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British Citizenship; A Gift Given, A Gift Taken

Citizenship; Everyone’s birthright

Citizenship is a status given, achieved, or acquired and it is attached with a set of rights, duties, privileges but also obligations (which many people choose to neglect).

Citizenship is a connection that exists between an individual and a country/jurisdiction to which the individual owes loyalty and is entitled to protection. Each state defines the circumstances under which it will recognize people as citizens and the circumstances under which that status will be revoked. A state's acceptance of a person as a citizen usually entails the acknowledgment of civil, political, and social rights that non-citizens do not have.

Most people enjoy citizenship in a single jurisdiction usually afforded to them via their birthrights (i.e. being born in a particular country), but there are instances where people are lucky enough to enjoy dual citizenship.

Dual Citizenship and Citizenship by Investment

Having dual citizenship suggests that a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen of two jurisdictions. People can become dual citizens naturally by birth or marriage, but in the last 35 years, an individual or a family has had the ability to acquire second citizenship through investment.

However, even though these programs have been popular (some still are) amongst investors they have been viewed negatively by the EU and other international organizations as they basically offer citizenship in return of cash. There have been instances where citizenship has been granted to criminal actors and EU passports have been used to accommodate money laundering. Therefore, now the European Commission is seeking an EU-wide ban on citizenship-for-sale programs.

Countries are against great difficulties of revoking citizenship once this has been granted and therefore are found in a “between a rock and a hard place” situation; where the investors are not willing to let go of their citizenship while the EU is pressuring for revocation. Other jurisdictions have more explicit regulations set in place for granting and revoking citizenship one of these jurisdictions is Britain.

British Citizenship

Many immigrants'/investors’ ultimate objective is to become British citizens, but getting there may be a long, complicated, and expensive process. Once granted it does not mean that this “gift” cannot be taken away. There are a lot of benefits of having British Citizenship including:

· The right to live, work and study in the UK indefinitely

· The right to a British Passport- one of the most powerful in the world as it allows visa-free travel to 139 jurisdictions

· The right to free healthcare

· The right to vote in an election and to stand for public office

However, as “easily” these rights are granted to citizens, with the same ease can be taken away.

Revocation Reasons

The British Nationality Act 1981 lays down in simple language when a person is to be stripped off of their British citizenship. There are two major reasons for revocation:

1. Fraud. If citizenship was granted through deception, fraud, false representation or suppression of key facts then citizenship can and may be revoked.

The aforementioned situation is particularly important as it covers situations where an investor/immigrant has made fraudulent representations in his citizenship application or investor migration program (false name, place of birth, impersonated others, hid key facts etc).

2. It is of public interest (to revoke). The Home Secretary is given the specific powers of revocation when it deems that it is in the public’s interest to remove citizenship rights. This occurs in the following situations:

a. The citizen has supported or aided others in committing terrorist attacks;

b. The citizen has committed war crimes, public order violations, or other significant offenses; or

c. The citizen has carried out acts of espionage and terrorism against the United Kingdom or an ally country that were severely detrimental to critical national interests.

Deprivation vs Nullification

The purpose of nullifying a person's British citizenship is to take away citizenship from someone who was awarded it wrongly and is returned to a position where they were never granted it in the first place. This is almost often due to oversight rather than a purposeful omission. Deprivation, on the other hand, is reserved for individuals who have attempted to deceive the system on purpose.

Right to Appeal

The right to appeal a decision to revoke citizenship exists as laid down by the British Nationality Act 1981. The right to appeal is dependent on the particulars of each case and whether the individual had his citizenship nullified or deprived.

If the individual has been deprived of their citizenship then based on section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 has the right to appeal to a First-tier Tribunal court. This right is forfeited when it has been deemed by the Secretary of State that the deprivation was made based on facts that need to be kept secret (e.g. National Security).

On the other hand, if citizenship was nullified then the individual does not have the statutory right to appeal (no provisions in the law). This is due to the fact that if citizenship was nullified it is as if citizenship was never granted in the first place and the individual is returned to its previous status.

It is evident that the UK has the protective measures necessary to protect its citizenship “gift” from criminals and money launderers. Other nations should take the UK statutory provision as an example to follow if they wish to have robust citizenship investor schemes.


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