The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 (the Act) introduced a new discretionary route allowing adults to register as British Citizens. The new provision came into force on the 28th June 2022.

Section 4L Acquisition by registration: special circumstances provides three new instances where the Secretary of State would consider granting nationality to an adult.

The discretionary route states that an adult can be registered if they would have been, or would have been able to become, a British citizen but for the following:

  • historical legislative unfairness
  • an act or omission by a public authority, or
  • exceptional circumstances relating to the applicant

Historical legislative unfairness – 4L (I) (a)

Historical legislative unfairness is defined in the Act to include situations where previous legislation may have treated men and women differently or treated children differently on the basis of the marital status of their parents. In the past other parts of nationality legislation have been overhauled such as the British Nationality Act 1981, which sought to correct historical discrimination in a piecemeal manner.

Section 4L and the relevant Home Office guidance focuses on remedying historical unfairness in protected characteristics such as gender. However, the provisions under ‘historical legislative unfairness’ do not appear to preclude other types of unfairness to be plead.

Act or omission by a public authority – 4L (I) (b)

This provision allows for registration by an adult where the applicant missed out on being or becoming a British citizen because of an act or omission of a ‘public authority’. The most common example in practice relates to local authorities who have failed to apply to register children under their care as British where they were eligible to do so.

Exceptional circumstances – 4L (I) (c)

The final subsection allows for registration in ‘exceptional circumstances’. There must be a link between the exceptional circumstances and the applicant’s inability to become a British Citizen. The guidance clearly states that this provision cannot be used as a last resort if you fail to meet other requirements.

The threshold for ‘exceptional circumstances’ under this provision is high, examples referred to in the guidance include:

  • A parental child abduction case which prevented a person from becoming a British citizen.
  • Children who were formally adopted after the age of 18 but their adoption proceedings began when they were under 18.

Applying for nationality under Section 4L

All new applications under this route should be made on form ARD. Prospective applicants who consider that they may be able to acquire nationality under this route should seek legal advice to assess their eligibility.

If you require advice in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our immigration department.

Branch Austin McCormick LLP
32 St James’s Street