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The laws of domicile

With regard to the recent feature on domicile, I think the panel of experts omitted one fact.

It is not possible to be domiciled “in the UK” for most international purposes – the country is the United Kingdom which comprises Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Great Britain comprises two different jurisdictions (England/Wales and Scotland), while Northern Ireland is a third, separate, jurisdiction.

As domicile relates to jurisdiction, not nationality or residence, one can therefore be domiciled in England/Wales, or in Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

The position is similar in the US. Many US legal concepts are drawn from pre-1776 English ones. The result is that a US national has to be domiciled of one of the 50 states – each of which has a legal system distinct from each other. Federal law binds the US as a nation, just as Acts of Parliament bind the UK. As US states have certain powers under the US constitution, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly also have powers by devolution.

The concept of domicile is not “unique to the UK”. However, it is unique to the English common law system which applies to many Commonwealth countries, plus the US.

Jeffrey ShawSenior associate solicitorTaylor and Emmet


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