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Deprivation of British citizenship and withdrawal of passport facilities

Published Friday, January 30, 2015

In recent years there has been an increasing use of powers to deprive people of their British citizenship and withdraw British passport facilities, particularly in respect of those who may be involved in fighting, extremist activity or terrorist training overseas.

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In recent years there has been an increasing use of powers to deprive people of their British citizenship and withdraw British passport facilities, particularly in respect of those who may be involved in fighting, extremist activity or terrorist training overseas.

Under section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 (as amended), an order to deprive a person of their British citizenship can be made if the Home Secretary is satisfied that:

• it would be conducive to the public good to deprive the person of their British citizenship status and to do so would not render them stateless; or

• the person obtained their citizenship status through naturalisation, and it would be conducive to the public good to deprive them of their status because they have engaged in conduct “seriously prejudicial” to the UK’s vital interests, and the Home Secretary has reasonable grounds to believe that they could acquire another nationality; or

• the person acquired their citizenship status through naturalisation or registration, and it was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact.

In the second and third scenarios, a person may be deprived of their British citizenship even if this would leave them stateless. “Conducive to the public good” means depriving in the public interest on the grounds of involvement in terrorism, espionage, serious organised crime, war crimes or unacceptable behaviours.

The power to deprive a naturalised person of their citizenship status and leave them vulnerable to statelessness due to “seriously prejudicial” conduct derives from section 66 of the Immigration Act 2014, which came into effect on 28 July 2014. Some commentators have questioned how this controversial power will be applied, and whether it undermines the UK’s international obligations.

The Home Secretary also has powers to issue, withdraw and refuse to issue British passports under the Royal Prerogative (an executive power which does not require legislation).

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill of 2014-15 seeks to strengthen powers to seize passports and exclude British nationals from the UK (without extending citizenship deprivation powers).

Commons Briefing papers SN06820

Author: Melanie Gower

Topics: Nationality, Terrorism

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