Changes introduced to the British nationality regime

9 April 2015

A number of recent rule changes have been introduced to the British nationality regime. This blog provides a brief overview of some of the key changes.

Children of British citizen fathers

As of 6 April 2015 onwards, a child born before 1 July 2006 to an unmarried father who was a British citizen at the time of the child’s birth will be able to apply for British citizenship. This change is provided for by the enactment of section 65 of the Immigration Act 2014 (IA 2014) and it will effectively end the gender discrimination of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981).

The law until now

Before 1 July 2006, a child whose natural father was not married to his natural mother at the time of his birth could not obtain British citizenship through his father. Following the enactment of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, the BNA 1981 was amended so that from 1 July 2006 onwards such a child born in the UK on or after that date is a British citizen if his father was a British citizen at that time.

A child born out of wedlock before 1 July 2006 could have made a discretionary application to register as a British citizen. However, until now this application could only be made before the child turned 18.

The change

Section 65 of the IA 2014 will insert new sections 4E to 4J into the BNA 1981 so that persons over 18 born before 1 July 2006 to unmarried British fathers will now be able to register as British citizens.

The new sections of the BNA 1981 will create a registration route for:

  • Those who would have become British citizens automatically under the 1981 Act provisions had their parents been married.
  • Those who would currently have an entitlement to registration under the 1981 Act provisions but for the fact that their parents are not married.

Biometric collection

As of 6 April 2015, anyone registering or naturalising as a British Citizen will need to provide their “biometrics” (including their fingerprints and facial images) as part of their application.

For persons applying in the UK, they will be able to enrol their biometrics at a UK post office. This also applies to a person travelling to the UK for the purposes of registration or naturalisation.

Persons applying from overseas to become British Citizens will be required to enrol their biometrics at a biometric enrolment centre, such as a Visa Application Centre.

Once an individual becomes a British Citizen his biometric information will be deleted. However, his or her photographs will be retained until he obtains his or her first British passport.

Further changes on the horizon - British citizenship review

Finally, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, gave a speech on 23 March 2015 (entitled “A Stronger Britain, Built On Our Values”) outlining, inter alia, “a full review of citizenship law to make sure successful applicants for citizenship respect British values”.

Further information on making an application for British citizenship

If you think you might be entitled to apply for British citizenship following the enactment of section 65 of the IA 2014, please contact a member of our immigration team. We can advise you on whether you are eligible under the new provisions, ensure that you have the correct documents to apply and assist with preparing and submitting an application to register as a British Citizen on your behalf.

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We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

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