A wooden family tree representing registration as a British citizen

May 15

Registering as a British Citizen


OTB Legal

As you may already know, applications to register as British are often incredibly complex. This is owing to a range of factors, including legislation that has been repeatedly changed and amended (particularly in recent years to correct historical injustices). Also due to complex personal circumstances, as well as difficulties in providing relevant documentation, especially when the required documents may be decades old. A legal representative can provide support with the various complexities of the application and registration process. They can advise on whether in your particular circumstances you are able to qualify to register as British.

Can I register as British?

In 2022 we saw further developments in the field of nationality law with the introduction of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. Of particular note was the addition of Section 4L to the British Nationality Act 1981.

The new Section 4L states as follows:

(1) If an application is made for a person of full age and capacity (“P”) to be registered as a British citizen, the Secretary of State may cause P to be registered as such a citizen if, in the Secretary of State’s opinion, P would have been, or would have been able to become, a British citizen but for—

(a) historical legislative unfairness,

(b) an act or omission of a public authority, or

(c) exceptional circumstances relating to P.

Historical legislative unfairness when registering as British:

The remainder of this blog will focus on the issue of ‘historical legislative unfairness’. The Home Office have already made efforts to correct previous legislation that was found to be discriminatory. For example, changes to British nationality law have been made to support applications for those who were not ‘born’ British due to the marital status of their parents. The new Section 4L further expands the possibilities for those with British ancestry to register as British. Perhaps in recognition of the fact that previous amendments had failed to capture all of those previously affected by legislative unfairness.

Examples of legislative unfairness:

The legislation and guidance provides a baseline of what may be considered as ‘historical legislative unfairness’. This states that you may have been subject to such unfairness if you would have become, or not ceased to be, a British subject, citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or British citizen, if the law at the time had:

(a) treated males and females equally,

(b) treated children of unmarried couples in the same way as children of married couples, or

(c) treated children of couples where the mother was married to someone other than the natural father in the same way as children of couples where the mother was married to the natural father.

The guidance makes clear that there may be other examples of historical legislative unfairness, particularly if it is on the basis of a protected characteristic. The Home Office invite applicants to set out when applying the legislation and section what the applicant believes is unfair and how they would have otherwise been, or able to become, a British citizen. This is relatively vague, however the Home Office have also provided guidance for their caseworkers, providing scenarios of when registration under section 4L may or may not be appropriate.

This guidance is by no means exhaustive either and is likely to be expanded in the coming years.

How could we help you register as British?

OTB Legal have access to an advanced workflow software called the AORA Nationality Determiner produced by technology company AORA. British Nationality law has been codified within the software. This means that by answering a series of questions relating to your enquiry, the software can predict the likelihood of your eligibility to register as British. (Or indeed, whether you are already British!). The AORA website provides examples (using some famous figures that you may recognise!) who may be eligible for registration. To provide an accurate assessment, the output is also informed by relevant case law and the opinion of leading barristers.

In addition to having access to this software, OTB Legal are specialists in immigration and nationality law. You can therefore have the re-assurance of having a lawyer with relevant expertise. Ensuring that you are provided up to date and accurate advice on your qualification for citizenship.

How it works: 

We provide advice on registration applications in three stages:

Firstly, we offer a free initial consultation with you, in which you outline your enquiry to us We can ask any questions that may be relevant to your enquiry. For straightforward matters, we may be able to give you an opinion at this stage as to whether you are likely to qualify for citizenship or not.

Our second stage is the advice stage (ordinarily £300 inclusive of VAT where applicable). At which stage we would provide you with an advice letter containing the assessment from the AORA software, together with the opinion of our legal expert. Additonally, a tailored list of documents required to support your application, should you wish to proceed in making an application. One of our legal advisors carefully crosschecks each assessment and we are also available to answer any questions you may have at this stage.

Our third and final stage is the application stage, typically costs between £720 and £1,500 depending on the complexity of your enquiry (inclusive of VAT where applicable). Here we review any documents provided to us in support of your application. Furthermore, we assist you with drafting and submitting the application form to the Home Office. We also send your supporting evidence to the Home Office and provide a detailed cover letter in support of the application. Allowing us to set out how the requirements to register as British are met.

Get in touch: 

If you believe that you may qualify to register as a British citizen, perhaps because of a historical legislative injustice, why not contact us at OTB Legal? We would be delighted to help you make a successful application.

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