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Right to abode in the United Kingdom Updated 12 August 2015

1. ROA1 What is the right of abode?
2. ROA2 Who has the right of abode?
3. ROA3 Referral or right of abode / certificate of entitlement applications
4. ROA4 Basis of a person's claim to right of abode
5. ROA5 Proof of the right of abode
6. ROA6 Confirmation or 'right of abode' document
7. ROA7 Passport endorsements relating to right of abode
8. ROA8 Right of abode for persons from former British colonies
9. ROA9 When are children of polygamous marriages British citizens?
10. ROA10 Restriction on exercise of right of abode in some cases
11. ROA11 Deprivation of right of abode
12. ROA12 The effect of renunciation of British citizenship
13. ROA13 Who qualifies for a certificate of entitlement?
14. ROA14 When can't a certificate of entitlement be issued?
15. ROA15 Issuing a certificate of entitlement
16. ROA16 Issuing a certificate of entitlement if more than one person is named in the passport
17. ROA17 Cancelling a certificate of entitlement
18. ROA18 Certificates of entitlement for dual nationals
19. ROA19 Certificates of patriality
20. ROA20 Examples of refusal wordings for certificate of entitlement to the right of abode refusal cases
21. ROA21 Appeal rights
22. ROA22 Certificates of Entitlement: explanatory leaflet

1. ROA1

What is the right of abode?

Section 1(1) of the Immigration Act 1971 exempts from immigration control persons who have the right of abode in the UK, if they can prove that they have the right of abode. This means that they do not need to obtain the permission of an immigration officer to enter the UK, and may live and work without restriction. You must not collect biometrics from such an applicant.

The right of abode is a statutory right, which a person either has or does not have, depending on whether they meet the conditions in section 2(1) of the 1971 Act. Under s.2A of the 1971 Act, the right of abode can be taken away. The Minister (or officials working on his behalf) cannot confer the right of abode on any person - for example, merely by issuing a passport or certificate of entitlement (Christodoulido - v - SSHD [1985] Imm AR 179).

2. ROA2

Who has the right of abode?

Section 2(1) of the 1971 Act, as amended by s.39(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981), defines the two categories of people who currently have the right of abode:
  • British citizens
  • Commonwealth citizens who had the right of abode immediately before 1 January 1983 and who have not, since then, ceased to be Commonwealth citizens

3. ROA3

Referral or right of abode / certificate of entitlement applications

UK Visas and Immigration is responsible for all right of abode casework and International and Immigration Policy Group (IIPG) for policy. You should send referrals and requests for advice on certificates of entitlement and related issues to:

Phone: 0845 010 5200

Email: furthernationalityenquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

You should always refer cases which involve an applicant whose right of abode rests on a parent who has been legally deprived of British citizenship. This also applies in cases where the parent of such an applicant has renounced British citizenship and the Post’s records do not confirm that the date of the renunciation is later than the applicant’s birth. If you issue a certificate of entitlement to a person who is a British subject under section 30 or 31 of BNA 1981, it should be placed immediately below the right of abode endorsement on page 5 of the passport.

4. ROA4

Basis of a person’s claim to right of abode

Section 2(1) of the Immigration Act 1971 sets out which citizens of the UK and Colonies (CUKCs) and Commonwealth citizens had the right of abode in the UK.

The 1971 Act was amended when the British Nationality Act 1981 came into effect on 1 January 1983. Under the revised section 2(1), the following people have the right of abode in the UK:
  • Section 2(1)(a) - British citizens
  • Section 2(1)(b) - Commonwealth citizens who had ROA before 1 Jan 1983, provided they had not ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen at any time
The following chart sets out who had the right of abode under the original 1971 Act, and the section they have the right of abode under from 1 January 1983.

Person with right of abode Original 1971 Act section Section after 1/1/1983
A citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) who was born, adopted, naturalised or registered in the UK or Islands2(1)(a) 2(1)(a)
A CUKC born to or adopted by a parent who, at the time of the person’s birth or adoption, had right of abode under s.2(1)(a) of the 1971 Act2(1)(b)(i)2(1)(a)
A CUKC born to or adopted by a parent who, at the time of the person’s birth, had right of abode under s.2(1)(b)(i)2(1)(b)(ii) 2(1)(a)
A CUKC who was ordinarily resident in the UK for any continuous period of 5 years before 31 Dec 1982 (time spent subject to immigration conditions can be included but the conditions must have been removed before completion of the 5 years)2(1)(c) 2(1)(a)
A Commonwealth citizen (not a CUKC) with a parent / adoptive parent who, at the time of the person’s birth / adoption, was a CUKC by birth in the United Kingdom2(1)(d) 2(1)(b)
A female Commonwealth citizen who is, or has been, married to a man with right of abode at any time before 31 Dec 19822(2) 2(1)(b)
A CUKC woman who is, or has been married to a man with right of abode at any time before 31 Dec 19822(2) 2(1)(a)

The only way to acquire the right of abode since 1 Jan 1983 has been by becoming a British citizen.

Note: The re-admission of Pakistan and South Africa to the Commonwealth in 1989 and 1994 respectively did not have the effect of reviving any claims by their nationals to right of abode in the UK.Citizens of Pakistan and South Africa will not have a right of abode in the UK unless they are also British citizens.

Zimbabwe and the Gambia have withdrawn politically from the Commonwealth. However, for nationality purposes they remain on the list of Commonwealth countries at Schedule 3 of the British Nationality Act 1981, and so their nationals can continue to have a right of abode in the UK as Commonwealth citizens.

Definitions
CUKCIn relation to a time before 1 Jan 1949, means a British subject (so if a claimant was then a British subject, residence in the UK before 1.1.49 will count for the purposes of s.2(1)(c)
Registrationdoes not include registration under s.6(2) of the BNA 1948 by virtue of a marriage which took place on or after 28 Oct 1971 (though a woman who was so registered may have had the right of abode under s.2(2))
Registration in the United Kingdomincludes registration in an independent Commonwealth country (including South Africa before 1 Jan 1966 and Pakistan before 1 Sept 1973) by the British High Commissioner, except in the case of children registered under s.7 of the BNA 1948 on or after 28 Oct 1971 (though such children may have had the right of abode under s.2(1)(b)(i) or (ii)
United Kingdommeans England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It also includes, in relation to British nationality acquired before 1949, Ireland at a time when it formed part of the United Kingdom (that is, before 31 Mar 1922)
Parent
includes the mother, but not the father, of an illegitimate child. It also includes the adoptive parents of a legally adopted child (see below)
Adoptedmeans legally adopted (that is, adopted by order of a United Kingdom court or in any country listed at the time of adoption in the Schedule to the Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) Order 1973

5. ROA5

Proof of the right of abode

Under section 3(9) of the 1971 Act, as amended by the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, a person claiming the right of abode in the UK can prove it by presenting either:
  • a UK passport describing them as a British citizen
  • a UK passport describing them as a British subject with the right of abode in the UK
  • a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode
This superseded earlier legislation, which allowed other documentation in some cases.

The right of abode is a statutory right that a person either does or does not have. However, in order to prove that right a person is required to present one of the above forms of evidence. Regulations provide that a certificate of entitlement is only valid for the validity period of the passport that it is attached to. A person who has a certificate of entitlement in an expired passport should be advised to apply for a new certificate of entitlement to be placed in their current passport before travelling.

6. ROA6

Confirmation or "right of abode" document

This was a non-statutory document which was issued, for a brief period before commencement of the Immigration Act 1988, to dual nationals whose British citizenship gave them a claim to right of abode but who had opted to travel on non-British passports. It is no longer issued.

7. ROA7

Passport endorsements relating to right of abode

A British passport issued after 1 January 1983 containing the description ‘A British citizen’ means that the holder has the right of abode in the UK.

British passports may be issued in the UK to those whose right of abode is awaiting verification. The passport will contain the endorsement ‘The holder’s status under the Immigration Act 1971 has not yet been determined’.

Other British passports, for example, those issued to British Overseas citizens and British subjects may contain other types of endorsement.

8. ROA8

Right of abode for persons from former British colonies

A person could have the right of abode under section 2(1)(a), (b) or (c) immediately prior to 1 January 1983 only if they were then a citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC).

Citizens of former British colonies, which have become independent, may still have pre-independence passports describing them as CUKC, but may have lost CUKC on independence. If they lost CUKC status, they would have lost their claim to the right of abode unless they also had a claim on the basis of their Commonwealth citizenship. UK and colonies guidance gives details of changes in citizenship status at the time of the independence of specific countries.

Exceptions to the rule

If a married woman lost her CUKC status on independence, she may still have a claim to the right of abode under section 2(2) of the Act if, as a Commonwealth citizen, she has at any time been married to a person who, at the time of the marriage, had the right of abode.

9. ROA9

When are children of polygamous marriages British citizens?

Children of a polygamous marriage may have a claim to British citizenship if the marriage is valid in UK law (that is, if it was a valid form of marriage where it took place and the father was domiciled in a country which allowed polygamy).

The children of a polygamous marriage may also, in other cases, be British citizens through the provisions of the Legitimacy Act 1976 if their father was domiciled in England or Wales at the time of the marriage. ECOs need to read the Legitimacy guidance on GOV.UK to find out how to assess if these children are British.

If you issue a Certificate of Entitlement to a person under the provisions of the Legitimacy Act 1976, you should ensure that your case record clearly indicates that the parents have been advised that their marriage is not valid in UK law. This is so that future children born to the same parents will not be able to benefit under the 1976 Act provisions.

10. ROA10

Restriction on exercise of right of abode in some cases

Section 2 of the Immigration Act 1988 provides that a woman who acquired the right of abode through marriage before 1983 (that is, by virtue of s.2(2) of the 1971 Act, as then in force) may not enter the UK in exercise of that right, or be granted a certificate of entitlement, if another living wife or widow of the same man either:
  • is or has at any time since her marriage been in the UK otherwise than as a visitor, an illegal entrant or on temporary admission, or
  • has been granted a certificate of entitlement or entry clearance on account of her marriage
The restrictions do not prevent a wife who entered the UK in that capacity before 1 August 1988 from returning to the UK, or from being issued with a certificate of entitlement or entry clearance enabling her to do so, even if other wives are already in this country. Nor do they apply to a wife who has been in the UK at any time since her marriage if she was then the only wife to have entered, or been cleared for entry to the UK.

So long as a woman is prevented under s.2 from entering the UK or obtaining a certificate of entitlement, she is subject to the provisions of the 1971 Act in the same way as a person who does not have the right of abode in the UK (s.2(3)).

Note: When reading the above, ‘another living wife or widow’ does not include a divorcée.

11. ROA11

Deprivation of right of abode

Under s.2A of the Immigration Act 1971, as inserted by s.57 of the Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, a person who has the right of abode on the basis of Commonwealth (but not British) citizenship - that is, under s.2(1)(b) of the 1971 Act as amended - may be deprived of that right ‘if the Secretary of State thinks it would be conducive to the public good for the person to be excluded or removed from the United Kingdom’.

A person against whom a deprivation order is made will have a right of appeal to the Asylum and Immigration Appeal Tribunal or, where sensitive information might otherwise be disclosed in the course of the appeal, to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. Subject to the outcome of any such appeal, an order made under s.2A of the 1971 Act remains in force until revoked by the Secretary of State.

Cases in which there may be a possibility of deprivation of right of abode should be referred to the National Policy Team.

12. ROA12

The effect of renunciation of British citizenship

A person who renounced CUKC before 1 January 1983 in order to retain or acquire citizenship of a Commonwealth country may have had right of abode on 31 December 1982 under section 2(1)(d) or 2(2). That right will have been preserved by the new s.2(1)(b) as long as they have remained a Commonwealth citizen since then.

A person who renounces British citizenship on or after 1 January 1983 loses any claim to right of abode and becomes subject to immigration control unless they are a Commonwealth citizen and continue to qualify under s.2(1)(b).

13. ROA13

Who qualifies for a certificate of entitlement?

You may issue a certificate of entitlement in the passport or travel document of a person who qualifies under the following:
  • those who qualified by becoming British citizens on or after 1 January 1983 and who apply for a certificate of entitlement to be inserted in a non-British passport (but see ROA14 below)
  • Commonwealth citizens who did not become British citizens on 1 January 1983 but had the right of abode immediately before that date and retained their right of abode after that date

14. ROA14

When can’t a certificate of entitlement be issued?

You cannot issue a certificate of entitlement in:
  • a non-British passport if the person holds a current British citizen passport
  • a British citizen passport
  • a foreign passport if the person has a certificate of entitlement in another passport

15. ROA15

Issuing a certificate of entitlement

Fees for certificate of entitlement

Endorsement: Certificate of Ent to Right of Abode
Rules: S2. of the 1971 Immigration Act
Code: 2(1)(a), 2(1)(b) – as appropriate
Duration: Validity of passport
Police registration: No

16. ROA16

Issuing a certificate of entitlement if more than one person is named in the passport

ECOs should not issue a single certificate of entitlement in a passport which contains details of more than one person unless they all have right of abode under the same section of the Act.

Where persons entered on the same passport have the right of abode under different parts of the Act, ECOs should issue a separate certificate for each of them.

If there is any possibility of ambiguity, you should indicate on the same page as the certificate of entitlement, the person or persons to whom it refers. This is particularly appropriate where the holder of the passport has the right of abode but the children included in it do not.

17. ROA17

Cancelling a certificate of entitlement

A person will be ineligible for a certificate of entitlement if:
  • they do not have the right of abode in the UK (see ROA2 above)
  • they have a current UK passport describing them as British citizen
  • they have a current UK passport describing the person as a British subject with the right of abode in the UK
  • they have a certificate of entitlement in another foreign passport
  • their right of abode is restricted under section 2 of the Immigration Act 1988 (see ROA9 above)
  • they have been deprived of their right of abode by order under section 2A of the Immigration Act 1971 (see ROA10 above)
A certificate of entitlement issued on or after 21 December 2006 may be revoked by any Home Office official (including an official in HM Passport Office), any immigration officer, any consular officer or any entry clearance officer where it is discovered that the holder is no longer eligible for it. There is no right of appeal against such a cancellation.

A certificate of entitlement (whether issued before or after 21 December 2006) will otherwise cease to have effect on the expiry of the passport or travel document to which is affixed.

18. ROA18

Certificates of entitlement for dual nationals

With the exception of persons who are ineligible (see ROA17 above), British (or Commonwealth nationals) with the right of abode, who are also foreign nationals may have a certificate of entitlement inserted into their foreign passport. But a certificate of entitlement cannot be issued if the person already holds a current British citizen passport or a valid certificate of entitlement in another passport. This is to prevent a person from having more than one document that proves their right of abode in the United Kingdom. There is no discretion in the law to issue a certificate of entitlement in such cases, irrespective of a person’s individual circumstances.

If a person who is a British citizen, or has the right of abode in the UK, applies for a visitor visa or for settled status to be entered into a foreign passport, the application should be refused. This is because section 1(1) of the Immigration Act 1971 confers complete exemption from UK immigration control on persons with the right of abode, subject to proof of that right. As such a person with the right of abode in the UK should not be given leave to enter or remain under the Immigration Rules. If you have a visa application from a person who you are satisfied has the right of abode in the UK, the person should be advised to apply for a certificate of entitlement instead.

In some cases you may have a visa application from a person who you believe may have the right of abode in the United Kingdom, but cannot establish their claim. If you are satisfied that they have made genuine and reasonable attempts to try and obtain the relevant documents but cannot do so, you may issue a visa in line with the Immigration Rules.

If the holder applies to have a certificate of entitlement inserted in a new passport, they will need to apply for a new certificate to be issued. It is no longer possible for certificates of entitlement to be transferred into replacement passports.

19. ROA19

Certificates of patriality

Certificates of entitlement replaced certificates of patriality with effect from 1 January 1983.

Under section 39(8) of the British Nationality Act 1981, a certificate of patriality issued under the 1971 Act and in force immediately before 1 January 1983 is regarded as a certificate of entitlement unless the holder ceased to have the right of abode at commencement of that Act.

20. ROA20

Examples of refusal wordings for certificate of entitlement to the right of abode refusal cases

You should use the appropriate combination of wordings from the following refusals which are appropriate to the particular application (and grounds for refusal) with which you are dealing.
"Applications can only be considered under the 1971 Act as amended, so refusal wordings need to include specific reference to it." Refusal of applications under section 2(1)(a) of the 1971 Act as amended

You have applied for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode under section 2(1)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971 as amended but you did not become a British citizen on or after 1 January 1983 and I am therefore not satisfied that you have right of abode in the UK.

Refusals of applications under section 2(1)(b)(i) of the 1971 Act as amended

You have applied for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode under section 2(1)(b)(i) of the Immigration Act 1971 as amended on the grounds that:
  • you were a Commonwealth citizen immediately before 1 January 1983 and you have not ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen in the meantime
  • you were born to or adopted by a parent, who at the time of the birth or adoption, was a citizen of the UK and Colonies by his / her birth in the UK or any of the Islands
[Use whichever of the following is relevant]However, you are not a Commonwealth citizen / you ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen when ….. / your father [mother] was not a citizen of the UK and Colonies by birth at the time of your birth [adoption].

I am therefore not satisfied that you have the right of abode in the UK.

Refusal of applications under section 2(1)(b)(ii) of the 1971 Act as amended

You have applied for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode under section 2(1)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1971 as amended on the grounds that:
  • you were a Commonwealth citizen immediately before 1 January 1983 and you have not ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen in the meantime; and
  • you are the wife of a man who has the right of abode by virtue of section 2 of the 1971 Act as originally in force.
[use whichever of the following is relevant]However, you are:
  • not a Commonwealth citizen
  • you ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen when …….
  • you have not been married to a man who at the time of the marriage had right of abode in the UK under section 2 of the 1971 Immigration Act as originally in force
  • have not been the wife of a man who, but for his death, would at the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1948 have been a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies with the right of abode under section 2 of the Immigration Act 1971 as originally in force / your marriage would not be recognised as valid under UK law
  • your marriage will not be recognised as valid in the UK

I am therefore not satisfied that you have the right of abode in the UK.

General

You have applied for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode under the Immigration Act 1971 as amended but:
•You have produced no evidence / insufficient evidence in support of your application and I am not, therefore, satisfied that you have the right of abode

21. ROA21

Appeal rights

Any person who applied before 6 April 2015 and is refused a certificate of entitlement has a full right of appeal against the refusal, regardless of why the application is refused. You should use Refusal form GV51(FRA). Any person who applied on or after 6 April 2015 does not have a right of appeal.

There is only a limited right of appeal against the revocation of a certificate of entitlement (see ROA17 above). Use form GV51(LRA).

22. ROA22

Certificates of Entitlement: explanatory leaflet

  1. Your passport has been endorsed to show that you have the right of abode in the UK. You will keep this right unless you change your present citizenship. However, the certificate may be revoked if it is later discovered that you do not have the right of abode. The Home Secretary may also make an order to deprive you of your right of abode if he considers that it would be in the public good for you to be removed or excluded from the UK.

  2. If the endorsement is in a UK passport (other than one which describes you as a British subject) you will, when the passport is replaced, be issued with a passport showing that you are British citizen, which will in itself suffice to indicate that you have the right of abode in the UK.

  3. If you have a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode endorsed in any other country’s passport, you may apply to have a further certificate of entitlement endorsed in any subsequent passport (subject to the conditions in the first paragraph above).