WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M NOT BRITISH I WAS BORN HERE – Is citizenship an automatic Right?


Is citizenship an automatic Right?

A recent news item reported that an English-born joiner, 21, who had lived in the UK since birth and was “as British as they come’ was ordered to leave the UK because his mother was born in Australia!

Mr Ridge’s mother was, indeed, born in Australia during a family holiday, but returned to the UK where the family have resided ever since. The story reported that because Mr Ridge’s parents never married, Mr Ridge did not have an automatic right to citizenship and should have applied for his ‘right of abode’ under his father’s British citizenship.

The article stated that “if a child was born before July 2006, the father’s British nationality will normally only automatically pass to the child if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth.”

Mr Ridge said his problems started when his application for a British passport was rejected. The news report did not provide information as to why the application was rejected but it did say that Mr. Ridge then went on to apply for an Australian passport.

The Immigration Act 1971 puts the burden of proving residential status on the person making a claim to citizenship. Merely being born in the UK does not prove your nationality.

Section 3(8) of the 1971 Act, as amended, states:

“When any question arises under this Act whether or not a person is a British citizen [or otherwise has the right of abode] … it shall lie on the person asserting it to prove that he is.”

Standard of proof

The Immigration Appeal Tribunal in Kessori Khatun (4272) held that “the standard of proof applicable to the right of abode, whether that right is dependent on citizenship or relationship, is that of the normal balance of probabilities”.
This means that a right of abode or a claim to citizenship can be established if the evidence that it exists outweighs, however slightly, the evidence that it does not.

Mr. Ridge was 21 years old and although his mother may have been born whilst her parents were on holiday in Australia she obtained British Citizenship by descent: his mother is a British Citizen regardless of having dual nationality.

As Mr. Ridge was born in 1996. Under section 1(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981, a person born in the UK between 1 January 1983 and 30 June 2006 inclusive is a British citizen if, at the time of his or her birth one or more of the following applies:

  • their parents are married and either parent is a British citizen
  • their parents are married and either parent is settled in the UK
  • their parents are married and either parent is a member of the armed forces
    and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010
  • their mother is a British Citizen
  • their mother is settled in the UK
  • their mother is a member of the armed forces and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010

The fact that Mr Ridge’s mother is a British citizen proves that under the Act, Mr. Ridge is, indeed, a British national by birth. However, it is for him to prove it when applying for a British passport. The evidence that needs to be submitted on an application for a British passport if you are stating you are British is;

  • your full birth certificate showing your parents’ details,
  • evidence of one parent’s British nationality, for example, their UK birth certificate, naturalisation or registration or a British passport belonging to one of your parents that was valid when you were born, or a British passport number for either parent.

Mr Ridge said: ‘I applied for an Australian passport and was accepted because my mum was born there, despite both her parents being British, and, therefore, she has dual citizenship.’

The confusion may have arisen in this situation because Mr. Ridge’s mother may not have registered as a British Citizen whilst in Australia and returned to the UK on an Australian passport. If his mother had obtained a British passport and she had this at the time of his birth Mr. Ridge would have automatically become a British Citizen as he was born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and one of his parents was a British Citizen at that time.

As can be seen, Citizenship can be complicated and merely because one is born in the UK and has lived here all of one’s life, does not automatically grant one the right to British Citizenship.

If you find you find yourself in a similar situation to Mr Ridge and your nationality has been challenged by the Home Office or if you are unsure how to prove your British Citizenship then please contact our Immigration team. We will be happy to help.

Contact: Kezia Daley
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 020 7408 8845