Since January 8 2016, migrants who have been naturalised as UK citizens and issued a naturalisation certificate are required to cut up and return their biometric residence permit to the Home Office. The biometric residence permit is the document verifying indefinite leave to remain status. It must be returned within five days of the individual receiving a naturalisation certificate. The penalty for non-compliance is a fine of up to £1,000.

This new requirement is affecting frequent travellers in particular. Once an individual has relinquished his or her biometric residence permit, he or she no longer has the document normally required to evidence permission to enter the United Kingdom (meaning that they cannot present it to an immigration officer at the port of entry). That said, immigration officers should accept original naturalisation certificates (confirming the traveller's newly acquired status of UK citizen) as proof of permission to enter.

The most significant difficulties are likely to be experienced not on arrival in the United Kingdom, but rather at the point of departure. Airlines will not allow a person to board an aircraft without valid permission to enter the United Kingdom, for fear of incurring fines if they do. Most issues therefore arise at airline check-in desks – after all, a naturalisation certificate is not a travel document and cannot replace a passport.

Interestingly, there is no limitation period within which a person must apply for a UK passport once he or she has been issued a naturalisation certificate. However, upon relinquishing a biometric residence permit, it may become a frustrating exercise trying to convince airlines to permit departure to the United Kingdom. The current published processing time for a first UK passport is six weeks.

If a naturalisation application has been approved and the holder intends to travel before being issued a UK passport, it may be advisable to delay attending a naturalisation ceremony. An applicant has three months from the date of naturalisation approval to attend a naturalisation ceremony. Delaying attendance within this period (including so that travel difficulties are not encountered) should not prejudice immigration status.

The requirement that the original naturalisation certificate be submitted to the Passport Office with the application should also be taken into account when planning travel.

For further information on this topic please contact Ben Sheldrick at Magrath LLP by telephone (+44 20 7495 3003) or email (ben.sheldrick@magrath.co.uk). The Magrath LLP website can be accessed at www.magrath.co.uk.

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