A new report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights was issued last month, discussing discrimination within British nationality law. According to the report, the government has proposed changes aimed at eliminating this discrimination although the Committee felt that the government is not doing enough. The report noted that discrimination on the grounds of a parent’s gender or marital status persists in some areas of citizenship law.
In principle, British nationality is governed by the British Nationality Act 1981, which came into force in 1983. Until the year 2000, passing on British citizenship to children was more difficult for unmarried couples or women. Section 4 of the act was subsequently heavily amended in order to address this issue and Sections 4C, 4F, 4G, 4H, and 4I were added, however, citizenship is not automatically granted under these amendments. Those applying for registration must still satisfy the Home Office’s good character requirement.
In October 2016, the Supreme Court found that the good character requirement was incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998 in the case of R (on the application of Johnson) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department. This prompted parliament to draft the British Nationality Act 1981 (Remedial) Order 2018, so that the good character requirement can be removed entirely from Section 4 applications. The Government expects that the remedial order will be passed in early 2019.
Nevertheless, the Committee found that there is still likely to be persistent discrimination in acquiring British nationality “depending on whether a person’s father or mother was a British Overseas Territories Citizen, or whether or not their parents were married”. Furthermore, the Committee advised that this type of discrimination in the British Nationality Act “should be remedied for all types of British nationality and we recommend that the Home Secretary take urgent steps to bring forward legislation to do so”.
In the meantime, the Home Office has confirmed that applications for registration as a British citizen under Sections 4C, 4F, 4G, 4H and 4I where the only concern about an applicant is in respect of good character are on hold until the remedial order comes into force.
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