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Multiple nationality and multiple citizenship (including dual nationality and dual citizenship)

October 2019 - Immigration. Legal Developments by Richmond Chambers.

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British nationality law permits multiple nationality and multiple citizenship, including dual nationality and dual citizenship.

Multiple nationality and multiple citizenship explained

A British citizen who acquires citizenship of another country is not required to renounce their British nationality. Similarly, a foreign national who wishes to become a British citizen is not required to renounce their original nationality.

This means that a person can be a British citizen or national, and also be a citizen of other countries.   They can hold dual nationality or dual citizenship.

Exceptions to multiple nationality and multiple citizenship

There are a few exceptions to the multiple nationality and multiple citizenship principle which depend on the type of British nationality held:

British subjects

Since 1 January 1983, a person loses their status as a British Subject if they acquire another citizenship or nationality. The exception to this is if the person is also a citizen of Ireland.

British protected persons

A British protected person will lose this status if they gain any other nationality or citizenship. This would generally be when the territory that was a Protected State became independent, and those with a connection to it acquired citizenship of that country. 

British overseas citizens

A British Overseas citizen is only entitled to register as a British citizen if they do not hold any other citizenship or nationality.

Implications of multiple nationality and multiple citizenship 

Not all countries permit multiple nationality or multiple citizenship, including dual nationality and dual citizenship. 

If you are considering applying to naturalise as a British Citizen or applying to register as a British Citizen, it is important for to check whether this will have any impact on the nationality or citizenship(s) that you already hold. 

If a British person holds citizenship of State A, which does not allow multiple citizenship, it may only recognise the person as holding citizenship of State A, ignoring the British citizenship. This has no impact on the person’s British citizenship in British nationality law. 

Alternatively, if a person acquires British citizenship when they already hold citizenship of State A, State A may regard the person as having lost its citizenship.

A state that does not allow multiple citizenship may require a person to renounce all other citizenships before they can become its citizen. It is possible to apply to renounce British citizenship for this reason. This is an important decision and should not be taken without first seeking legal advice. 

Holding multiple citizenship may come with a whole host of other consequences, such as tax liability, obligations relating to which passport to use, military service, and restrictions on holding public office. Under British nationality law, it also means that a person that acquired British citizenship otherwise than by naturalisation may be deprived of their British citizenship in certain circumstances as this would not render the person stateless.

The Master Nationality Rule 

If a person holds multiple nationalities, the Master Nationality Rule governs the provision of diplomatic assistance in international law. 

This rule means that the UK government will not provide diplomatic assistance to a person who is a British Citizen, when they are in a country whose citizenship the person also possesses. The UK government may decide to make informal representations but has no obligation to assist at all. 

If the person is in a country whose citizenship they do not possess, the person can seek diplomatic assistance from the authorities of any other state they are a citizen of. 

Contact our Nationality & Immigration Barristers

To discuss your nationality enquiry with one of our immigration barristers, including issues around dual nationality and dual citizenship, contact us on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.