Supreme Court overrules historic gender discrimination in British Citizenship
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court gave a ruling in relation to British citizenship by descent applications by overruling the historic discrimination contained in the historic law regarding British nationality. The ruling means that British citizenship applications may now become open to people who previously were not eligible to apply.
Before the commencement in 1983 of the British Nationality Act 1981, if a child was born outside the UK to British parents, they could only apply for British citizenship if the father was a British citizen. This meant that mothers who were British could not pass citizenship to their child. There was a further provision that if the father himself was a British citizen by descent and wanted to pass this to his child, then the child should be registered at the local British consulate within one year of the birth otherwise the child would not be eligible.
The British Nationality Act 1981 changed the rules relating to British citizenship by descent by providing that mothers to children born after 1983 could pass citizenship to their children. However, there was no provision to correct the historical gender discrimination and therefore those born before 1983 could still not apply. More recently, amendments were made to include some of those born before 1983.
The Supreme Court ruling relates to an individual who had her application for British citizenship by descent (through her mother) rejected by the Home Office in 2013. The applicant’s mother was a British citizen by descent and her father a US citizen. The application was rejected on the basis that her mother had not registered her birth within one year at a local consulate. The applicant argued that her mother had been told that there was no point in registration given the law at the time related only to fathers being able to pass on nationality. The Supreme Court ruled that the applicant should in fact have been granted citizenship and that the “one year” condition cannot apply to applications based on the mother’s citizenship because the law at that time only related to fathers.
This ruling means that British citizenship could be granted to many more individuals who can show that had the historic law not been discriminatory, they also would have been able to register as British citizens when they were born.
If you were born outside the UK before 1983 to a British mother and think that you may be eligible for British citizenship, please contact our experts who will be able to assist you.