Full Capacity Requirement for British Citizenship

This relates to the assessment of full capacity requirement for British Citizenship Applications for Naturalisation submitted under Section 6 of the British Citizenship Act 1981.

Full Capacity Requirement for British Naturalisation

Full Capacity Requirement for British Naturalisation

Full capacity is defined in section 50(11) of the British Nationality Act 1981 as being ‘not of unsound mind’. It is not further defined in the act, but the requirement can be regarded as having been satisfied if the assessment standard set out below is met.

Section 50 – Interpretation

11) For the purposes of this Act—

(a) a person is of full age if he has attained the age of eighteen years, and of full capacity if he is not of unsound mind; and

(b) a person attains any particular age at the beginning of the relevant anniversary of the date of his birth.

Required Standard for Full Capacity

The Requirement of Full Capacity is not intended to deny British nationality to individuals who have a disability which makes it difficult for them to communicate. The requirement is specifically to ensure that applicants are able to comprehend their actions in applying for citizenship. Therefore, an application for British Citizenship is not likely to be refused on the basis that an applicant is not able to communicate as the result of a disability.

Although an applicant might be able to understand the purpose of his/her citizenship application; however, he/she do not need to have a comprehensive understanding of citizenship or nationality or the procedures involved. An applicant must be of a sufficiently sound mind to know before applying that he/she wants to acquire British citizenship. Before granting an application the assessing office is expected to ensure that there is no reason to doubt that that level of understanding is present or capable of being restored.

Section 44A of the British Nationality Act 1981 allows for the full capacity requirement to be waived where it is in the best interest of the individual.

44A) Waiver of requirement for full capacity

Where a provision of this Act requires an applicant to be of full capacity, the Secretary of State may waive the requirement in respect of a specified applicant if he thinks it in the applicant’s best interests.]

Assessing the Full Capacity Requirement

The majority of applicants are likely to meet the full capacity requirement. Therefore, an application is normally considered from the position that the full capacity requirement is met unless there is something to indicate otherwise, such as an (examination/medical) report from a doctor or referee. Where there is a reason to question the applicant’s capacity, further enquiries are likely to be made by the assessing office from the applicant and also from his/her referee/doctor, if and where appropriate.

Waiving the Full Capacity Requirement

If it appears that the applicant may either have a mental health condition or disability or is receiving treatment in any establishment for people with mental health conditions or learning disabilities an application for British Citizenship under Section 6 cannot be refused, solely on this basis. Where there is information which could cast doubt on whether the requirement has been met, either the applicant or his/her appropriate representative can be asked by assessing officer to submit a report from his/her doctor or from a person professionally responsible for the applicant’s care or welfare. The applicant is required to bear the cost of such a report. The assessing officer is required to explain both the full capacity requirement and the Home Office interpretation of it for soliciting as much information as possible from the applicant/representative to help reach an appropriate decision on the naturalization application submitted under Section 6 of the British Nationality Act 1981.

In cases where the applicant cannot be considered of full capacity, then it is considered whether it would be in the best interests to waive the requirement by taking the following factors into account:

  • views of the applicant, to the extent that he/she is able to express them;
  • views of any other person, professional or otherwise, who has assumed responsibility for the applicant’s welfare;
  • citizenship status of other family members, especially those with whom the applicant resides or is in regular contact.

The decision whether or not to waive the full capacity requirement is taken by a Senior Caseworker.

Waiving the Oath and Pledge

Where the requirement to be ‘of full capacity’ has already been waived, it is quite usual that the requirements to make the oath and pledge and to do so at a citizenship ceremony are also waived. However, the views of any professionals or family responsible for the individual’s care are invited. Where there is a desire for the applicant to attend a citizenship ceremony, such as where the applicant is a part of a family group of applicants, it should be possible to accommodate this. Such requests will, in most instances, are dealt with by the Citizenship Ceremonies Support team following discussion with the relevant local authority.

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