Right of abode (United Kingdom)
- 1 Acquisition of the right of abode
- 2 Proof of the right of abode
- 3 Rights and privileges of the right of abode
- 4 Other United Kingdom immigration concessions
- 5 British Overseas Territories
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Acquisition of the right of abode
|British & Commonwealth
|Commonwealth nationality laws|
|Classes of citizens and subjects|
|Rights and visas|
All British citizens have the right of abode in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Commonwealth citizens and British subjects
The right of abode in the UK is also conferred on a person who, on 31 December 1982:
- was a Commonwealth citizen and/or a British subject; and
- had a parent who, at the time of the person's birth or legal adoption, was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies on account of having been born in the UK; or
- was a female Commonwealth citizen and/or British subject who was, or had been, married to a man who had the right of abode
For this purpose, the UK includes the Republic of Ireland prior to 1 April 1922.
No person born in 1983 or later can have the right of abode unless he or she is a British citizen.
It is essential that the person concerned should have held Commonwealth citizenship or British subject status on 31 December 1982 and has not ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen (even temporarily) after that date. For this reason, citizens of Pakistan and South Africa are generally not entitled to the right of abode in the UK as these countries were not Commonwealth members on 1 January 1983. Citizens of Fiji and Zimbabwe are still considered to be Commonwealth citizens (for nationality purposes) even after the two countries' withdrawal from the Commonwealth because the UK has not amended Schedule 3 to the British Nationality Act 1981.
A woman claiming the right of abode through marriage will cease to qualify if another living wife or widow of the same man:
- is (or has been at any time since her marriage) in the UK, unless she entered the UK illegally, as a visitor, or with temporary permission to stay; or
- has been given a certificate of entitlement to right of abode or permission to enter the country because of her marriage.
However, this restriction does not apply to a woman who:
- entered the UK as a wife before 1 August 1988, even if other wives of the same man are in the UK; or
- who has been in the UK at any time since her marriage, and at that time was that man's only wife to have entered the UK or to have been given permission to do so.
An individual may be able to claim the right of abode in the United Kingdom through more than one route. For example, a woman who was a New Zealand citizen and married to a British citizen on 31 December 1982, and who subsequently moves to the UK with her husband and naturalises as British citizen can claim the right of abode in the UK both through her British citizenship and through her status as a Commonwealth citizen who was married to a British citizen on 31 December 1982. Therefore, if she were to renounce her British citizenship, she would still be allowed to stay in the UK free from any immigration restrictions. However, if she were to renounce her New Zealand citizenship, she would permanently lose her ability to claim a right of abode through her Commonwealth citizenship and marriage to a British citizen on 31 December 1982, and would only be able to claim a right of abode through her British citizenship.
Proof of the right of abode
The only legally recognised documents proving an individual's right of abode in the UK are the following:
- a UK passport describing the holder as a British citizen or a British subject with the right of abode
- a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode in the UK, which has been issued by the UK government or on its behalf
An individual who has the right of abode in the UK but who does not have a UK passport describing him/her as a British citizen or a British subject with the right of abode can apply for a certificate of entitlement to be affixed inside his/her passport or other travel document.
For example, a US citizen who has naturalised as a British citizen can apply for a certificate of entitlement to be affixed inside his or her US passport to prove that he or she is free from immigration restrictions in the UK, rather than obtaining a British passport. A British Overseas Territories Citizen from the British Virgin Islands who is also a British citizen can apply for a certificate of entitlement to be affixed inside his or her British Virgin Islands passport to prove that he or she is free from immigration restrictions in the UK, rather than obtaining a British citizen passport.
However, a dual British and US citizen travelling merely on a US passport affixed with a UK certificate of entitlement may enjoy fewer visa exemptions than if he or she were to travel on British and US passports. For example, when travelling to another EU member state, the European Economic Area or Switzerland, in theory, if an EU citizen can prove his or her nationality satisfactorily by any means (e.g. by presenting an expired EU passport or a citizenship certificate), he or she must be permitted to enter and reside without a visa, although, in practice, border officials in other EU member states may treat the holder as a US citizen and only permit a stay for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period as a US citizen.
A certificate of entitlement costs £162 when issued in the UK and £265 when issued outside the UK. This is considerably more expensive than obtaining a British passport (£77.50 for a 10 year adult passport, £49 for a 5 year child passport and free for a 10 year passport for those born on or before 2 September 1929 when issued inside the UK; £128 for a 10 year adult passport, £81.50 for a 5 year child passport and free for a 10 year passport for those born on or before 2 September 1929 when issued outside the UK).
Rights and privileges of the right of abode
All individuals who have the right of abode in the United Kingdom (regardless of whether they are a British citizen, British subject or Commonwealth citizen) enjoy the following rights and privileges:
- an unconditional right to live, work and study in the United Kingdom
- an entitlement to use the British/EEA immigration channel at United Kingdom ports of entry
- an entitlement to apply for United Kingdom social security and welfare benefits (although those with indefinite leave to enter may also apply)
- a right to vote and to stand for public office in the United Kingdom (since everyone with the right of abode is a Commonwealth citizen; these rights are conditional upon living in the United Kingdom).
In addition, those with the right of abode who are not yet British citizens may apply for British citizenship by naturalisation (or registration for other categories of British nationals) after meeting the normal residence and other requirements. Children born in the United Kingdom, British Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories to those with right of abode in the UK will normally be British citizens by birth automatically.
Other United Kingdom immigration concessions
United Kingdom immigration laws allow settlement to other categories of persons; however, although similar in practice these do not constitute a formal right of abode and the full privileges of the right of abode are not necessarily available:
Irish citizens and the Common Travel Area
Because of the Common Travel Area provisions between Ireland and the United Kingdom, Irish citizens have a de facto right of abode in the United Kingdom. However, with the exception of those Irish persons born before 1949 who have reclaimed British subject status, the entitlement to reside in the United Kingdom is not unconditional, and Irish citizens (who are not also British citizens) are subject to removal and deportation from the UK.
EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK
In the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2000, the United Kingdom declared that most citizens of EEA member states and their family members should be treated as having only a conditional right to reside in the UK. This has implications should such a person wish to remain permanently in the United Kingdom after ceasing employment, claim social assistance, apply for naturalisation or acquire British citizenship for a UK-born child.
Those EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who will be treated as permanent residents of the UK include:
- certain persons who have retired from employment or self-employment in the UK and their family members
- those who have been granted permanent residence status (normally acquired after five years in the UK)
- Irish citizens (because of the Common Travel Area provisions)
These persons remain liable to deportation on public security grounds.
Indefinite leave to remain
Indefinite leave to remain is a form of UK permanent residence that can be held by non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, but it does not confer a right of abode.
British Overseas Territories
All British overseas territories operate their own immigration controls, which apply to British citizens as well as to those from other countries. These territories generally have local immigration laws regulating who has belonger status in that territory.
- British nationality law
- Common Travel Area
- Commonwealth citizen
- History of British nationality law
- Indefinite leave to remain
- Right of abode
- UK Border Agency: Right of abode
- Article 6.3.2 of the Practical Handbook for Border Guards (C (2006) 5186)
- UK Border Agency: How to apply for a certificate of entitlement