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I am currently on a South African passport, but I am a naturalized UK citizen. I have moved to the US but did not get a UK passport prior to leaving the UK. I am now planning a trip back to the UK but do not have 10 weeks to wait to apply for my UK passport. My visa for the UK expired in my SA passport.

Will I need a visa to enter, or can I just show my naturalization certificate? Any help will be useful.

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The situation you described is EXPLICITLY addressed in Paragraph 12 of the Immigration Rules, which says...

12.A person claiming to be a British citizen must prove that he has the right of abode in the United Kingdom by producing either: (i) a United Kingdom passport describing him as a British citizen or as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies having the right of abode in the United Kingdom; or (ii) a certificate of entitlement duly issued by or on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom certifying that he has the right of abode.

Which means that they expect to see a British passport. The other proof that someone can use is a 'certificate of entitlement', which is a stamp that goes in your foreign passport. These are fairly rare, and you must apply for a certificate well in advance anyway. A naturalisation certificate is not going to be that helpful because it is not listed in Paragraph 12, and naturalisation certificates require an examiner to adjudicate their authenticity.

Note also the precise wording of the rule which does not stipulate that the passport be current.

South Africans need a UK Entry Clearance prior to arrival, and if you do not have an Entry Clearance and your only travel document indicates that you need one, you would expect to get bounced (unless you are a silver-tongued genius). But the problems would most likely not come from a British Immigration Officer, but rather your carrier, who can refuse to board you. The carrier faces a fine and embarrassment for bringing in an insufficiently documented migrant.

To be clear, Brits lose their passports all the time for all manner of reasons. Having a lost passport kicks off a procedure that is fairly mechanical. It's different than having no passport.

On the bright side, if you are resident in the US, then you can use the British Consulate General in New York to apply for Entry Clearance. Once you have permission to enter the UK, you enter and then take advantage of Paragraph 14 of the Immigration Rules (for which your nationalisation certificate will be helpful).

  • (+1) An entry clearance is what the rest of the world refers to as a visa, right? – Relaxed Aug 26 '14 at 21:10
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    @Relaxed, in this case, yes. Visas issued outside of the UK are 'entry clearances' and we should be precise whenever possible. Please read gov.uk/government/collections/… – Gayot Fow Aug 26 '14 at 21:12
  • Yes, of course, I don't object to your using proper terminology, far from it, but I asked for clarity. I must admit I find the things I read on this particular issue somewhat confusing. – Relaxed Aug 26 '14 at 21:14
  • @Relaxed Are you ok with the difference? – Gayot Fow Aug 26 '14 at 21:15
  • I am not sure I understand it, no (but I do certainly trust you know what you are talking about, this is not meant as a criticism ;-) – Relaxed Aug 26 '14 at 21:21
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I wanted to also post this if it can be useful to others - this was the list of accepted docs at border control received from the visa and immigration department:

Please check this link to find out the documents that allow you to travel if you have not got your British passport: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-are-acceptable-travel-docume nts-for-entry-clearance-ecb08/ecb08-what-are-acceptable-travel-documents-for -entry-clearance

In other case, you can contact the UK Border Agency at the Heathrow airport: 0844 335 1801

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