Tue | Jul 14, 2020

Immigration Corner | How British citizenship decisions are reached

Published:Tuesday | August 20, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mr Bassie,

Please throw some light on how decisions affecting applications for British citizenship are arrived at. Any assistance would be much appreciated.



Dear RL,

The British nationality law sets out the requirements for becoming a British citizen. These laws are agreed by the British Parliament and are intended to ensure that those who wish to apply for British citizenship have established appropriate connections with the United Kingdom. The law is mainly contained in the British Nationality Act 1981.

Most refusals of citizenship could be avoided if applicants had ensured, before applying, that they understood and satisfied the legal requirements. However, it should be noted that in a few cases, refusal might be due to official error. The letter which provides the decision on the application should explain the reason why it was refused. While there is no legal right of appeal or review of nationality decisions, an applicant may ask for it to be reconsidered if he/she disagrees with the reason for refusal. There is a small charge for reconsideration which will be returned, less the citizenship ceremony fee where appropriate, if the decision is reversed and the application is approved.


How decisions on citizenship applications are reached

Applications for British citizenship are mostly in two types. The first are entitlements to register as a British citizen. These include all applications from adults who already hold some sort of British nationality to apply for British citizenship and it also includes applications from minor children (under age 18) who have British parents or were born in the United Kingdom and are eligible to apply for British citizenship.

The second group are those applicants who are applying for discretion to naturalise or those children who do not have an entitlement to apply, but have established enough connections with the United Kingdom to comply with the Home Secretary’s policy on the exercise of discretion to grant citizenship to minors.

Please be aware that the British authorities carry out enquiries in all cases to ensure that the requirements are met. Where the character requirement applies, the authorities will make checks with relevant government agencies who they will share information with about applicants. For most citizenship applications the Home Secretary must be satisfied that the applicant is of good character and with respect to the policy on the application of the good character requirement, this policy is contained in the nationality staff instructions.

While the policy is not an inflexible rule, the Home Secretary would not normally grant citizenship where there is a good character requirement and where the applicant has an unspent conviction. In assessing the seriousness of criminal convictions the Home Secretary is bound by the decision of the court. Any mitigation will already have been considered by the court as part of sentencing.

Entitlement to register Applications are checked to ensure that the applicants’ circumstances match the requirements for registration. Since there is no discretion to disregard the requirements, applications are refused if the requirements are not satisfied. The authorities will also carry out checks to ensure that the supporting evidence has not been forged or fraudulently obtained. Where false documents have been produced the application will be refused and the authorities will refer the matter for possible prosecution. If documents cannot be verified or the applicant cannot prove their entitlement then the application will be refused. This is so as there must be no doubt that a proper legal entitlement exists. Where the entitlement depends on the applicant holding no other nationality, that is the person is not a dual citizen, there must be convincing evidence that another nationality is not held.

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 (UK). Email: lawbassie@yahoo.com