Jus Soli, Jus Sanguinis

My oldest son returned home from university yesterday. During the drive back, he asked me about nationality. Specifically: is the son of a father’s son a national of the country where the grandfather was born but neither the father, nor the father’s son was born?

I had to think about that question.

Generally, nationality is established at birth by a child’s place of birth (jus soli) and/or bloodline (jus sanguinis). Nationality may also be acquired later in life through naturalization.

Jus sanguinis, latin for “right of blood”, is a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born to a parent who is a national or citizen of that state. The rules vary widely amongst different countries. But this example should help.

My father was born in England. He was a British citizen. According to the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 British subject status was acquired as follows:

  • Birth within His Majesty’s dominions
  • Naturalisation in the United Kingdom or a part of His Majesty’s dominions which had adopted Imperial naturalisation criteria
  • Descent through the legitimate male line (child born outside the His Majesty’s dominions to a British subject father). This was limited to one generation although further legislation in 1922 allowed subsequent generations born overseas to be registered as British subjects within one year of birth.
  • Foreign women who married British subject men
  • Former British subjects who had lost British subject status on marriage or through a parent’s loss of status could resume it in specific circumstances (e.g. if a woman became widowed, or children immediately upon turning 21)

I can apply for British citizenship based on this act. My son cannot. Although a quick read of the Act suggests that he could have been established as a British citizen had we applied within one year of his birth.

However, Commonwealth nationals, such as a Canadian, can enter the United Kingdom on an ancestry visa for up to five years. An ancestry visa is available if a grandparent was born in the United Kingdom.

Regardless, under United Kingdom law, Canadians are Commonwealth citizens and are entitled to certain rights in the United Kingdom:

  • Access to the UK working holiday visa
  • For those with a United Kingdom born grandparent, access to the UK Ancestry Entry Clearance
  • For those born before 1983 who meet the requirements, Right of Abode in the United Kingdom
  • The right to vote and stand for public office in the UK

The question does not have an easy answer. In my case, my son could not secure the Right of Abode. He was born after 1983. However, he could easily enter the United Kingdom and secure naturalization while he was in the United Kingdom.

Let’s not talk about other countries. I’m still trying to figure out my new nationality status as a Quebec-born Canadian of a British citizen.

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