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Immigration Corner | Routes to obtaining right of abode

Published:Tuesday | March 26, 2019 | 12:10 AM
John Bassie
John Bassie

Dear Mr Bassie,

My father is British, and I am being told that I have “right of abode”, what does this mean, and is this so? I would greatly appreciate any light that you can throw on this please.


Dear PP,

To have right of abode means that persons are allowed to live or work in the United Kingdom (UK) without any immigration restrictions. This means that those persons will not need a visa to go to the UK and that there is no limit on the length of time persons can spend in the country.

All British citizens automatically have right of abode in the UK and some Commonwealth citizens may also have right of abode.

Persons can prove that they have right of abode if they have a United Kingdom passport describing them as British citizens or British subjects with right of abode. Otherwise persons will need to apply for a ‘certificate of entitlement’.

Please note that there will be no change to the rights and status of European Union (EU) citizens currently living in the United Kingdom until June 30, 2021 or December 31, 2020 if the United Kingdom leaves the EU without a deal. Further, persons and their families can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the United Kingdom and the scheme will open fully by March 30, 2019.

Commonwealth citizens

Please note that if persons are part of the ‘Windrush Generation’, also known as ‘Windrush cases’, there is a different way to prove their right to live in the UK.

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.


With respect to parents, persons have right of abode if all the following apply:

• One of his/her parents was born in the United Kingdom and a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies when he/she was born or adopted

• He/she was a Commonwealth citizen on December 31, 1982

• He/she did not stop being a Commonwealth citizen, even temporarily, at any point after December 31, 1982


Persons can only get right to abode through marriage if they are a female Commonwealth citizen.

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 note that the applicant, usually, will not have right of abode if the person they are married to has another living wife or widow who:

• Is in the United Kingdom or has been in the United Kingdom at any time since her marriage. This is so unless that person entered the country illegally, came as a visitor or only has temporary permission to stay

• Has a certificate of entitlement to right of abode or permission to enter the United Kingdom because of her marriage

However, it should be noted that she may still have right of abode if she entered the United Kingdom while married and before August 1,1988, even if her husband had other wives in the United Kingdom. Also, if she had been in the United Kingdom since her marriage and at that time and was her husband’s only wife to have legally entered the United Kingdom or been given permission to do so.

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: