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Immigration corner: Gaining citizenship

Published:Tuesday | February 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mr Bassie,

I am not a UK citizen but I am thinking of becoming a British one. Could you please tell me if this will affect me when I travel?

Thanks for your advice.

- L.S.

Dear L.S.,

I have noticed that you have not indicated what your current nationality is. Nevertheless, I will attempt to answer your question.

Although many countries will not let you have two nationalities - that is, dual nationality - it is not necessary for you to revoke your present citizenship or nationality to become a British citizen. However, if you become a British citizen and you are a national of a country which does not allow dual nationality, the authorities of that country may either regard you as having lost that nationality or may refuse to recognise your new nationality. Therefore, before you apply for British citizenship, you may wish to check what your position would be with the authorities of the country of which you are a citizen.

Conversely, if you become a citizen or national of another country, you will not normally lose your British nationality. However, if you are a British subject, otherwise than by connection with the Republic of Ireland, you will

lose that status on acquiring any other nationality or citizenship, and also if you are a British-protected person you will lose that status on acquiring any

other nationality or citizenship. In addition, if you are becoming a citizen or national of a country that does not allow dual nationality, you may be required by that country to give up your British nationality.

Automatic citizen

Now with respect to travelling abroad and if you are married to a national of another country, you should note that under some countries' nationality laws, a married person can automatically gain his or her partner's nationality. Likewise, children may also gain a parent's nationality, even if they were born abroad. Therefore, if you are in the UK, or at any rate not in your country of nationality, you should check with that country's consulate or high commission, before you travel, if your wife, husband or child is visiting the country of your nationality.

You should also remember when travelling abroad that under international law, the UK cannot give you diplomatic help if you are in a country of which you are a national. The easiest way to check whether you have lost your old nationality, prior to travelling, is to check with the country's consulate or high commission. Furthermore, if you have not lost your old nationality, and you wish to give it up, they should be able to assist you.

Good Luck!

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