Mon | Jul 6, 2020

Immigration Corner | Who can apply for British citizenship?

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2020 | 12:07 AM
John Bassie
John Bassie

Dear Mr Bassie,

What are the considerations for not granting an application for British citizenship? Please advise.

– J.N.

Dear J.N.,

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 pertaining to citizenship is contained mainly in the British Nationality Act 1981.

It should be noted that most refusals of citizenship could be avoided if applicants had ensured, before applying, that they understood and satisfied the legal requirements. In a very few cases, refusal might be due to official error. The letter that gives a person the decision on his or her application should explain the reason why it was refused.

While there is no legal right of appeal or review of nationality decisions, persons may ask for it to be reconsidered if they disagree 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.

Applications for British citizenship are usually one of two types. The first is entitlement 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. It also includes applications from minor children, under age 18 years, who have British parents or were born in the UK 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.

The British Home Office will carry out enquiries in all cases to ensure that the requirements are met. Where the character requirement applies, they will make checks with relevant government agencies with whom they share information with about applicants.

For most citizenship applications, the Home Secretary must be satisfied that the applicant is of good character. The policy on the application of the good-­character requirement 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, if the applicant has an unspent conviction. In assessing the seriousness of criminal convictions, the Home Office is bound by the decision of the court. Any mitigation will already have been considered by the Court as part of sentencing.

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 Home Office 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 matter will be referred for possible prosecution. If documents cannot be verified or the applicants cannot prove their entitlement, then the application will be refused. There must be no doubt that a proper legal ­entitlement exists.

Where the entitlement depends on the applicant holding no other nationality, or that he/she 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: