The Right of Abode is the unconditional exemption from United Kingdom immigration laws. It was created by the Immigration Act 1971.
Since 1983, Right of Abode is held automatically by British citizens.
Some people who are not British citizens may also hold Right of Abode.
Right of Abode may be held by British subjects and citizens of Commonwealth countries (who are not British citizens) who were born before 1983 who:
- had a British-born parent, usually a mother (note that "British-born" here includes what is now the Republic of Ireland prior to 1 April 1922); or
- were adopted before 1983 by British-born parents; or
- were married, if female, before 1983 to a man with Right of Abode.
In order to hold Right of Abode as a non-British citizen, a person must have been a Commonwealth citizen continuously since 1 January 1983. For this reason, South African citizens are generally not eligible. Also, a person who lost citizenship of a Commonwealth country and did not simultaneously acquire citizenship of another Commonwealth country - for example, an Indian citizen becoming an American citizen - would forfeit any claim to Right of Abode.
Evidence of Right of Abode
- Right of Abode is an automatic statutory entitlement. If you have it, you are deemed always to have had it since 1983, even if you were only issued evidence of it later on.
- However, the normal evidence of Right of Abode is a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode stamped in a Commonwealth national or British subject passport.
- Application should be made to the Home Office, if in the United Kingdom, or UK Visas if elsewhere.
- A Right of Abode stamp will expire no later than the expiry of the passport to which it is affixed. However, the status of Right of Abode does not expire.
- As Right of Abode is a statutory entitlement, it cannot be refused at discretion. However, the requirements for issue of evidence of Right of Abode must be met.
Bringing Family to the United Kingdom
- Right of Abode holders intending to settle in the United Kingdom may sponsor spouses and dependent children for settlement.
Access to British citizenship
- After 5 years resident in the United Kingdom, or 3 years if married to a British citizen, a Right of Abode holder may apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.
- British subjects have the alternative option of registration as a British citizen, after 5 years residence in Britain.
- Those who derive Right of Abode from a British born mother may have the option of registration as a British citizen by descent through the "UKM" process.
Loss and Deprivation of Right of Abode
- Criminal activity does not lead to loss of Right of Abode, although it may prejudice any application for British citizenship.
- Right of Abode may be cancelled on exceptional national security based grounds.
- Right of Abode will also be lost if you lose the nationality of the Commonwealth country and do not simultaneously acquire another.