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Was Shane Ridge a British citizen or not?

Was Shane Ridge a British citizen or not?

  • 16/10/2017
  • Answered by Red Square London’s Immigration Specialist, Oliver Westmoreland – Ответил наш Специалист по Иммиграционным Вопросам, Оливер Вестморлэнд
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IMMIGRATION BLOG

Was Shane Ridge a British citizen or not?

16 October 2017

In the media recently was the story of Shane Ridge, a 21-year-old Englishman. Or so he thought, but was he really?union jack

Mr Ridge had never doubted that he was a British citizen – “British as they come”, as he put it. He had been born and bred in the UK and he lived in Colne in Lancashire, doing the sort of things that British people do (some of them, anyway), like working and paying taxes and voting in elections. His mother had been born in Australia – whilst her parents were there on holiday – and held Australian nationality, but both her parents were British. And Mr Ridge’s father was also British.

So there was no obvious reason for he himself to doubt that he was British. But when he applied for a British passport the application was refused, and after that things became difficult.

He subsequently received a letter from the Home Office telling him that, as he was not a British citizen, he did not hold immigration status in the UK and that therefore he had to leave. In such a situation he would have been able to go to Australia (because he held Australian citizenship, due to his mother’s background) but of course, being born and bred in the UK and with a settled life here, that did not seem a really good option.

The root of the problem seems to have been that his parents had not been married when he was born. Under old legislation an illegitimate child could not acquire nationality status from their father. He fell foul of this rule, and it was apparently not clear to the Home Office that his mother’s status was such as to confer British nationality on him either.

The laws about British nationality are in some areas very complex, and somebody who feels that they surely must be British may not really be so if they fall in between any of the interstices of the legislation. This complexity comes about because of Britain’s extensive colonial history. The British may have created the largest empire the world has ever seen, but they have also created probably the largest body of nationality legislation the world has ever seen.

Anyway, things certainly got rather complicated in Mr Ridge’s case. The law says that, although he was born illegitimate, he would be able to rely on his mother’s status, if she was deemed to be either British or “settled in the United Kingdom” at the time he was born.

From what Mr Ridge says it seems that she did indeed hold British citizenship or acquire it at some point (ie dual Australian/British citizenship). As both her parents were British it seems very possible that, although she was born outside the UK, she automatically acquired British citizenship at birth.

This point was not clearly resolved in the media reports but, in any event, fortunately for Mr Ridge the Home Office came to the conclusion that it had in any case made a mistake, and the relevant wording of the Home Office explanation was: “The Home Office has now established that Mr Ridge is automatically a British citizen … … we did not identify that his maternal grandmother was British and that, as a result, his mother had settled status in the UK at the birth of his birth.”

The Home Office does not seem to necessarily accept that his mother was British at the time he was born, but that nonetheless she had the “right of abode” in the UK at that time. (Right of abode is something quite like British citizenship – ie it allows you to come to and go from the UK without restriction – but it does not confer any form of British nationality.) Having right of abode and being ordinarily resident in the UK – which as far as we know she was – would be sufficient for her to be deemed to be “present and settled in the UK”.

So all’s well that ends well for Mr Ridge, who will no longer have to relocate to Australia.

And, in the meantime, our readers are advised (and see also our blog “Home Office makes ‘unfortunate error’ with the Europeans”, 27 August 2017) that if they receive a letter from the Home Office saying that they have to leave the UK it may not be true!

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