Fri | Jan 27, 2023

Concerned citizen

Published:Tuesday | January 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mr. Bassie,

I am 23 years old and I live in Jamaica. The fact is I was born in England but I never lived there. However, I am now being advised I am not a British national and, therefore, not eligible to be a British citizen.

I am confused could you please explain this to me.


Dear L.P.,

You have not told me who advised you that you are not an eligible British citizen. However, I will give you some information that may be able to assist in understanding why that possibility may exist.

There are six different forms of British nationality - and, British citizenship is one of them. The other categories are: British overseas citizenship; British territories citizenship; British national (overseas); British protected person; and British subject.

The British Nationality Act 1981 came into force on 1 January 1983 and the laws defining how citizenship could be obtained changed on that date. The definition of British nationality can be found in law and such a claim is usually determined by applying the definitions and requirements of the British Nationality Act 1981, and other related legislation, to the facts of the persons date and place of birth and descent.

It is without doubt that the most acceptable evidence of British citizenship is a British passport. In addition, only British citizens, and certain British subjects with right of abode through qualifying connections under the Immigration Act 1971, have the right to live and work in the UK. People holding one of the other forms of nationality may live and work in the UK, if their immigration status allows it.

If you believe that you have a claim to British nationality, but you are unable to apply for a British passport because you do not have all of the documents needed, you may be able to apply for a nationality status certificate. However, this aspect of the law is quite complicated and it is best that you seek professional advice or read the guide NS (National Status) before you undertake to apply for a National Status certificate on Form NS.

Also, you mentioned that you were 23 years old and this is significant with respect to British citizenship. If you were born in the United Kingdom before 1 January, 1983, then you can almost be assured that you are a British citizen. The only exception would be if you were born to certain diplomatic staff of foreign missions who had diplomatic immunity.

In addition, if you were born in the United Kingdom on or after 1 January, 1983, then you would be a British citizen, if at the time of your birth one of your parents was a British citizen, or he or she were legally settled in the United Kingdom.

Important info

Just for information, if you were born in a qualifying territory on or after 21 May, 2002, you would be a British citizen if either your father or mother is a British citizen. Also, if neither parent is a British citizen, you will still be a British citizen if either your mother or your father was legally settled in either the United Kingdom, or that particular territory, at the time of your birth.

However, if you were born in the United Kingdom to parents who are not British citizens and who are not legally settled there, even if you were born in the United Kingdom you will not be a British citizen if neither of your parents was a British citizen or legally settled there at the time of your birth. This means you are not a British citizen if, at the time of your birth, your parents were in the country temporarily, had stayed on without permission, or had entered the country illegally and had not been given permission to stay there indefinitely.

John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises in Jamaica. He is a Supreme Court-appointed mediator and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Email: or