There is no other way to explain a recent change to British nationality law. Previously, if you had a British father, you had a right to citizenship, but not if you had a British mother.
As from 13 January 2010, the latest revision to this law states that anyone born to a British father can claim British citizenship (as before), but anyone born to a British mother before 1983 must still apply for British citizenship. What’s so exciting about 1983? Why state any date—why are the rules not the same for children of British women? Is a British woman any less of a citizen than a man?
If you have a British mother you can certainly apply for British citizenship but you have to pay a fee of £540, complete a lengthy form, find referees who can vouch for your good character, and if you are accepted, you will then be required to attend a citizenship ceremony before you can claim British Citizenship by descent. If you are not accepted, Her Majesty’s Government can keep the £540.
Descendants of British fathers need only complete a passport application.
The majority of people affected are the adult children of British war brides, women who followed their foreign husbands home to Canada, the United States and Australia. A quick scan of the figures shows there were approximately 44,000 British war brides in Canada, 70,000 in the United States and almost 50,000 in Australia. If each of those women had one child, there are at least 164,000 people potentially affected by this law.
Of course there are many others affected, including the children of British women who moved overseas for any number of reasons (before or after WWII), and as the qualification date only changes in 1983 one could very possibly double the number of people affected. We could easily be talking about a population the size of Malta.
Maureen, an American expat in the UK, is one of those affected by this legislation. Maureen keenly feels the sting of discrimination and refuses to take this latest insult quietly. She has been advocating a petition for people to sign in order to demonstrate to the British government the complete idiocy of the new law. Because of the cut off birth date (1983) Maureen feels this law discriminates against age as well as gender.
According to one comment on Maureen’s blog around 3,000 applications were made each year under the old criteria (birth after 7 February 1961 but before 1 January 1983). The great expense of registration (with no guaranteed refund if the application is declined) and the complicated application process are one form of immigration control. While Britain may well need some immigration control, the inconsistency of controlling immigration of children of British mothers—but not children of British fathers, is an incredibly illogical place to start.
Why bother with the expense and administration of changing the law at all if it didn’t add any real value to all the people affected? Are the British government blind or are they truly still lurching around in an outdated, misogynistic stupor of old boy networks and old school-ties? This poorly thought out legislation echoes laws from countries the West so loves to criticise for their gender inequality.
Whether you’re the child of a British woman who falls into this category, or you know someone who is, or you’re simply fed up with the shallow window dressing lawmakers give to gender and age issues, you will be interested to know that you can sign the petition people like Maureen are so busily advocating.
However, only British citizens (British expats can sign as well) and residents of Britain can sign. People who are the children of British women who do not live in the UK (the majority of the people this affects) cannot sign.
There is simply no explanation available to justify this blatant age and gender discrimination.