In Britain, a person who stands in a general election must be a citizen of one of several Commonwealth countries (Canada, Britain, Australia, etc.) or of the Republic of Ireland. This is stated for example on Parliament's own website, which refers to "guidance" from the Electoral Commission.

But which actual Act of Parliament lays down this citizenship requirement?

1 Answer 1


The Wikipedia article regarding the UK House of Commons is a useful starting point to look for this information. The most relevant piece of legislation regarding standing for election is the Electoral Administration Act 2006 (2006 c.22), s.18:

  1. Certain Commonwealth citizens

(1) In section 3 of the Act of Settlement (1700 c. 2), the words from "That after the said limitation shall take effect" to "in trust for him." (which impose certain disqualifications) do not apply (so far as they relate to membership of the House of Commons) to a person who is—

(a) a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or

(b) a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

So there you have it! You have to be a citizen of "a qualifying Commonwealth [country]" or Ireland. Easy! Right? Well, yes and no.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a person is a qualifying Commonwealth citizen if he is a Commonwealth citizen who either—

(a) is not a person who requires leave under the Immigration Act 1971 (c. 77) to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, or

(b) is such a person but for the time being has (or is, by virtue of any enactment, to be treated as having) indefinite leave to remain within the meaning of that Act.

(3) But a person is not a qualifying Commonwealth citizen by virtue of subsection (2)(a) if he does not require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom by virtue only of section 8 of the Immigration Act 1971 (exceptions to requirement for leave in special cases).


(The rest of the section deals with disqualifications and other minor issues, which are not applicable to this discussion.)

You have to have a "right to abode" (Immigration Act 1971 c.77 as amended, s.2) or indefinite leave to enter, excepting seamen, airmen, etc. (who do not require leave to enter for temporary stays.)

What's the end result? My take on it is this: Unless you are a UK citizen, an Irish citizen, were living in the UK as a Commonwealth citizen before 1981, or are living in the UK as a permanent resident, you aren't eligible to run for office. I am not an expert in this, so my interpretation may be incorrect.

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    Many thanks for this. The 2006 Act is clearly the main statute. But some Commonwealth citizens have indefinite leave to remain who were not living in Britain before 1981, and permanent residence is certainly not (in itself) sufficient for eligibility or even voting rights.
    – h34
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 23:38
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    It's not the most straightforward piece of legislation in the world, but given the UK's citizenship laws (or relative lack of them, for the longest time!) it's understandable that there are odd little exceptions here and there.
    – ErikF
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 23:41
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    Interestingly the chapter of the 1700 Act of Settlement that the 2006 Act amends refers not to ineligibility to stand for election to the Commons but to disqualification from Commons membership. Perhaps there is now a statute that bars those who would be disqualified from standing. I thought civil servants, police officers, and service personnel were allowed to stand even if they can't take seats. I am not sure whether peers are still allowed to stand, as Tony Benn did in 1961 after becoming Viscount Stansgate.
    – h34
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 23:49
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    @h34 hereditary peers can be MPs if they don't have a seat in the Lords - and this has already happened, e.g. Viscount Thurso. Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 13:19
  • A "qualifying Commonwealth citizen" is not a "citizen of a qualifying Commonwealth country" but someone who is qualified and a citizen of a Commonwealth country, where being qualified is essentially having a right of abode or indefinite leave to remain or some similar status (an example of not being qualified might be somebody with a student visa).
    – Henry
    Commented Jun 6 at 17:36

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