Clause 8 - Requirements for naturalisation etc.

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 19 October 2021.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 3:30, 19 October 2021

That is me told.

Clause 7 applies to three routes to British nationality: naturalisation as a British citizen, naturalisation as a British overseas territories citizen and registration as a British citizen for other British nationals. All these routes require a person to have been in the UK or an overseas territory for a continuous period immediately before applying. This is known as the residential qualifying period. These residence requirements exist to allow a person to show that they have a close and ongoing connection with the United Kingdom.

The residential qualifying period is five years, or three years for spouses and civil partners of British citizens or British overseas territories citizens who are applying for naturalisation. During the five-year period, the person must not have been outside the UK for more than 450 days, must not be subject to immigration time restrictions in the UK or a relevant territory, and must have been lawfully resident. There is discretion in the legislation to overlook excess absences and unlawful presence, but the requirement to have been in the UK or territory on the first day of the residential qualifying period is mandatory. There is no discretion in the current law to grant citizenship to someone who does not meet that requirement.

This means that, for example, a person who has lived in the UK for 10 years, but who was absent from the UK at the point five years before making an application because of a global pandemic, would not be able to qualify, despite their long-term connection with the UK. Under the current legislation, their only option would be to wait until they could meet the requirement.

Another example could be that of someone from the Windrush generation who had lived in the UK for many years but was prevented from returning and was able to do so only four years ago. Despite their long connection with the UK, this requirement creates a barrier to naturalisation. The clause rectifies this, and quite rightly so, enabling the Secretary of State to waive the requirement for a person to have been physically present in the UK or British overseas territory at the start of that residential qualifying period. It will allow us to grant citizenship in compelling circumstances. We will set out in guidance when we might expect to exercise discretion, as we do for other requirements in which there is discretion. This is a positive change that could benefit those who have close connections with the UK but were outside the UK five years prior to their application, particularly when the absence was down to circumstances beyond their control.