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21 February 2022

The right of abode and Commonwealth citizens: what you need to know

If you are a Commonwealth citizen and want to live in the UK, you may already have the right to live here.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
The right of abode and Commonwealth citizens: what you need to know

What is the right of abode?

The right of abode is a type of UK immigration status. It means that you do not require the same permissions most migrants do when they enter the UK. It is granted to certain individuals who have natural links to the UK. 

This blog focuses on how the right of abode affects Commonwealth citizens. We also have a blog with more general information on what you should know about the right of abode.

How does it work?

As well as British citizens, some individuals in the Commonwealth also have the right of abode in the UK. Having the right as a Commonwealth citizen is dependent on when and where in the Commonwealth you live/lived. 

The right gives you similar rights to Indefinite Leave to Remain, which you can find out more about on British citizenship application blog.

Right of abode for Commonwealth citizens

Individuals from Commonwealth countries who are not British citizens have the right of abode in the UK if they:

  • Prove they had the status before the end of 1982
  • Have not stopped being Commonwealth citizens since 1982

To have qualified before 1982, Commonwealth citizens must have either:

  • Been a Commonwealth citizen with a parent or adoptive parent who was a Citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) and was also born in the UK
  • Been a female Commonwealth citizen who was, or had been, married to a man who had the right of abode before 1983

Individuals who had the right of abode in 1983 automatically became British citizens under the Nationality Act 1981, and therefore have the right of abode today. 

Do any Commonwealth countries not have the right to abode?

Though many Commonwealth citizens have the right of abode in the UK, not all Commonwealth countries are able to offer the status to their citizens. For example, if a Commonwealth country left the Commonwealth after 1982, then its citizens will not have the right. This is the case with Pakistan and South Africa, who both left the Commonwealth before rejoining it years later. The act of rejoining did not grant their nationals the right of abode in the UK.

Since the introduction of the Nationality Act in 1983, the only way to acquire the right of abode in the UK is by becoming a British citizen. If you do not qualify, you may be able to apply for an Ancestry Visa instead.

How do you prove you have the right to abode?

If you are a British citizen with a British passport, then your passport is all the evidence you need. There are also two other acceptable forms of proof:

  • A UK passport describing you as a ‘British subject’ with the right to abode in the UK
  • A certificate of entitlement (an additional document on your passport) that states your right of abode

To find out more about Certificates of Entitlement and how to get them, read our
general right to abode blog.

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