Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Immigration - Who can claim citizenship?

Published:Tuesday | February 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mr Bassie,

Who is able to claim British citizenship if born before January 1, 1983? I have never been too clear on this and I am hoping that you can bring some clarity to this for me.

- HS

Dear HS,

With respect to the status of persons who were born before January 1, 1983, Section 11 of the British Nationality Act 1981 explains which persons that were born before January 1, 1983, that are able to acquire British citizenship automatically as of that date.

A person automatically became a British citizen on January 1, 1983, if immediately before that date he or she was a citizen of the United Kingdom (UK) and Colonies and had the right of abode in the United Kingdom under Section 2 of the Immigration Act 1971, which was then in force.

There is one exception and two additions to this general rule. The exception provides that any person registered under Section 1(1) (a) of the British Nationality (No. 2) Act 1964 did not become a British citizen on January 1, 1983, unless his or her mother became, or but for her death, would have become, a British citizen; or he or she had the right of abode in the UK under Section 2(1) (c) of the Immigration Act 1971 as then in force.

The first addition provides that anyone registered under Section 12(6) of the British Nationality Act 1948 on the grounds of descent in the male line from a person born or naturalised in the UK would become a British citizen on January 1, 1983, whether or not he or she had the right of abode immediately before that date.

The second addition is set out in Section 1(1) of the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983 passed on March 28, 1983. This provides that a person who, on January 1, 1983, became a British Dependent Territories citizen under Section 23 of the British Nationality Act 1981, also on that date became a British citizen if he or she was a citizen of the UK and Colonies who had that citizenship by birth, naturalisation, or registration in the Falkland Islands; or one of the parents or grandparents was, or but for death would have been, a citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) who had that citizenship by birth, naturalisation, or registration in the Falkland Islands; or, in the case of a woman, she was, or had previously been, the wife of a man who was a British citizen under either of the categories above or would have been but for his death; and he or she had not renounced or been deprived of British Dependent Territories citizenship between January 1, 1983, and March 27, 1983, inclusive of both dates.

Also, a person born in the UK before January 1, 1983, may be regarded as a British citizen on production of a passport issued on or after January1, 1983, describing the holder as a British citizen; or a passport issued before January 1, 1983, describing the holder as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and carrying an endorsement stating the holder has the right of abode in the UK; or a UK birth certificate showing his or her parents' details.

However, because of the terms of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 and the British Nationality Act 1948, the person may not have been a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by reason of birth in the United Kingdom if, at the time of the person's birth, the father was either a diplomat or an enemy alien.

This means that if the father's occupation is given on the birth certificate as "diplomat" or the description otherwise suggests it is of a "diplomatic" nature, the British authorities will need to determine whether the person had a claim to citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Also, just for completeness, if the birth took place in the Channel Islands during the German occupation in the Second World War and if the father was German, it would need to be determined whether the person had a claim to citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

I hope this helps and brings some clarity.

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 lawbassie@yahoo.com.