The British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Bill is scheduled to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 17 May 2024. It is a private member’s bill sponsored by Lord Hay of Ballyore (DUP) and has government support. The bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Gavin Robinson (DUP MP for Belfast East) under a different short title (the British Citizenship (Northern Ireland) Bill). It completed its Commons stages on 26 April 2024 and received its first reading in the House of Lords on 29 April 2024. 

The bill would add a new registration route to the British Nationality Act 1981, so that Irish citizens who have been lawfully resident in the UK for five years could apply to be registered as a British citizen. Currently, people born in the Republic of Ireland after 31 December 1948 must apply for naturalisation if they wish to have British citizenship. This means that in addition to satisfying residency requirements, they must also pass a ‘Life in the UK’ test, prove they have sufficient language skills and pay a fee of £1,630. The DUP has highlighted the contrast between this and arrangements for people born in Northern Ireland who are entitled to Irish citizenship at birth and need only pay the usual fee for an Irish passport. The House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee called in 2021 for the government to abolish naturalisation fees and the ‘Life in the UK’ test for Irish citizens, in recognition of the historical connection between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. 

The government said in January 2024 it would support the bill, subject to some amendments. As originally drafted, the bill would have applied only to people born in Ireland after 31 December 1948, and the residency requirements would have been based on how long they had been living in Northern Ireland. With cross-party support, the bill was amended in the House of Commons so that the new registration route would be available to Irish citizens regardless of when or where they were born, and the residency requirements would be based on how long they had lived in the UK, not just Northern Ireland. They would not have to pass a ‘Life in the UK’ test or prove their language skills. The government has yet to confirm what the fee would be for applications under the new route. Gavin Robinson has called for there to be no charge over and above the cost of applying for a British passport.


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