Should I continue with my UK visa application if I might be eligible for citizenship?
August 24, 2010 8:33 AM   Subscribe

What should I do with my visa application if I may be eligible for UK citizenship?

So I'm a US citizen traveling to London in a month to obtain my MA.

I just filed for my Tier 4 student visa, and was about to send off the supporting documents today when I came to the realization that my biological father was born in the UK. I checked the other threads for some answers and noticed I might be eligible for citizenship.

If this is true, should I continue to file for a visa or just shoot for the citizenship?
Are there any benefits of being a citizen or subject that might come in handy for tuition or employment?
If I don't have to apply for a student visa, can I get the application fee back?

Thanks everyone!
posted by _superconductor to Law & Government (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Keep going with the visa. Passport applications will take you more than a month, and you need something to get into the country with. Visa fees are not refundable.

Benefits of being a citizen? You can work! You can live here forever if you like! You do not get any discount on tuition until you've been in the UK or EU as a resident for three years however.

Note that if your father is from the UK you are ALREADY a citizen. The passport is just evidence of that.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:38 AM on August 24, 2010

Yeah, if the UK is anything like the US is about this, you need a visa if you plan to travel there in the next six months or so.

In any case, call your nearest consulate. A quick look at the UK Border Agency website makes this all sound awfully complicated. If you are younger than 27, especially.
posted by SMPA at 8:48 AM on August 24, 2010

"Are there any benefits of being a citizen or subject that might come in handy for tuition or employment? "

Yes, pretty much all jobs require that you're "eligible to work in the UK" and I'm not sure that's the case if you're on a student visa. (Maybe it is, you'd know better than I do.) But it's also probably something you can get the paperwork done for after you move.
posted by easternblot at 9:07 AM on August 24, 2010

You can live here forever if you like!

Indeed. Not just in the UK, but anywhere in the EU. It will take awhile, though... don't quit your visa application.
posted by zvs at 9:08 AM on August 24, 2010

You are eligible for British citizenship, but it's not automatic - you must apply (I did this through the same familial connection as you). It won't mean anything for tuition as you must have been resident in the UK for three consecutive years to qualify for home fees. You can, however, work anywhere in the EU with a British passport, so worth having! Continue with your visa application and begin the process for your citizenship as soon as you arrive in the UK.
posted by meerkatty at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2010

Double-check that your father is actually a UK citizen. Simply being born in the country is not sufficient in and of itself; his parents must have been "settled" in the UK.

Also, you may not be directly eligible for citizenship yourself but, assuming your father's citizenship, you would then be eligible for a Certificate of Right of Abode. That goes into your US passport and gives you all the rights of a UK citizen as far as the UK is concerned (but no rights with respect to the EU).
posted by joeycoleman at 11:37 AM on August 24, 2010

Everyone above has pointed out that it will take longer than a month to get UK citizenship, and I'll reiterate that, from experience, the whole process of getting from initial application to UK passport will take several months.

So continue with your student visa application.

But there are benefits to having dual nationality (indefinite rights to live and work throughout the EU for the rest of your life), so I'd definitely explore your options once you're over here.

Check to ensure that you are actually entitled to it (may depend on whether you were born before or after 1983, and whether your father actually has/had british citizenship as opposed to just being born there).

But before you apply, I'd double check the US position on dual citizenship - my understanding is that there is a bit of a double standard - if you take US citizenship you are not required (by the US government) to give up your original citizenship, but if you voluntarily aquire citizenship of another country, the US will consider you to no longer be a US citizen. Exceptions seem to be those that are involuntary - i.e. by being born in another country. IANAL, let alone an immigration lawyer, but please check this out carefully before you go down this route.

If that's all cool, then look at the following:

1. Figure out what you need to take with you in order to apply (original or notarised copies of birth / marriage certificates etc).

2. Start the process as soon as you arrive. Even after the application is granted, you'll most likely need to attend a citizenship ceremony and only then apply for your passport (which will involve planning as you'll need to send off your current US passport - which will be returned, but will prevent you from travelling outside the UK for a couple of months while the process goes through).
posted by finding.perdita at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2010

p.s. joeycoleman's suggestion of looking into right of abode is another option. This gives you the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely, including the right to go through the EU nationals queue in UK airports, but confers no rights or privileges outside the UK. It will still likely take more than a month to get though, so wait until you get to the UK to apply.
posted by finding.perdita at 12:25 PM on August 24, 2010

if you voluntarily aquire citizenship of another country, the US will consider you to no longer be a US citizen.

Not so. US citizenship is pretty hard to give up, even if you want to do so.

But I agree with everyone's advice about getting the visa sorted first, then looking at the other potential options.
posted by holgate at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even after the application is granted, you'll most likely need to attend a citizenship ceremony and only then apply for your passport

No you won't. If you are meet the criteria of being a citizen by descent, you are a citizen, no tests or ceremonies needed.

I am a citizen by descent. All I had to do was find my father's expired passport, marriage certificate and birth certificate and I now have a UK passport.
posted by wingless_angel at 4:31 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: I tried contacting the British consulate but they don't get back to people very quickly it seems.

I think this citizenship process will end up being a lot more complicated than I had thought. In order to obtain the citizenship I have to present a marriage certificate for my mother and father. Although I have his last name, my parents never legally married.

I'm going to wait for the consulate's response, but thanks you all so much for your valuable input, and I filed my visa paperwork yesterday!
posted by _superconductor at 2:33 PM on August 25, 2010

Sorry, then I think you may be SOL. Parents used to have to be married for descent to be legitimate. UKBA will have the definitive word, but here's some advice from Directgov.
posted by wingless_angel at 6:51 AM on August 26, 2010

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