Under UK law a foreign national who acquires British citizenship does not have to renounce their original nationality and may, therefore, hold dual nationality. However, some countries do not recognise dual nationality and may require their citizens to give up their nationality if they acquire British citizenship or may simply fail to recognise that British nationality has been acquired.Anyone who is considering having dual nationality should check what the rules are in their own country before taking steps to acquire British nationality. Amongst the countries which currently do not allow citizens to hold dual nationality are India, and many Middle Eastern and African states.
British Citizens and British Subjects Acquiring a Second Nationality
British citizens who acquire the nationality of another country are not required to give up their British citizenship when they acquire the nationality of a second country. However, some countries may require that person to give up their British nationality before they can become citizens of another country.
The situation is different for British subjects and British protected persons. They will lose their status if they become nationals of another country. However, British subjects who have that status due to a connection with the Republic of Ireland will not necessarily lose their status if they acquire another nationality.
Dual Nationals Abroad and British Consular Services
Generally speaking British citizens are entitled to receive British consular assistance if they have difficulties while they are abroad. Consular assistance may be needed for a number of reasons. British citizens could need help settling into a new country of residence, become sick, have an accident, be the victim of a crime or they may commit or be accused of a crime themselves. In these circumstances the British Embassy or Consulate may take the appropriate action to ensure the wellbeing of the British citizen.
Under international law a person with dual nationality will not be entitled to British consulate assistance when abroad if they are in the country of their original nationality.
People travelling to the country of their original nationality who lost that nationality when they became a British citizen are technically entitled to British consular assistance in that country. They may apply to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for a letter confirming that they will be given consular assistance in the country of their original nationality. In order to obtain such a letter they will have to send to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office formal written confirmation that they lost their nationality, the documents under which they acquired British citizenship and their British passport.
Renouncing British Citizenship
British citizens, British subjects, British Nationals (Overseas) or British protected persons who wish to renounce their British nationality or status may do so. In order to renounce British nationality citizens must be able to show that they either have a second nationality or that they will get a second nationality upon renouncing their British citizenship. In addition they must be either 18 years or age, or under 18 but married, and of “sound mind”. Citizens who are not “of sound mind” or lack the mental capacity to make important decisions about their welfare may still be able to renounce their British citizenship if it can be shown that it is in their best interests to do so.
To renounce British nationality a declaration of renunciation must be completed using form RN1 for British citizens. British nationality will be deemed renounced on the date on which the declaration of renunciation is registered. If the person renouncing their British citizenship does not in fact acquire a new nationality within six months of the declaration the renunciation has no effect and they will retain their British nationality.