british passport

How your parents and grandparents can help you get a British passport

The new British citizenship solution – known as the British Citizenship by Double Descent (UKM CBR pre1983) – is giving South Africans wanting to live in the UK renewed hope of obtaining British nationality through their parents and grandparents.

british passport

Changes in British passport and citizenship case law are enabling further claims to British nationality, based on having a grandparent (and, in rare cases, a great-grandparent) born in the UK. These claims are known as double descent claims.

The UK Government introduced legislation in 2002 and again in 2009 attempting to address gender discrimination in British Nationality legislation affected those born before 1/1/83. However, elements of gender discrimination still existed.

Those who were born to British mothers who were not born in the UK could not take advantage of the various double descent provisions of the earlier law that were available to men.

This was because their mother would not have been able to take the necessary steps in the past to make a claim in the second generation.

Changes to British passport law

A recent Supreme Court Judgement in the UK has made it clear that it is unlawful for the UK. Government to impose a requirement from the past on new applicants for citizenship where it was not lawfully possible for that requirement to be met at the time.

In South Africa, it was possible for a child’s birth to be registered at the British Consulate between 31/5/62 and 1/1/83 where the child’s father was British. This facility was not available where the mother was British.

Since birth registrations at the British Consulate was a potential route for citizenship by double descent in the male line, South Africans born between 31/5/62 and 1/1/83 are affected by this judgement.

In short, this means that if you were born in South Africa between 31/5/62 and 1/1/83, your mother was British not through being born in the UK (perhaps because her father was bornin the UK) you may have a claim to British Citizenship now.

As ever, nothing is as simple as is seems. There will be those who meet the criteria above who will not qualify for British Citizenship.

Why would I not qualify for a British passport?

This could be perhaps because, amongst other things, they cannot provide proof of the grandparents’ marriage. Equally, the full extent or limitations of the case law from this judgement will not be known in full until the range of potential qualifiers are examined by the Home Office in the UK.

Despite the recent Supreme Court Judgement, gender discrimination is still present in the UK’s nationality laws and the Home Secretary is under pressure in the UK to make further changes. Other possible routes to citizenship by double descent at the present time include the following.

Applicants born after 1 January 1983 and presently under 18 years of age: 

There are special provisions in British nationality law for children under 18 that may make it possible to claim British nationality. Factors which benefit such applications include:

A) UK residence of the British Parent; or

B) Whether the Citizenship of the child’s country of birth has been conferred at the point of birth.

It can be important to take action before a child turns 18. After the 18th birthday, several rights to British nationality fall away and are usually lost forever.

Applicants born after 1 January 1983 and presently over the age of 18 years:

If you were born outside of the UK after 1 January 1983 and have a UK-born grandparent may have a claim to British nationality if:

A) You have a UK-born grandfather who was in UK Government Service at the time of the descendant parent’s birth; or

B) You have a parent who;

  1. Had a non UK-born mother; and
  2. Did not have a UK-born father and the mother was registered as a British citizen between 2 February 1979 and 31 December 1982

C) You or a parent were born in a former British colony, subject to further criteria being met.

Applicants born before 1 January 1983:

Those born outside of the UK between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1982 and who have a UK-born grandparent may be able to claim British nationality in certain circumstances.

This is a complex area of British nationality and every case must be assessed on an individual basis. The following are the most common;

  • You (or a parent) were born in a former British territory. This excludes the main Commonwealth countries of 1949 (Australia, Canada and New
  • Zealand) but includes India, South Africa and (Southern) Rhodesia at various times.
  • You or a parent was registered as a citizen of the UK and colonies or a federal citizen of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
  • A parent was in Crown service at the time of your birth.
  • Your parents married before 1949 and your paternal grandfather was born in the UK.

The examples above represent brief selection of options available and are by no means complete. This route to getting a British passport can prove tricky, which is where Sable International can help:

If you feel that you fall into any of the categories listed above, are affected by the recent Supreme Court Judgement or simply wish to know whether you have any prospect of acquiring British Nationality, contact Sable International: / Tel 021 6572120