British Nationality Act – All Your Questions Answered!

The British Nationality Act is one of the topics that generate the most questions from our clients. Breytenbachs have compiled an article on the many questions that we are asked about British Nationality and related issues. We trust that this FAQ article will be your trusty guide through the maze of British nationality complexities.

What is the British Nationality Act?

The current legislation which governs British Citizenship is the British Nationality Act 1981. This came into force on 01 January 1983. Over the years, there have been numerous changes to this Act.

What are the different types of British Nationality that can once can acquire under the British Nationality Act?

There are many ways one can acquire British nationality but the main ones are through birth, registration or naturalisation.

How does one become a British citizen through birth, descent or registration under the Act?

Registration by birth requires an applicant to be born in the UK (although there are other requirements, so this is a bit broad).

Registration is whereby an applicant registers to become a British citizen, normally through parents/grandparents (again, there are, of course, many other requirements).

Naturalisation is by living in the UK for a certain time period on specific visas and meeting additional requirements as well.

What is the significance of the concept of “British Overseas Territories citizens” in the Nationality Act?

British overseas territories citizenship was called ‘British dependent territories citizenship’ or BOTC before 26 February 2002. This category was created to differentiate between British nationals with strong ties to the UK and those connected only with an overseas territory. Under the British Nationality Act 1981, colonial citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies without a qualifying connection to the United Kingdom became British Dependent Territories citizens (renamed British Overseas Territories citizenship in 2002), a citizenship which did not include the right of abode in the UK.

BOTC status does not give the holder the right of abode in the United Kingdom, but since 2002, almost all BOTCs simultaneously hold British citizenship.

Can one acquire British nationality through naturalisation, and what are the eligibility criteria for naturalisation?

Yes, it can. An applicant needs to live in the UK for a certain time period on their current visa (normally 5 years). After 5 years they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and in some instances apply for British Citizenship straight away but in other instances, they need to be on this status for 12 months before being able to apply for British Citizenship.

How has the British Nationality Act evolved over time, and what were some key amendments or changes in recent years?

One of the main key changes that have been made is allowing women the opportunity to pass their citizenship on to their children, as this was previously not allowed. The law was also amended over the years to allow those born to British fathers who were not married to the mother of the applicant to be able to apply for British nationality.

What role does the Secretary of State for the Home Department play in determining British nationality under the Act?

The Secretary of State makes the final decision as to whether someone should be granted British nationality. The daily functions are delegated to civil servants.

Are there any restrictions or special provisions related to dual nationality for British citizens under the British Nationality Act?

A British citizen, of whatever age, who acquires the nationality or citizenship of another country is not required under UK law to renounce their British Citizenship, nor is their British Citizenship lost automatically or revoked on acquiring the nationality or citizenship of another country.

Can I pass on my British nationality to my existing or future spouse, partner, child or adopted child?

You will not be able to pass on your nationality to your future spouse or partner. However, in some instances, you may be able to pass on your citizenship to any minor children depending on which Section of the British Nationality Act your citizenship was granted under. Some Sections award an applicant British Citizenship by descent, and others award an applicant British Citizenship other than by descent.

How do I prove that I still have the nationality of an expired British passport? Can I get a new passport?

If a British passport has expired for more than 10 years, you will need to apply for a new British passport and prove how you are eligible. If your passport has expired for less than 10 years, you can simply renew this online.

My application for registration or naturalisation as a British citizen was unsuccessful. What can I do?

One would first have to look into the reasons for the refusal. If you do not agree with the Home Office, you can submit a reconsideration application.

I lost British nationality. Can I re-acquire it easily?

You can re-acquire it in certain scenarios. If you have lost your British nationality, then we would recommend that you seek legal advice.

How long can you stay out of the UK as a British citizen?

There are no time restraints/travel restrictions on a British citizen in this regard.

What’s the difference between a British citizen and a British national?

Although they are similar in meaning, they are not the same. While nationality establishes a legal relationship of belonging to a particular country, citizenship marks the country where you have rights and responsibilities.

What determines British nationality?

There are numerous factors which determine British nationality, and some of these include, where a person is born, where they are born, when and where their parents were born, when and where their grandparents were born, where they have lived, where their parents have lived, etc.

How Breytenbachs can help you

We trust that the above information has been a valuable resource for all your UK nationality queries. At Breytenbachs, we pride ourselves on being the go-to experts in the field of British Nationality Act. We are here to guide you every step of the way. If you have more questions or ready to take the next steps towards your application, please reach out to us.

Our dedicated team is just a message or a phone call away. We are always happy to assist you in achieving your British nationality goals. Contact Breytenbachs today, and let’s turn your British citizenship dreams into a reality.

Please contact us today for further information or applications.

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