We recently wrote about the judgment published by the High Court in R(Roehrig) v SSHD EWHC 31 (Admin) in January of this year.
To summarise, since the introduction of the British Nationality Act on 1 January 1983, a person born in the United Kingdom is only British if they are born to a parent who is British or settled in the United Kingdom. This has however, been more complicated for those persons born in the UK to EU nationals. Up until 1 October 2000, the Home Office’s position was that, as EU law imposed no conditions on how long an EU national could remain in the United Kingdom if they were working, self-employed, students or self-sufficient, those EU nationals who were exercising rights of free movement were considered settled for these purposes and children born to them were considered British. This position changed on 2 October 2000, from which point onwards the Home Office stipulated that European parents had to have been granted indefinite leave to remain (and from 2006, acquired permanent residence) to be considered settled in the United Kingdom.
The Roehrig judgment confirmed the more restrictive approach adopted by the Home Office since 2 October 2000, i.e., that EU nationals who did not hold indefinite leave to remain were not settled, was the correct interpretation of the British Nationality Act, raising potentially serious implications for those children (and potentially their children thereafter) who had been deemed automatically entitled to British nationality and issued British passports on this basis.
Following the judgment, on 23 March 2023 the Home Office proceeded to amend its guidance on automatic acquisition of British citizenship to state:
“While the Home Office assesses recently identified legal issues, the policy for acquisition of citizenship by individuals born in the UK between 1 January 1983 and 1 October 2000 inclusive to an EEA national parent has been suspended. However, if someone has already been recognised as a British citizen, for example through the issue of a British citizen passport, we will continue to treat them as such.”
Now, following a meeting with the Home Office organised by the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) and attended by Amnesty International UK, ILPA, the3million and HM Passport Office, it has been confirmed as set out in the joint statement published by PRCBC, Amnesty International UK, ILPA and the3million that the Home Office intends to legislate as soon as possible to amend British nationality law. This will ensure that what has been applied by the Home Office, up to at least October 2022, concerning what was previously understood as British citizenship rights for those born to EU citizens between 1 January 1983 and 1 October 2000, will be made law by Act of Parliament.
In the meantime, and up until the law can be amended, the Home Office have confirmed protective operational measures to:
- continue to respect the right to a British passport of anyone affected by this change to whom it has previously issued either a British passport or some other confirmation of their British citizenship (including processing any application to renew a passport); and
- find ways that may enable a person affected by this change, who has not previously been issued with a British passport or some other confirmation of their British citizenship, to secure British citizenship (or failing that, some other secure status in the UK in the interim).
While litigation on this matter continues, the Home Office have confirmed it is their intention to take these protective operational steps and make the legislative changes set out above without waiting for the conclusion of litigation, to protect the British citizenship of those affected.
This update will therefore hopefully provide some relief and clarity to people born in the United Kingdom to EU citizens between 1 January 1983 and 1 October 2000, as well as for the children subsequently born to these individuals.
If you would like further advice in relation to the above or on any other nationality matters, we would be happy to help. Please contact us on 020 7401 6887 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.