The British Nationality Act 1981 – Renunciation of British Citizenship not possible by a minor

The British Nationality Act 1981 is the counterpart in English law to the Austrian Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz 1985. The two laws need to be viewed in concert when naturalising as an Austrian and in particular with regard to renunciation of British citizenship. When I naturalised with my son, my case officer was unaware of the fact that a minor was unable to renounce their citizenship, so I ended up also having to appeal to the discretion of the Secretary of State to allow a renunciation for my son. When this was refused, the case officer was satisfied that I had tried everything in my power to renounce my son’s citizenship.

Since families are likely to be in a similar position, if they are naturalising with children, and make, like myself have their reasons for wanting their children to also take Austrian citizenship with them (in my case, I argued that in light that my son would have to be resident in the UK in order to ever vote or to be able to pass on his citizenship only held by descent through me, and therefore that his not taking Austrian citizenship with me at the time I applied would cause unnecessary disadvantage to him as he grows up, I therefore had his application added to mine). 

The important parts of the British Nationality Act 1981 to be aware of in this regard (and to furnish to your case officer once you have a Zusicherungsbescheid) are:

Part I: Section 1 (acquisition by birth or adoption) or Section 2 (in the case of the child having been born outside the UK and being British from birth by descent). Section 12 (renunciation) stipulates the conditions under which a person may renounce their British citizenship. In the case of a minor, unable to renounce, it is advisable to check whether Austrian citizenship is granted contingent on the minor reaching majority (e.g. say child A naturalises at 14, and cannot therefore renounce their British citizen by dint of being a minor, but their file for naturalisation remains open until they are an adult (ie. 18 unless already married or in a civil partnership prior to the age of 18)), at which point they then would have to renounce their British citizenship.

Suggestion: ask your case officer about the possibility to sign a declaration that you understand that renunciation from British citizenship is not possible until the age of 18 and that you would request citizenship is awarded (verliehen) contingent on having to renounce British citizenship upon reaching majority.

In the case that your child(ren) is/are substantially below the age of majority, explain that the British Nationality Act 1981 does not allow renunciation by minors, and therefore a lack of intent to renounce cannot be proven to exist, and renunciation is not possible at the child(ren)’s age. Already at the Infotermin or Antragstermin ask the case officer about how long the file is kept open for in the case of a minor unable to renounce. If the duration for holding the file open means that the file is shut before the child(ren) has/have reached adulthood, ask them to confirm whether the child will therefore not be required to renounce citizenship upon reaching the age of 18 (or upon marriage/entry into a civil partnership, where that happens before the age of 18).

In relation to the awarding of Austrian citizenship, Article 20 para. 3 no. 2 StBG is important:

(3) Die Staatsbürgerschaft, deren Verleihung zugesichert wurde, ist zu verleihen, sobald der Fremde

2. nachweist, daß ihm die für das Ausscheiden aus seinem bisherigen Staatsverband erforderlichen Handlungen nicht möglich oder nicht zumutbar waren.

Finishing off the renunciation process

Altes Rathaus, Wipplingerstrasse
Home of the Magistratisches Bezirksamt

At the start of August, I received a note in the letterbox to say that I had a package waiting. I went to the collection point and it turned out to be my returned renunciation documents back from Liverpool. My British citizenship was officially renounced on 24 July 2018, and my son’s application was rejected, as I had suspected would be the case when I wrote the covering letter, being rejected on the simple and categorical grounds of his being a minor as set out in the British Nationality Act of 1981. In addition, in a superfluity of modal verbs the letter advised that I “should return any valid travel documents that I may still have“. With the legal second having been named, I duly filed my British passports in a safe place (since they contain visa information that might be useful for applications for future visas), although they are of course no longer valid for travel. There is sadly no option for having them cancelled and returned. 

I went into MA35 shortly thereafter to deposit this new information with them, but the specialist person I had been advised to see was away. Her colleague took my forms (a copy of the applicant’s RN form stamped as registered is what MA35 required to be able to conclude my process, including the removal of “British” from my nationality on my Melderegisterauszug, so that I was formally only listed as Austrian (this was important for reasons that will only become apparent in another future post). For my son, I deposited the correspondence regarding the rejection of his renunciation, which her colleague would look at upon her return and promptly went to the Altes Rathaus to have my Personalausweis issued.

I had already got my Austrian passport through the post and the ID card arrived a couple of days after ordering it in the same way. I’ve never got the UK’s opposition to ID cards, which seem to simplify a lot of day-to-day tasks – a credit card-sized document which allows me to get a phone contract, sign for a parcel and many other errand-related tasks, and which can even be used within the Schengen area in lieu of a passport, although I intend to still cross borders with my passport.

I haven’t done a Personalausweis for my son yet, due to the fact that doing one of course takes time and at the age of two would only be valid for a couple of years (Personalausweise are available for minors, but are not valid for the full ten years, as with mine, instead usually being for two or five years). I also wanted to wait for the conclusion of his process (to be handled in another post).

The final steps on the road to Austrian citizenship

As this post is published, I will be seeing my case officer to finish off the naturalisation process for me and my young son. My case officer called last Monday and has requested that I come with my British passport, as well as my son’s and my Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts and my son’s Anmeldebescheinigung. We will be required to surrender these documents (since our circumstances have changed and we will no longer be UK citizens) and our Staatsbürgerschaftsnachweise will then be issued, and we can arrange for passports and Personalausweise to be issued, for which we again enlisted the services of Bildermacher on Tuchlauben (they are great with babies and toddlers) to sort us out with a new set of passport photos (once again the photos need to be recent (i.e. under six months old)). In addition, I have to bring just shy of EUR 1,500 to MA35 (in cash, hence why I delayed this post so will not be carrying the cash on me by the time this post goes online) to cover the costs of our naturalisation, in what I hope should be the final Behördenweg (in February 2017, when asked about Austria as a hub for business and what could be the pitfalls of trying to do business here, I mentioned the lengthy Behördenwege. The quote ended up on the national news, coupled with a rebuttal by the then Minister of Finance). Continue reading “The final steps on the road to Austrian citizenship”

iacta ālea est

Last evening I decided to check whether my credit card had been charged for the payments I have to make to UKVI as part of the process of renunciation of British citizenship. One payment appears to have been taken, which would tie in with the mail I received from UKVI with a case number for my renunciation, although does nothing to resolve what has happened to the second case. Continue reading “iacta ālea est”

Update from UKVI on renunciation of British citizenship

Today I received the first form of confirmation of receipt of my renunciation form being under consideration. It is worth adding that the cost of couriering the papers with an overnight courier service may have proven itself to be an unnecessary expense, given that the paperwork was received by UKVI six working days before receiving a response by e-mail, thereby indicating that Registered Delivery from Austria to the UK may be perfectly sufficient in terms of ensuring safe delivery and that it is signed for upon delivery. Continue reading “Update from UKVI on renunciation of British citizenship”