Obviously I was "delighted" to be put on the spot like this, but I explained the Home Secretary does have the power to exclude someone from the UK if she considers their presence is not conducive to the public interest although whether such a power could be extended to a foreign Head of State is another matter. My friend, who isn't an immigration lawyer, then told me I was wrong since President Trump's mother was Scottish he must be British and couldn't be stopped from entering the UK.
This brought to mind my previous article on children born abroad to British parents which explained that it is not always as straightforward as my friend would believe, and President Trump is an ideal example of that.
According to a quick internet search President Trump was born in New York on 14 June 1946 and, as is widely known, his mother, Anne, was born on the Isle of Lewis in 1912.
At the time of the President's birth, UK law only allowed children born outside the UK to inherit British nationality from the father and not their mother so President Trump is not automatically British by descent. The law was changed to allow mothers to pass citizenship to their children on 1 January 1983 but it did not have retrospective effect so it did not affect President Trump's nationality.
Over time it has been recognised that not allowing women to pass citizenship to children born abroad was unfair and there is now a procedure for individuals born before 1983 to register as a British national if they can demonstrate:
They were born before 1 January 1983; and
- Had the current law applied, they would have become a British national by descent. This is usually done by showing that the individual's mother was born or naturalised in the UK.
The process can be straightforward and we have seen a number of cases where individuals born in the USA, Australia and South Africa have been able to register as British nationals as a result. Some cases can be complicated and require additional research into the applicable law of the country where the birth took place to confirm that acquiring a second nationality will not result in automatic loss of the individual's current nationality.
It is important to note that registration as a British national via this route only results in an individual becoming British by descent and they normally cannot then pass citizenship to their own children born outside the UK, although in some cases this is possible.
President Trump's case only serves to illustrate how difficult it can be to establish if someone is a British national or not, and that even where someone isn't British they may have a right to register. Our team are experts at cutting through the confusion and providing clear advice on whether someone is a British national or not.
We can help with passport applications for those who are automatically British, and we can assist with registering non-British children as British citizens. For further information please contact Stuart McWilliams or Averil Trimble.