If you are considering applying for British citizenship, what does this mean for your current nationality? Is it possible to hold dual citizenship with the UK?
Dual citizenship refers to the status of an individual who is recognised by two different nations as holding separate and concurrent citizenship for those two different countries.
Each country however has its own rules relating to citizenship and the circumstances in which it recognises individuals as having nationality. So while the UK allows its citizens to hold dual nationality, other countries, including some EEA nations, do not.
Are you eligible for dual nationality in the UK?
Ordinarily, citizenship is attained by birth, through parentage, or by ‘naturalisation’, ie qualifying under a particular country’s rules.
Applying to naturalise as a British citizen will enable you to apply for a British passport. You will be able to live and work in the UK free from immigration restriction, you can access the NHS and you will gain the right to vote.
This includes being:
- Aged 18 or over
- Of full mental capacity
- Having held UK settled status (either under indefinite leave to remain, permanent residence or EU settled status) for at least 12 months (unless married to a British citizen or settled person)
- Having lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years (or three years if married to a British citizen or person with settled status in the UK)
- Having been in the UK on the day five years exactly before the date you submit your application
- Not having absences from the UK for more than 90 days during the previous 12 month period and
- Not having absences from the UK for more than 450 days during the previous five year period
- Passing the English language requirement and Life in the UK test
- Passing the good character requirement
- Not having breached UK immigration rules during the qualifying residency period
- Intending to have your main home in the UK
Where you are eligible, it will be important to understand if and how your change in nationality in the UK will impact your current citizenship.
For example, if your home country allows dual citizenship with the UK, there should be no impact on your original citizenship and you will be able to hold a passport from both countries. This can provide benefits where you are travelling frequently in and out of each country, perhaps for work or to visit relatives.
In other circumstances however, attaining British citizenship may result in automatic loss of your previous citizenship or refusal by the other government to recognise your British citizenship. You may also need to notify your country of original citizenship of your intention to naturalise.
Take advice on your circumstances and to clarify if the rules of your country of citizenship permit dual nationality with the UK, or if attaining British citizenship forces you to give up your original citizenship.
EU citizens – does settled status or permanent residence impact nationality?
For European nationals applying for and holding EU settled status or permanent residence, this status will not affect your nationality. You will remain a citizen of your home country and retain the passport of your home country. While you are free to hold EU settled status and permanent residence without any necessity or requirement to proceed to apply for UK naturalisation, these are a mandatory prerequisite for EU citizens who do wish to naturalise as British citizens.
Countries which allow dual citizenship with the UK
A key consideration when looking at naturalising as a British citizen will be the rules of your country of current citizenship.
Some countries allow dual citizenship with the UK without restriction, whereas others permit this where certain conditions are met.
Under the local laws of some countries, dual citizenship is not allowed at all, so should you proceed with your UK naturalisation application, you would be giving up your current citizenship at the point of attaining British citizenship.
The rules in this area are complicated and subject to change, so it is best to take advice on your circumstances to understand the position at the time of making your application.
EEA countries which allow dual citizenship with the UK
- Czech Republic
Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands generally only allow dual citizenship to those who acquire a second nationality by birth, but not by naturalisation.
EEA countries which do not permit dual citizenship with the UK:
All countries which may allow dual citizenship with the UK:
Some countries may require certain conditions to be met:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- South Korea
- South Africa
- Sierra Leone
- Sri Lanka
Countries which do not ordinarily allow dual citizenship with the UK:
- Czech Republic
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Applying for dual citizenship in the UK
To make an application for British citizenship, the main steps are as follows:
- Are you eligible? You will need to be certain you meet all of the eligibility criteria, such as holding permanent residence for 12 months (unless married to a UK resident).
- Complete the relevant citizenship application form and submit required supporting documentation.
- Pay the relevant fee(s).
- Submit your biometric data.
- Attend an interview if requested.
- Pass the Life in the UK test and/or English language test where required.
If your British citizenship application is approved
If you are successful, you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony to formalise your change of status. Retain your certificate for future needs
You can then apply for a British passport, if you did not make a concurrent application to naturalisation.
Is multiple citizenship with the UK allowed?
Multiple citizenship, such as triple citizenship, is possible with the UK. Since there is no requirement under UK law to renounce or give up previous citizenship or nationality, it is possible to apply for UK naturalisation where you already hold multiple citizenships. You will of course need to check the rules of the other countries in question as this may well introduce a limit on the number of citizenships any one individual can hold.
Giving up British citizenship
If you already hold British citizenship and want to attain citizenship of a country which does not permit dual citizenship with the UK, you may look at renouncing, or giving up, your UK citizenship. This is a formal, legal process and the implications (legal, immigration, taxation etc) should be fully considered.
Citizenship is a hugely complex area of law, and with so much at stake it’s important to understand the full implications of assuming a nationality. Issues with Home Office applications can cause delays and potentially lead to a refusal and lost application fee.
Whether you are considering applying for UK citizenship or looking to understand if you or a loved one such as a child already hold British citizenship through birth and are eligible to apply for a British passport, take professional advice on your circumstances.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration solicitors. We help individuals with all aspects of the UK citizenship and settlement applications, from guidance on eligibility to support with compiling a comprehensive submission. For advice or queries about UK citizenship, contact us.
Dual citizenship FAQs
Can I hold dual nationality with the UK?
The UK allows dual citizenship, which means its nationals are in most cases allowed to have citizenship of another country at the same time. However, not all countries permit dual nationality. Some countries, for example, may regard you as having lost your nationality once you are granted British citizenship.
How do I apply for UK dual citizenship?
As a UK national, you do not need to apply for dual cnationality. You can apply for foreign citizenship and keep your British citizenship. As a non-UK national, you would need to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. This means meeting the eligibility requirements, including having self ILR for at least 5 years in most cases and passing the English language test, and make an application to the UK Home Office.
Do I obtain dual citizenship automatically after marriage?
No, British citizenship is granted automatically when you marry a UK national. You will need to make an application for British citizenship as a spouse of a British citizen or person with UK settled status.
Last updated: 1 February 2020