British since birth, surely ?

Isobel had always thought of herself as British. She was born in Australia of a British father, but the family moved away to the UK when she was two. At the age of eight they went to live in South Africa where she has spent most of her life.

She has always travelled on her Australian passport, which was convenient enough until she decided to live here. So she applied to the Home Office for a declaration of her nationality, with the details of her family history.

Her father had been born in colonial Singapore in 1930. His parents were born in Britain. Surely – she thought – that made her British, when she was born in 1960. But the Home Office said no. In their view, as Singapore had become independent before 1960, her father was only British by descent at the time of her birth. So she did not inherit her father’s nationality.

This was wrong. The independence of Singapore in 1958 did not cause its then British citizens to lose their nationality. Isobel inherited this at her birth. It was only in 1963 when Singapore joined with Malaysia, that the registered Singaporeans who became Malaysians, lost their British status.

Isobel’s family had moved on from Singapore long before her birth. Nobody had registered her as Singaporean. The Home Office revised their opinion and issued a status certificate.