Immigration Corner | Do I have a right of abode?
Dear Mr Bassie,
I was advised that as Commonwealth citizens, persons may have a right of abode with respect to residing in the United Kingdom. Is this so?
The term 'right of abode' means that persons are allowed to live or work in the United Kingdom without any immigration restrictions. This would mean that they would not need a visa to go to the United Kingdom; and there would not be a limit on the time such persons can stay in the country.
All British citizens automatically have right of abode in the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth citizens may also have right of abode. Persons can prove that they have a right of abode if they have United Kingdom passports describing them as British citizens or British subjects with right of abode. Otherwise, persons would need to apply for a 'certificate of entitlement'.
As an aside, it should be noted that there has been no change to the rights and status of European Union nationals in the United Kingdom, and United Kingdom nationals in the European Union, as a result of the referendum.
With respect to Commonwealth citizens, persons may have right of abode in the United Kingdom either because of their parents or because they are or were married to someone with right of abode.
As far as parents are concerned, a person may have a right of abode if all the following criteria apply: one of the parents was born in the United Kingdom and was a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies when the applicant was born or adopted; a person was a Commonwealth citizen on December 31, 1982; and he/she did not stop being a Commonwealth citizen, even temporarily, at any point after December 31, 1982.
Right of abode through marriage
Concerning marriage, a person will only be able to get right of abode through marriage if he or she is a female Commonwealth citizen. In addition, he or she must have been married to someone with right of abode before January 1, 1983; not stopped being a Commonwealth citizen, even temporarily, at any point after December 31, 1982.
Please be aware that in such cases, usually, he or she will not have right of abode if the person he or she is married to has another living spouse or widow/widower who is in the United Kingdom or has been in the United Kingdom at any time since the marriage, unless they entered the country illegally, came as a visitor or only has temporary permission to stay. Also, he or she will need to have a certificate of entitlement to right of abode or permission to enter the United Kingdom because of the marriage.
Persons can apply for a certificate of entitlement to prove that he/she has right of abode in the United Kingdom and it will be entered into their passport. Persons will need to apply for a new certificate when their passport expires and how persons apply for a certificate of entitlement depends on whether they are inside or outside the United Kingdom. It should be noted that persons cannot get a certificate if they already have a British passport or a valid certificate of entitlement in another foreign passport.
I hope this helps.
- John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (U.K.). Email:firstname.lastname@example.org