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Right of abode (United Kingdom): Wikis


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British & Commonwealth
Flag of the United Kingdom.svgFlag of the Commonwealth of Nations.svg
Commonwealth nationality laws

British (history)
Canadian (history)
New Zealand
South African
Irish citizens in the UK

Classes of citizens and subjects

British citizen
British subject
British Overseas Territories citizen
British Overseas citizen
British National (Overseas)
British protected person
Commonwealth citizen

Rights and visas

Right of abode
Indefinite leave to remain
Permanent resident (Australia)
Permanent resident (Canada)
New Zealand permanent residency
Belonger status
UK Ancestry Entry Clearance


Ireland Act 1949
British Nationality Act 1981
Falkland Islands (1983)
Overseas Territories Act 2002
Canadian Citizenship Act 1946

Right of abode is a status under United Kingdom immigration laws that gives an unrestricted right to live in the United Kingdom. It was introduced by the Immigration Act 1971.


British citizens

All British citizens have the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

Commonwealth citizens and British subjects

Additionally, right of abode is also conferred on Commonwealth citizens and British subjects who:

  • were born before 1983 with a UK-born mother (those born before 1983 and legitimately descended from a UK-born father are British citizens, whether or not they are Commonwealth citizens/British subjects); or
  • were adopted before 1983 by a UK-born mother; or
  • were married before 1983 to a man who had right of abode (therefore this particular provision applies to women only).

For this purpose, the UK includes the Republic of Ireland prior to 1 April 1922.

No person born in 1983 or later can have the right of abode unless he or she is a British citizen.

It is essential that the person concerned should have held Commonwealth citizenship or British subject status on 31 December 1982 and has not ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen (even temporarily) after that date.


Citizens of South Africa and Pakistan

For this reason, citizens of South Africa and Pakistan are generally not entitled to right of abode as these countries were not Commonwealth members on 1 January 1983. Citizens of Zimbabwe were still considered Commonwealth citizens (for nationality purposes) after that country's withdrawal from the Commonwealth because the UK did not amend Schedule 3 to the British Nationality Act 1981.

Privileges of the right of abode

If a non-British citizen has the right of abode, this is evidenced by a stamp in the holder's passport, and it confers the following rights:

  • an unconditional right to live, work and study in the United Kingdom
  • an entitlement to use the British/EEA immigration channel at United Kingdom ports of entry
  • an entitlement to apply for United Kingdom social security and welfare benefits
  • a right to vote and to stand for public office in the United Kingdom (since everyone with right of abode is a Commonwealth citizen, who has these rights if living in the United Kingdom)

In addition, those with right of abode may apply for British citizenship by naturalisation after meeting the normal residence and other requirements. Children born in the United Kingdom to those with right of abode will normally be British citizens by birth automatically.

Other United Kingdom immigration concessions

United Kingdom immigration laws allow settlement to other categories of persons; however, although similar in practice these do not constitute a formal right of abode and the full privileges of the right of abode are not necessarily available:

Irish Citizens and the Common Travel Area

Because of the Common Travel Area provisions between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, Irish citizens have a de-facto right of abode in the United Kingdom. However, with the exception of those Irish persons born before 1949 who have reclaimed British subject status, the entitlement to reside in the United Kingdom is not unconditional, and Irish citizens (who are not also British citizens) are subject to removal and deportation from the UK.

EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK

In the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2000, the United Kingdom declared that most citizens of EEA member states and their family members should be treated as having only a conditional right to reside in the UK. This has implications should such a person wish to remain permanently in the United Kingdom after ceasing employment, claim social assistance, apply for naturalisation or acquire British citizenship for a UK-born child.

Those EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who will be treated as permanent residents of the UK include:

  • certain persons who have retired from employment or self-employment in the UK and their family members
  • those who have been granted permanent residence status
  • Irish citizens (because of the Common Travel Area provisions)

These persons remain liable to deportation on public security grounds.

Indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain is a form of UK permanent residence that can be held by non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, but it does not confer a right of abode.

British Overseas Territories

All British overseas territories operate their own immigration controls, which apply to British citizens as well as to those from other countries. These territories generally have local immigration laws regulating who has belonger status in that territory.

See also



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