Losing British Citizenship Because of Deception
Losing British citizenship is easier than you might think. The tale of J v SSHD (DC/50033/2020 – LD/00077/2022) shows how a mistake can haunt your future dealings with the Home Office. Our immigration solicitors know the case of J v SSHD well as they, and barrister Tomor Bahja, successfully represented J on his appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision to deprive J of his British citizenship.
In this article, our immigration solicitors take a look at what you can do if you are facing losing your British citizenship.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Lawyers and British Citizenship Solicitors
Materiality of deception
The materiality of deception in deprivation appeals was what the case of J v SSHD (DC/50033/2020 – LD/00077/2022) was all about.
J was an Albanian national who came to the UK illegally in 1999 and was granted British citizenship in 2007. In 2020 the Secretary of State deprived J of his British nationality because of deception on the part of J. He appealed and won his case.
The key takeout of the appeal is that any deception that leads to a decision to deprive a person of British citizenship must be material to the settlement application. In other words, there needs to be a link between the deception and the application to which it relates. In J’s case, there was no link so his appeal succeeded.
Deception is in the news
At present, there are lots of news pieces about Albanian nationals crossing the English Channel and claiming asylum by taking on a new identity and nationality. Back in 1999, J entered the UK illegally and claimed asylum on the basis that he was from Kosovo. He maintained the story during subsequent Home Office interviews. J’s claims were intended to deceive the Home Office officials to get UK asylum as he knew he would not succeed or be entitled to asylum if he told the truth; J was born and brought up in Albania.
Despite the initial deception and refusal of his asylum claim, J went on to secure:
- Exceptional leave to remain
- Indefinite leave to remain
- British citizenship
When the Secretary of State decided to deprive J of his British citizenship because of his 1999 deception J came to Hans Sok Appadu, a British citizenship lawyer at OTS Solicitors for help in appealing the decision. J won his appeal and remains a British citizen.
A sorry tale
What can only be described as confusion and chaos at the Home Office led to J defeating the Secretary of State and retaining his British citizenship.
The team of British citizenship solicitors at OTS helped highlight the inadequacies, delay, and maladministration that had led to J entering the UK illegally in 1999 and securing British citizenship in 2007, with it not being until 2020 that the Secretary of State decided to deprive J of his British citizenship because of his historical deception.
The obvious question is how did J get exceptional leave to remain, indefinite leave to remain, and then British citizenship as surely all those applications should have been refused, rather than wait 20 years and then deprive J of British citizenship that the Home Office had years earlier granted him.
The Home Office problems started when the social services department of the local authority in which J was living at the time contacted them about J’s immigration status. The local authority was told in a letter from the Home Office that although J’s asylum claim was rejected, he had been given exceptional leave to remain until 2004. That information was wrong but J was told and relied on the information. When the Home Office tried to say J did not have leave to remain because a Home Office official had made an error, the adjudicator found that J had a legitimate expectation that he had leave to remain until 2004.
Roll on to 2004, and the Home Office had not learned from its earlier errors. If anything, the chaos was increasing. Despite the earlier adjudication, J had not been sent official confirmation that he had exceptional leave to remain but he applied for indefinite leave to remain so that he could stay in the UK beyond 2004.
2 long years passed without J’s application for indefinite leave to remain being decided by the Home Office. A complaint was made to draw matters to a head. J was given indefinite leave to remain primarily because of the delays and confusion in the Home Office’s handling of his case.
J did not want to leave it at that. He wanted to become a British citizen so made a naturalisation application. It was successful and J thought that was the end of his tussles with the Home Office. Fast forward to 2020 and J was told that the[i] Secretary of State had deprived him of his British citizenship. His only option was to appeal the deprivation order.
The law on deprivation of British citizenship
Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 gives the Secretary of State power to deprive an individual of British citizenship if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is either:
- Conducive to the public good or
- British citizenship was obtained by fraud, false representation, or concealment of a material fact.
In J’s case, the deprivation was based on J’s dishonesty but the nationality guidance says concealment must have a bearing on the British citizenship application. What J did was wrong when he entered the UK illegally but the Home Office had known about his actions when granting him exceptional leave to remain and then indefinite leave to remain.
There is established case law ( by the name of Sleiman) that deception has to be directly material to the British citizenship application.
Even if the deception is assessed to be directly material, there is a further ‘escape route’ as the Secretary of State has to follow guidance on how to exercise discretion. The Nationality Guidance says it is necessary to weigh up whether the deprivation of British citizenship is a balanced and reasonable step taking into account the seriousness of the fraud, misrepresentation, or concealment, the level of evidence, and the information available to the Home Office at the time of considering the application.
The Guidance goes on to say that evidence that was before the Secretary of State at the time of the application but was disregarded or mishandled should not generally be used to deprive an individual of British citizenship unless it is in the public interest to remove citizenship.
The deprivation appeal process
J appealed against the decision to deprive him of British citizenship. Whilst J had been dishonest and deceptive in the past, it was important to draw the line under that by showing that despite his earlier behaviour J had got exceptional leave to remain followed by indefinite leave to remain.
British citizenship solicitors understood that their best chance of J winning his appeal rested on showing that the Home Office file on J recorded that Home Office officials were not deceived at the time of J’s British citizenship application.
British citizenship solicitor, Hans Sok Appadu, made a subject access request for information on J under the Data Protection Act 2018. The Home Office file helped J win his case as it revealed that J had been granted indefinite leave to remain in 2006 because of the delay and mishandling of his case by the Home Office over 6 years and the deception was not material to either his indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship applications.
Using the law
J’s case shows that your British citizenship solicitor does not just need to know about UK immigration law. They also need to have a working knowledge of data protection and your rights to get the evidence you need to win your appeal.
UK Online and London Based Immigration and British Citizenship Solicitors