Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Law report - naturalisation as British Overseas Territories citizen

Stevens v The Governor and the Deputy Governor [2013] SC (Bda) 75 Civ

The applicant was the husband of a Bermudian who applied to the Governor to be naturalised as a British Overseas Territories citizen on the basis that he met all the requirements, including that he had no restrictions on the period for which he was allowed to remain in Bermuda for.

The Deputy Governor refused the application on the basis that the conditions placed on the husband of a Bermudian in order to continue to enjoy the spouse's rights amounted to such restrictions.

Hellman J held - being guided by 30 years of established nationality law practice in the UK - that restrictions on the period did not have the meaning given to it by the Deputy Governor. He quashed the refusal and ordered the Deputy Governor to reconsider. He noted that there is still discretion in whether or not naturalisation would be granted.

Comment - this is a welcome judgment which helps to clarify when somebody is able to naturalise. Naturalisation enables the person to acquire a Bermudian passport, which is helpful in particular for people from countries who find it difficult to obtain visas when travelling. It can also simplify the process of obtaining Bermudian status for non-Commonwealth citizens. Naturalised BOT citizens are also deemed to belong to Bermuda under the Constitution, although it is unclear what effect this actually has.

This judgment might affect other people who had their naturalisation applications refused. If an application is refused, the reasons must be communicated to the applicant, and the refusal must be a reasonable decision.

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