Immigration Corner | What are my rights?
Dear Mr Bassie,
I believe that I can be considered to be a British subject. What exactly does this mean and what rights do I have?
Until 1949, nearly all persons with a close connection to the United Kingdom were called 'British subjects' and all citizens of Commonwealth countries were British subjects until January 1983. However, since 1983, very few people have qualified as British subjects.
A person became a British subject on January 1, 1983 if, at that time, that person was either: a British subject without citizenship, which means he/she was a British subject on December 31, 1948 who did not become a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies, a Commonwealth country, Pakistan or the Republic of Ireland; or a person who had been a citizen of the Republic of Ireland on December 31, 1948 and had made a claim to remain a British subject. A person also became a British subject on January 1, 1983 if she was a woman who registered as a British subject based on her marriage to a man in one of those circumstances.
If a person did not make a claim to remain a British subject he/she can apply to the Home Secretary to become a British subject if either: he/she has been in Crown service for the United Kingdom government; he/she has associated with the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory by descent, residence, or another way. A person can do this by applying for a British subject passport.
It should be noted that British subjects cannot normally pass that status to their children if the children were born after January 1, 1983. However, a child may be a British subject if he/she was born on or after January 1, 1983 in the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory and all the following apply when he/she was born: one of the parents is a British subject; neither parent is a British citizen, British overseas territories citizen or British overseas citizen and he/she would be stateless without British subject status.
With respect to rights as a British subject, a person can hold a British passport; and get consular assistance and protection from United Kingdom diplomatic posts. However, persons: are usually subject to immigration controls and do not have the automatic right to live or work in the United Kingdom. It is worth noting that there are only rare exceptions to this; and they are not considered United Kingdom nationals by the European Union (EU).
To become a British subject, a person may sometimes be able to register as a British subject if: he/she is stateless, that is not recognised by any country as having a nationality; he/she was born outside the United Kingdom or British overseas territories on or after January 1, 1983, however, that person must meet certain conditions. Also, a child under 18 years of age can be registered as a British subject in special circumstances. In making this application a person should use Form MN4.
It should be noted that since January 1, 1983 anyone gaining citizenship of any other country cannot be a British subject, unless he/she is also a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. It should be noted that a person may be able to register as a British citizen in very limited circumstances if he/she meets certain conditions.
- 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