens by birth is that citizenship and a passport are one and the same thing. In other words, that for a foreign or Commonwealth citizen to become a British citizen, only a passport application is required, costing less than GBP100. This is unfortunately not the case at all.

Naturalisation is the legal process by which a foreign or Commonwealth citizen applies to become a British citizen. This typically requires a period of legal residence in the Isle of Man (and/or the other British Islands) of 5 (or sometimes 3) years, having Indefinite Leave to Remain, and meeting other formal requirements including good character.

There is also a language requirement, namely demonstrating a sufficient knowledge of the English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic language – sadly, being fluent in Manx is insufficient for naturalisation purposes!

Registration covers various applications by which a person may register as a British citizen.

While in principle Registration should require less formalities than naturalisation, some registration routes are complex and have similar requirements to naturalisation. For instance, a person with another form of British nationality such as a British National (Overseas) will register rather than naturalise as a full British citizen, but the costs, waiting time and evidence required are very similar to those required for naturalisation.

Registration applications also often include those made by people who were born abroad to a British parent, but who do not automatically receive citizenship. For example, one common registration application is for the foreign-born children of British citizens by descent, who can potentially apply for registration as British citizens once they have lived in the Isle of Man (and/or the other British Islands) for a number of years.

Passport applications

Obtaining a British passport is an entirely separate process from obtaining citizenship by naturalisation or registration. An application is made to a completely different government agency, either the Isle of Man Passport Service or (for UK passports) the HM Passport Office.

Applying for a first British passport, whether following a successful naturalisation or registration application, or simply because some dual and multiple citizens have never previously needed a British passport, can be surprisingly complicated.

Most British citizens who received their citizenship by birth are blissfully unaware of the complications, because simply renewing an existing British passport is far more straightforward than obtaining a first passport.

Irish citizenship

Another option that is sometimes overlooked is Irish citizenship. Irish nationality law is more generous than British nationality law, and where a person born outside Ireland has a grandparent born on the island of Ireland (including in Northern Ireland), they may be entitled to register their foreign birth and so acquire Irish citizenship. Where they have an Irish-born parent, they may already be a citizen even if they have never held and Irish passport.

Within the Isle of Man and UK, Irish citizens are recognised as settled upon arrival, and therefore immigration restrictions do not generally apply to them.

How Kinley Legal can help

It’s a common misunderstanding that citizenship and passport matters are simpler than immigration matters. In fact, nationality law is more complex than the Immigration Rules, and in the event of the wrong application being made, or errors in an application, this can prove very costly in terms of both wasted time and application fees.

Kinley Legal’s nationality lawyers are experienced in assessing whether or not a person already holds British or Irish citizenship, and if not, they are able to advise on all types of naturalisation and registration applications. They can also advise on first passport applications and the supporting documents and information required.

Contact us

If you would like to make an appointment for a call, in-person meeting or online meeting to discuss your situation please get in touch by e-mail at nationality@kinleylegal.com or complete our simple contact form, and we would be pleased to help.