What it is to be British

What it is to be British | Expatriate Life | OurGlobetrotters.Ne

What does it take to be British?

Well apparently a lot more than your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your uncles and your grandparents being British.

I am a dual citizen. I have an Australian and a British passport, but I was not born in either of these countries. I am an expat kid.

I was born to British expats in the 70’s. At this time a child didn’t need their own passport, your name was simply added to your mothers, no application for citizenship was required; I was a Brit born to a Brit.  Several years later my parents permanently immigrated to Australia, our adopted home. My brothers and I were naturalised, I was granted an Australian passport and for the next 20 years this was my home.

I felt the need to explore the world and my roots so in my 20’s I took the road well travelled by many an Aussie and moved to London for a year, on a British passport as I am entitled to do so through my birth rights as a British Citizen.

What it is to be British | Expatriate Life | OurGlobetrotters.NetHere I met my wonderful Australian husband and had our first two beautiful children (and stayed seven years longer than my original plan…). As a dual citizen I was able to pass my citizenship to my children in a relatively seamless processes through both the Australian Embassy in London and the Home Office in the UK. My husband having worked and lived in the UK for many years was granted his permanent residency then citizenship as well.

A new expat family

An unexpected twist in our story now sees us living as expats in the UAE and young Master J joined our clan, born here in Abu Dhabi last year.  The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs have had no problem acknowledging him as there’s and it took less than a month to issue his Australian citizenship certificate and a passport.

It appears, however, we are now in a stand off with the British Home Office to have him recognised as British. First we had to deal with lengthy delays as the Home Office restructured its process for dealing with foreign nationals, then we were sent a letter basically saying, “Sorry, your just not British enough for us”.

It is nearly his first birthday and we’ve almost exhausted all avenues.  The last correspond from HM Passport Office tells us, “you may want to consult with the UAE authorities to see whether gaining British Citizenship would have any effect on J’s citizenship of the UAE”.

It is near on impossible for “foreigners” to get UAE citizenship.   If you marry a national, you can obtain your citizenship after 10 years if you can prove your relationship is legitimate.  Children of an Emirati man married to a foreigner are also entitled to citizenship of the UAE but they must not be dual citizens (this has been extended to Emirati women now as well).  Expatriate workers must be on a working visa or a residency visa but cannot gain “permanent residency”.

At least somebody wants him

So thankfully Master J has dual nationality so he has been claimed by someone, the situation could have been a lot worse. If our children want their children to be recognised as Australian, they must live in Australia for a minimum of 2 years before their children are born; if they want their children to be British they need to be born in the UK.

Our expat story is a little complex but there are many with far more twists and turns than ours.

On Master J’s behalf, I’m officially declaring this sucks.  How is a child supposed to find belonging in the world when neither their home or host country choose to recognise them?  Is it right to reject him purely because my mother was outside of the UK when I was born and then I had the audacity to push him into this world in a foreign country too? (Into the capable hands of a British midwife may I add).

We are trying one last ditched attempt of applying through the British consulate in Dubai to have a duplicate birth certificate issued, then reapplying to the Home Office Nationality Enquiry Team, but at this point it just feels like one big #effitfriday.

Anyone else caught in citizenship no-mans land? Have you successfully appealed for birth rights or had to rescind a citizenship to gain another?

Seychelles Mama
Life with Baby Kicks

***Update: Master J was eventually issued his British Birth Certificate. In July 2015 we reapplied for his British Passport via my husband with his naturalised Citizenship, leaving my details off the application and we were successful – I mean why would you want a British born citizen who lived and worked in the UK for nearly 10 years, contributing to the economy, purchasing property and generally being a model Brit ruining the process***

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  • This sounds so insanely difficult, and unnecessarily so! We have stuck our heads in the sand when it comes to M’s citizenship and gone for the one that was the easiest: Belgian. Which is what I am. But it’s such a tiny part of his story: he was born in Italy, while his dad is a Brazilian who obtained British citizenship after moving to the UK as a child. If we are to go for any other nationality for M it’d be British, I think, but the impenetrability of the UK authorities & paperwork when we got married has so far put us off. Ditto for Brazil – they won’t even recognise our marriage! My husband isn’t fussed about any of this, but I sometimes feel like I’m failing to allow M to piece his whole story together. I really hope you succeed in getting your little boy’s paperwork sorted.

    • Goodness Elaine, what a web for you! Yes red tape certainly makes it difficult to help our children put their story together – I think it helps to take whatever citizenships and birth rights you are entitled to as you never know when rules will change and I certainly want to leave all options open to our children for when they are ready to identify. I guess it’s our job as parents to make sure they are exposed to all parts of their heritage when they’re young, then they can choose what parts they take into their adult lives – whether government departments recognise them or not!

  • I feel your pain, eventhough our battle wasn’t as tough as yours! We had to wait months before Baby Z got his British passport, and seriously, how do the british consulate not know that getting a UAE citizenship is basically impossible for expats?! Urgh all the paperwork hurts my brain, and I’m so glad its over… For now! #myexpatfamily

  • Hi Keri, I had a friend go through this exact situation for her son, She was a Brit but born in SAfrica. Her husband was South African and her son was born in South Africa. She did manage to get her son a British passport in the end – had to send a ridiculous amount of paperwork to ‘prove’ she was british including school reports! She lives in Dubai at the moment so I can connect you if it might help? Sophie (Ida&Ernest)

  • What a nightmare this is! I would never have guessed Britain would be so strict in giving out citizenship especially when both you and your husband have British passports and his siblings!?
    I will keep my fingers crossed that your last ditch attempt will work out for Master J!!! If not will he ‘just’ have Australian citizenship?
    We would really love for Arthur to have dual citizenship British and Seychellois, as he was born here I just think it would be nice for him to feel really connected to his place of birth. However he is not automatically entitled to it, it’s something we are looking into for him but it’s going to cost big £££
    Thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily lovely x

  • It is crazy isn’t it?! I hate to break it to you but I’m not sure he’s going to get a British passport. I went through the same sort of thing – I was living in HK…I was born British and got my passport through my dad. When I was pregnant, I looked into my son getting a British passport and they said as I was British by descent and wasn’t born in the UK, I couldn’t pass it to him. Its crazy because friends in HK who got their British passports in 2001 could pass it on to their kids born in Hong Kong. What it comes down to is…are you British by descent or by choice?? If it’s by choice (naturalised) then it doesn’t matter if you’ve only had it 1 year…you can pass it on.
    Good luck!! xx

    • Oh no!! Crazy rules but yes true, a ‘brand new’ British citizen has more chance than I do! From now on I am letting my husband do the applying – who was only naturalised in 2012! Someone else told us he had more chance as a ‘first generation Brit’ rather than descent.

      • It’s crazy but I’m still glad to be born by descent because that citizenship test they have to take (those being naturalised) is no joke!!

  • Wow that really is an #effitfriday rant and what a pain!

    Is this the whole British subject vs British citizen type thing?

    Fingers crossed you can get it sorted, we had to send birth certificates and marriage certificates going back!

  • That’s crazy! I really feel for you. Although I was born in Cuba, I was lucky enough to be born to British diplomats so my nationality was registered at the British Embassy and British and I have never had a problem. I wish you well and hope you do indeed find someone with common sense….

  • What a mess! Best of luck to you with the Home Office. Here’s hoping that the one sensible person there finds his/her way to you and gets things sorted.

    Make it a great day!

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