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Evidence in nationality matters

As with any immigration matter, when making a nationality application or claim it is of course necessary to provide relevant evidence to corroborate and support the application or claim being made. Whilst the evidence that may be required will inevitably vary from case to case, the following provides some general guidance that may assist.

Original Documents

Wherever possible original documents should be provided. Relevant application forms and associated guidance notes consistently refer to the need for original documents to be sent, rather than copies. The Home Office will rarely accept copies of documents.

Replacement Documents

Where the original documents are not available for any reason, replacement documents may be obtained from the relevant authorities. For example, if a UK birth or marriage certificate has been misplaced it is usually possible to obtain a new one from the relevant Register Office, for a fee.

Copy Documents

If an original document cannot be included with the application, for example the passport of a family member who requires the passport, it may be possible to provide a copy. Wherever possible this should be a certified copy (where a relevant professional certifies that they have seen the original document and the copy is a true copy of that document as seen by them) and accompanied by an explanation as to the reason the original document is not available.

Sufficient Documents

As a minimum, it is necessary to provide sufficient documents to confirm that the directly relevant facts took place at the relevant time(s). The directly relevant facts vary significantly according to the type of application being made, but by way of example may be as simple as the fact and date of birth if claiming to be a British citizen on the basis of birth in the UK on a date before 1 January 1983.

By contrast, if claiming to be a British citizen by birth in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 it is also necessary to demonstrate that at least one parent was a British citizen or settled in the UK at the time of birth. Whilst a current British passport should be sufficient to confirm that the relevant parent is a British citizen (and has been at least since the passport was issued), it may not be sufficient to confirm that they were a British citizen at the date of birth of their child. Additional evidence (such as a UK birth certificate, or a Certificate of Naturalisation or Registration) is likely to be needed.

Some published policies indicate that the Home Office may not need to ask to see some documents if Home Office papers clearly indicate that the UK Immigration authorities have already seen them (one such example is an adoption order in relation to an application for registration of a child); however in most cases those documents should still be provided – not least because at the date of application the applicant may not be aware whether the Home Office records are sufficiently clear.

Additional Documents

Although not strictly necessary, it can be very helpful to provide additional documentary evidence regarding the background to the application, beyond the directly relevant facts. There are several reasons for this, the relevance (and therefore implications) of which will vary on the facts of each individual case; however this can be particularly relevant in relation to the new applications for registration as a British citizen that can be made on the basis that a person would have become a British citizen had British nationality law been different in the past. Home Office policies clearly indicate that in these cases broader evidence than would strictly be required is expected in order to prevent against fraud.

Genuine documents

It should go without saying that all documents provided with an application should be genuine; however for the avoidance of doubt some of the reasons for this include:

  1. Submission of fraudulent documents is likely to be a criminal offence;
  2. A nationality status obtained on the basis of fraudulent documents may be a nullity (i.e. never obtained in the first place);
  3. If not a nullity, a nationality status obtained on the basis of fraudulent documents may be revoked.

Do not destroy or misplace documents

Whilst a nationality status, once granted, should be secure this is not always the case. HM Passport Office can (and do) refuse to issue a new passport where British passports have been issued without difficulty in the past where they are concerned the facts relied on are not made out. Being able to provide the original documents at a later date can provide peace of mind and may help to prevent, or limit, potentially lengthy and costly litigation.

Even where the original documents are retained difficulties can still arise – particularly if seeking to rely on a document that the Home Office had no power to issue. By way of example, in the case of Akinfolarin v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2016] EWHC 2101 (Admin) the High Court ruled that Secretary Home Office had (and has) no power to confer the right of abode. The right may only be granted (i.e. recognised) if the relevant statutory criteria are met. If they are not met then the individual does not have the right of abode in the UK – even if the individual has previously been issued with a certificate by the Home Office purporting to state otherwise.

Mr Akinfolarin claimed to have been born in the UK in 1968 and provided a birth certificate in his name support of that claim. On this basis he would be a British citizen and a certificate of the right of abode had been added to his Nigerian passport. No questions appear to have been raised with regard to the birth certificate itself, either at the time or later; however the certificate of entitlement was subsequently revoked on the grounds that Mr Akinfolarin was not entitled to use the birth certificate. The Home Office relied on the registration, in 1975, of the death of a person in the same name, and with the same date of birth, as stated on the birth certificate. In the absence of any evidence from those responsible for reporting the death to undermine the correctness of the registration, the decision to revoke the right of abode certificate was upheld. The High Court specifically found that in this case the right of abode had not been revoked as in effect it did not exist in the first place.

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