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The increasing ethnic diversity of British society means it is
difficult to define what makes someone British.
Guidance - Right of abode

What is this guidance about?
This guidance explains what you will need to do if you want to come to the United Kingdom (UK) with the "right of abode", and what the Immigration Rules say. It is only a guide but it aims to answer some common questions.

What does the right of abode mean?
The right of abode means that you are entirely free from United Kingdom Immigration Control. In other words, you do not need to get permission from an Immigration Officer to enter the UK and you can live and work in the UK without restriction.
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Who has the right of abode?
All British citizens have the right of abode in the UK, along with certain other Commonwealth citizens, and citizens of certain other countries.
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How do I know if I am a British citizen with the right of abode?
You will have become a British citizen on 1 January 1983 (the date on which the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force) and so will have the right of abode in the UK if, immediately before that date, any of the following applied to you.

  1. You were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and had your citizenship by being born, adopted, naturalised or registered in the United Kingdom.
  2. You were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and your parent (see note below) was, at the time of your birth or legal adoption, a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by being born, adopted, naturalised or registered in the United Kingdom.
  3. You were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and your parent qualified for the right of abode under 2 above.
  4. You were a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies at any time before 1 January 1983, and had been living in the UK for five years or more without a break. During that period, you met all the terms of the immigration laws and, at the end of that period, you did not have any time limit on your stay.
  5. You were a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies and were then, or had previously been, the wife of a man with the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

You will also be a British citizen if:

  • you were born in the United Kingdom after 31 December 1982 and one of your parents was then a British citizen or legally settled in the United Kingdom
  • you were born outside the United Kingdom after 31 December 1982 and at the time of your birth one parent was a British citizen other than by descent (for example, by naturalisation, registration or birth), or
  • you were registered or naturalised as a British citizen after 31 December 1982.

Note: throughout this guidance 'parent' or 'parents' includes the mother but not the father of an illegitimate child, and the adoptive parents of a child who has been legally adopted.
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How do I know if I am a Commonwealth citizen with the right of abode?
You will have the right of abode as a Commonwealth citizen if you have been a citizen of a Commonwealth country up to 1 January 1983 and, immediately before that date:

  • you were a Commonwealth citizen with a parent who, at the time of your birth or legal adoption, was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and had their citizenship by being born in the United Kingdom, or
  • you were a Commonwealth citizen and are, or were, the wife of a man with the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
Pakistan and South Africa were not part of the Commonwealth before 1 January 1983 and their citizens have no right of abode under this provision.
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How do I prove that I have the right of abode?
You must produce either:

  • a UK passport describing you as a British citizen or as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who has the right of abode, or
  • a foreign or Commonwealth passport containing a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode.
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Where do I apply for a British passport?
You should check that the consular section of your nearest British mission overseas can deal with your passport application. If they cannot, they will tell you where to apply.
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What is a certificate of entitlement?
A certificate of entitlement is a sticker put into your passport to show that you have the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
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How do I apply for a certificate of entitlement?
You can apply in a number of ways, for example by post, by courier, in person and online. The visa section will tell you about the ways in which you can apply.

Some visa sections will only accept applications made online. To find out if you can apply for your visa online plesse visit www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk

If you cannot apply online you will need to fill in a visa application form (VAF 4 - Right of abode). You can download the form from this website, or get one free of charge from your nearest British mission overseas where there is a visa section.

You can apply for a visit visa or EEA family permit at any full service visa-issuing office. If you are applying from within the EEA, you will need to show that you are living legally in an EEA member state. 'Living legally' includes having a visit visa for the member state. For all other types of visa, you should apply in the country of which you are a national or where you legally live.

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What will I need to make my application?
You will need to make your application online or fill in the following visa application form:

PDF Application form VAF4 - Right of Abode  (PDF, 91K)

You will also need:

  • Your passport or travel document.
  • A recent passport-sized (45mm x 35mm) colour photograph of yourself.
    This should be:
    • taken against a light coloured background
    • clear and of good quality, and not framed or backed
    • printed on normal photographic paper, and
    • full face and without sunglasses, hat or other head covering unless you wear this for cultural or religious reasons.
  • The application fee. This cannot be refunded, and you must normally pay it in the local currency of the country where you are applying. Applications to renew certificates of entitlement are free.
  • Supporting documents relevant to your application.
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What supporting documents should I include with my application?
You should include all the documents you can to show that you qualify for right of abode. If you do not we may refuse your application.

As a guide, you should include:

  • your full birth certificate
  • your marriage certificate
  • your parents' marriage certificate
  • evidence that you are a British citizen, and
  • evidence that one of your parents is a British citizen other than by descent (for example, by naturalisation, registration or birth) such as a passport, birth certificate or certificate of registration.
We will refuse your application if we find that any documents are forged.
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What will happen when I make my application?
The Entry Clearance Officer will try to make a decision using your application form and the supporting documents you have provided. If this is not possible, they will need to interview you.

Please check your visa when you get it. You should make sure that:

  • your personal details are correct
  • it correctly states the purpose for which you want to come to the UK, and
  • it is valid for the date on which you want to travel. (You can ask for it to be post-dated for up to three months if you do not plan to travel immediately.)

If you think there is anything wrong with your visa, contact the visa section immediately.
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More advice and information

UKvisas
For more advice and information about visas contact:

UKvisas
London SW1A 2AH

General enquiries: 0845 010 5555
Please note that this number may not work from overseas. If you are calling from overseas, please contact your nearest British mission:
elk UK diplomatic missions overseas

Application forms: (+44) (0)20 7008 8308
Textphone: +44 (0)20 7008 8457
Email: www.ukvisas.gov.uk/enquiries

Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND)
For more advice and information about extending your stay once you are in the UK contact:

elk Immigration and Nationality Directorate
Croydon Public Caller Unit
Lunar House
40 Wellesley Road
Croydon CR9 2BY

General enquiries: (+44) (0)870 606 7766
Application forms: (+44) (0)870 241 0645
Email: indpublicenquiries@ind.homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk

Immigration Advisory Service (IAS)
The IAS is the UK's largest charity providing advice and representation in asylum, immigration and nationality law. It has offices right across the UK and abroad. It provides a free service to those who are eligible and may be able to help those who are not. The IAS is a non-profit service.

elk Immigration Advisory Service
3rd Floor, County House
190 Great Dover Street
London SE1 4YB

Telephone: (+44) (0)20 7967 1200
Duty office (open 24 hours a day): (+44) (0)20 8814 1559
Fax: (+44) (0)20 7403 5875
Email: advice@iasuk.org
Website: www.iasuk.org

Revenue and Customs
For advice on bringing personal belongings and goods into the UK contact:

elk HM Revenue & Customs
Dorset House
Stamford Street
London SE1 9PY

Telephone: (+44) (0)845 010 9000
Website: www.hmrc.gov.uk

Drugs warning
Anyone found smuggling drugs into the UK will face serious penalties. Drug traffickers may try to bribe travellers. If you are travelling to the UK, avoid any involvement with drugs.

Forged or destroyed documents
Travellers to the UK may commit an offence if they do not produce valid travel documents or passports to the UK immigration authorities for themselves and their children. People found guilty of this offence face up to two years in prison or a fine (or both).


Alternative formats
In the UK we also have versions of our guidance notes in Braille, on audio tape and in large print. If you would like any guidance notes in one of these formats, please contact:

UKvisas
London SW1A 2AH

Phone: (+44) (0)20 7008 8308
Email: www.ukvisas.gov.uk/enquiries