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Dual Citizenship and Dual nationality in the UK Explained

‘Dual Citizenship’ or ‘Dual Nationality’ means that a person holds citizenship of two countries at the same time. However, as we will see, this is not permitted in some countries. It must be remembered that citizenship comes with benefits and obligations. While a person may hold citizenship in two or more countries and enjoys the benefits of each, they may also have to meet tax rules or fulfil requirements for national service.

If you are a foreign national who is considering applying for dual citizenship in the UK, you might be pleased to know that this is allowed under UK immigration law. As such, the UK does not place restrictions on the number of concurrent citizenships you hold.

Likewise, a British citizen who applies for and gains citizenship of another nation does not need to give up (renounce) their British citizenship.

There is no requirement to apply for dual citizenship status in the UK.

Benefits of British dual citizenship

There are many advantages of holding British dual citizenship, including:

  • The ability to live, work, and study in both countries
  • The ability to access social services systems in both countries
  • The ability to vote in both countries
  • The right to diplomatic protection from both country
  • The ability to use a passport from either country. As a dual passport holder can use the passport which is most beneficial for your needs – e.g. requires no visa or allows you to stay for longer.
  • The ability to travel between both countries without restriction
  • You can buy property in both countries (some countries restrict foreign nationals from buying a property if they are not a national of that country).

What Does the Master Nationality Rule mean?

The Master Nationality Rule ensures that where a person has more than one nationality, there is no conflict of nationality laws. Normally, if a person is in another country, the country of which they are a citizen will provide them with diplomatic protection while they are there.

In the UK, the British government typically offers diplomatic protection to British nationals when they are overseas. The problem is when a person has two nationalities; which country then has responsibility for providing that person with protection?

Under article 4 of the Hague Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws, 1930, “a State may not afford diplomatic protection to one of its nationals against a state whose nationality such person also possesses”. This means that:

  • If a person has citizenship of two States (A and B), and they are currently in State A, then State B does not have the legal right to claim that person as its national or to provide protection for that person.
  • If the person goes to another country (not State A or B), they can be treated as a national of State A or B.

If you are a dual national or you are considering applying for second or subsequent citizenship, it is important to understand how the Master Nationality Rule may affect you, especially if you ever need diplomatic protection.

How to get citizenship in the UK

There are a number of ways in which you may be eligible for British citizenship. Find out more about UK citizenship requirements and how to apply for it. Here are some examples:

A child born in the UK

A child should automatically have been made a British citizen if they were born in the UK to a parent who was a British citizen or ‘settled’ in the UK. Not everyone gains automatic British citizenship if they are born in the UK.

Generally speaking, it is possible to apply for citizenship for a child born in the UK if they are under 18 and have a parent who became a British citizen or who gained settlement in the UK since their birth.

A child born abroad to a British mother or father

This refers to a child born outside the UK and has at least one parent who was a British citizen at the time of their birth.

By marriage or civil partnership to a British citizen

To apply for British citizenship by marriage or civil partnership to a UK citizen, an applicant needs to prove they have:

  • Lived with their partner/spouse for three or more years in the UK
  • Have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and
  • Have held ILR or EU settled status for 12 months

Depending on the route to UK citizenship you choose, you may need to meet other requirements, as follows:

  • Be 18 years or over
  • Meet the absence requirement – i.e. have had no absences from the UK of 90 days in the past year or 450 days in the past five years
  • Pass the English language requirement
  • Pass the Life in the UK test
  • Be of good character
  • Intend to make the UK your main place of abode.

Which countries allow dual citizenship with the UK?

Most countries allow their citizens to acquire dual citizenship, these include (please note this list is by no means exhaustive):

  • Albania
  • Antigua and Barbud
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany (in some cases)
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • United States

If you are considering applying for citizenship in the UK, it is recommended that you check the policy of the other country you hold citizenship for before proceeding. Speak to an immigration lawyer in the UK if you are unsure.

Which countries do not allow dual citizenship with the UK?

Some countries that do not allow dual citizenship include:

  • Afghanistan
  • China
  • Ian
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • United Arab Emirates

If you plan to become a citizen of any of these countries and you hold British citizenship, you may need to renounce your British citizenship.

How many passports can you have as a UK citizen?

Because the UK does not impose restrictions on dual or multiple citizenships, you can hold as many passports as you wish as a UK citizen. As such, you can be a dual passport holder. It is important to bear in mind the Master Nationality Rule (explained above) as this may restrict your rights to diplomatic protection if you are traveling outside the UK.

Exceptions to multiple citizenships in the UK

There are some limited exceptions that may prevent a person from holding multiple citizenships in the UK, including:

British subjects

A person who is a British subject under the British Nationality Act 1981 may lose their status automatically if they acquire another citizenship or nationality. Under section 31 of the British Nationality Act 1981, a may not lose their British subject status in this situation if they are a citizen of Ireland.

British protected persons

According to the Home Office rules, a person may lose their British protected person status if they gain any other nationality or citizenship. This may also happen if the territory they were connected with became independent resulting in them becoming a citizen of that country1.

British Overseas citizens

A British overseas citizen can only register for UK citizenship if they do not have citizenship or nationality of another country.

How can Reiss Edwards help?

The citizenship immigration team at Reiss Edwards possesses a wealth of experience in helping migrants to the UK and UK nationals to gain dual or multiple citizenship. Our team of immigration Solicitors can:

  • Quickly review your immigration status in the UK.
  • Explain all of your options if you wish to apply for dual citizenship.
  • Explain if you are subject to rules in the UK or another country that may prevent you from applying for dual citizenship.
  • Explain how you can overcome any rules which may prevent you from acquiring dual citizenship.
  • Apply for dual citizenship on your behalf.
  • Deal with the Home Office or other immigration services (depending on which country you are based in) on your behalf.
  • Handle appeals, Administrative Reviews, and Judicial Reviews on your behalf, ensuring you have the very best chance of success of gaining British dual citizenship.

References

1 GOV.UK: British Protected Person

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