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Can I lose my British citizenship?

Regardless of how British citizenship is acquired - whether automatically at birth, by virtue of a parent's immigration status, or after the long process leading to indefinite leave to remain - you may wonder if it's ever possible to lose it? The short answer is yes, but only in very specific situations. A recent House of Commons Research Briefing cites over 1,000 deprivation orders were made between 2010 and 2022; 847 for fraud and 217 for 'public good'. Let's take a look at these reasons in more detail.

Losing British Citizenship by Deprivation

The first way a British citizen can lose their citizenship is via deprivation. This is set out in the British Nationality Act 1981 and confers upon the Secretary of State the power to order the deprivation of a person's citizenship on the grounds that doing so would be conducive to the public good (most commonly on national security grounds). Although much more serious, and far less likely to occur, this is a similar power held when assessing applications for entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK. The Secretary of State can also deprive a person's citizenship if satisfied that the registration or naturalisation was obtained by means of fraud, false representation, or concealment of a material fact. Where deprivation occurs, the person will not revert to their previous immigration status. Where a person was British by birth and has no other nationality, deprivation cannot occur in any circumstances.

Losing British Citizenship by Nullification

The second way a British citizen can lose their citizenship is if they were never actually a British citizen in the first place. In other words, if a person's citizenship is declared null and void - for example, because it was obtained using a fake identity or false personal information - it is treated as never having been granted. Where nullification occurs, the person may rever to their previous immigration status, if it was genuinely obtained and is still valid, but this is extremely unlikely, and will almost certainly be cancelled.

Giving up British Citizenship by Renunciation

The last way a British citizen can 'lose' their citizenship is by way of renunciation. This is a voluntary process which normally only occurs if the person cannot continue to be a British citizen for reasons linked to their citizenship of another country - for example, because the second country does not recognise or allow dual citizenship. The British Nationality Act 1981 sets out the circumstances in which renunciation can occur. The Secretary of State must be satisfied that the person is 18 or older, is of sound mind, and will, after renouncing their citizenship, have or acquire another citizenship or nationality. If another citizenship or nationality is not acquired within 6 months of the renouncement, that person will be deemed to have remained a British citizen.


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