Changes to British Nationality Law from January 2010

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The UK Border Agency in August 2009 announced changes to British Nationality Law under the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. Some of these changes will take place in January 2010.

The most significant change will be the introduction of "earned citizenship"; This will not come into force until the Summer of 2011. From January 2010 changes will take place which will make it easier for people in a limited number of cases to gain UK citizenship:

  • Children born to those in the British Armed Forces who would not otherwise qualify for UK Citizenship may be registered. Children born in the UK to a parent who then joins the Armed Forces can also be registered.

  • Children born outside the UK to British parents who were also born outside the UK, but who have a grandparent born in the UK can currently be registered as British within twelve months of the child's birth. This period will be extended so that the child can be registered at any time before the age of eighteen years.

  • British Nationals Overseas (people with a connection to Hong Kong) who have not after 19 March 2009, given up or lost an alternative nationality by his or her own action or failure to act may be registered as British Citizens.

  • Those born overseas to British mothers before 8 February 1961 who would have acquired British citizenship had their father been British will be able to register as British citizens. It should be noted that in some circumstances the children of unmarried British fathers are still being discriminated against.

It is yet to be decided what the requirements will be for "earned citizenship". Probably there will be a probationary period during which time you will have to show that you will be a "good citizen". If you meet the requirements for UK citizenship it may be worth considering making an application sometime in the next twelve months. If you already have a pending application with the Home Office you will be considered under the current rules. You will not come under the new rules.

If you qualify for indefinite leave to remain you should apply sooner rather than later. Those with indefinite leave to remain have until July 2013 in which to apply for UK citizenship under the existing criteria.

You will also find further details of the changes in our previous report on UK citizenship.