Historical Injustice for Persons Born Out of Wedlock and Their Right to British Citizenship Lingers On

This article concerns only one of several historical injustices in British nationality law. For decades, it discriminated against people born out of wedlock to British fathers by not allowing those fathers to pass on their nationality to their child.

On 1 January 1983, the British Nationality Act 1981 took effect. From that time, British nationality law no longer recognised jus soli – the right to the nationality of a state merely by having been born within its territory. Instead, the 1981 Act sought to restrict British citizenship to those with a particular tie to the country.

From the 1981 Act’s commencement, people acquire British citizenship at birth if they are born in the UK to a parent who is either British or settled. Someone born outside the UK to a British parent also acquires British citizenship at birth (referred to as acquisition by descent) if that parent had not themselves acquired British citizenship by descent.

Originally, the 1981 Act did not permit a British father to pass on his citizenship to his child in this way if he was not married to the child’s mother. However, if the father and mother subsequently married, section 47 of the Act would take effect treating the child (whether or not she or he was still under 18 years) as having been British from birth.

Read more:  Legal Voice,

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