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British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Act 2024 to make it easier for Irish citizens to become British

The British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Act 2024 was one of the final pieces of legislation passed by the government before dissolution and when brought into force it will provide an entitlement to registration as a British citizen to Irish citizens who meet the requirements. The Act is a short one, which inserts a new section into the British Nationality Act 1981:

4AA Acquisition by registration: Irish citizens
(1) An Irish citizen is entitled to be registered as a British citizen if—
(a) an application for their registration is made under this section, and
(b) they satisfy the requirements specified in subsection (2).
(2) The requirements are that—
(a) the person was in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the period of five years ending with the date of their application;
(b) the person was absent from the United Kingdom for—
(i) no more than 450 days in the period of five years ending with the date of their application, and
(ii) no more than 90 days in the period of 12 months ending with the date of their application; and
(c) the person was not in the United Kingdom in breach of the immigration laws at any time in the period of five years ending with the date of their application.
(3) If in the special circumstances of a particular case the Secretary of State thinks fit, the Secretary of State may treat the person as satisfying a requirement specified in subsection (2), even if they did not in fact satisfy the requirement.
(4) This section is subject to sections 31, 32 and 36 of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 (restriction of eligibility for citizenship etc).

Section 41A(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 will also be amended to add the good character requirement to these applications. As this is a registration application and not naturalisation, there is no requirement for the Life in the UK test to be passed or need to evidence English language.

The Act did not come into force on Royal Assent. Provision is made at section 2(3) of the Act for regulations to be made by the Home Secretary to bring it in at a later date. Two important, currently unknown elements are therefore when these changes will actually be made and what the cost of the application will be. Both issues were raised as concerns in the House of Lords.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.


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