Citizenship deprivation is the act of removing a person’s citizenship. It is not the same as deportation, although people who have their British citizenship removed are often at risk of deportation.
To fully explain what is meant by citizenship deprivation, we must first turn to the concept of citizenship.
What is citizenship?
At its core, citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state. When an individual meets the legal requirements for citizenship in a particular state, that state will afford them certain rights and privileges. In return, the individual has certain obligations to the state.
What does it mean to be a British citizen?
In the UK, citizenship status is governed by the British Nationality Act 1981. British citizenship can be acquired automatically, for example when somebody is born or adopted in the UK, or where either of their parents is a British citizen. British citizenship can also be obtained after birth, through naturalisation or registration. For more information on becoming a British citizen, please refer to our other blogs.
The rights that come with British citizenship include the right to live and work in the UK without conditions, the right to vote and stand in UK elections, and access to social security and NHS services. In return, British citizens must obey UK laws and may be asked to perform certain duties, such as jury duty.
Can my British citizenship be taken away?
Yes – but only in limited and rare circumstances. Citizenship deprivation is governed by the British Nationality Act 1981, with relevant updates derived from the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and the Immigration Act 2014. Subject to certain limitations, citizenship can be deprived where it is conducive to the public good to do so, or where it was obtained by fraud, false representation or concealment of a material fact.
‘Conducive to the public good’
Section 40(2) of the 1981 Act provides for citizenship deprivation on the ground that the ‘Secretary of State’ (in practice, this means the UK Home Office) is satisfied that deprivation is ‘conducive to the public good’.
Generally speaking, this ground can be applied to all British citizens, regardless of whether their citizenship was obtained by birth, naturalisation or registration. However, there are strict limitations on when this ground can be applied where it will result in an individual being rendered stateless.
Under sections 40(4) and 40(4A) of the 1981 Act, the Secretary of State may only use the ‘public good’ ground to deprive a person of their citizenship where doing so would make them stateless if:
- The person’s British citizenship was acquired by naturalisation;
- The Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good because the person has conducted themselves in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK; and
- The Secretary of State reasonably believes that the person is able to become citizen of another country.
‘Fraud, false representation, or concealment of a material fact’
Section 40(3) of the 1981 Act provides for citizenship deprivation in circumstances where registration or naturalisation has been obtained by fraud, false representation, or concealment of a material fact.
A ‘false representation’ is defined in the Home Office Guidance as a representation that is ‘dishonestly made’ and not an ‘innocent mistake’. ‘Concealment of any material fact’ is defined as a concealment by the applicant that had a ‘direct bearing’ on the decision to register or to naturalise that applicant. Fraud is stated to encompass both false representation and concealment of a material fact.
By definition, this ground only can only be applied to people who obtained their British citizenship by registration or naturalisation – it cannot be applied to anyone who acquired their citizenship by birth.
How Gherson can assist
Gherson is proud of its reputation in the specialist area of British nationality law. If you think you are at risk of citizenship deprivation, please contact us to discuss your requirements, send us an e-mail, or, alternatively, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to stay up-to-date.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.