There are a few ways to unlock British citizenship. Simple ways include being born in the UK or being descended from someone. This article discusses a more complicated way.
A more complicated way to unlock British citizenship
A client came to me with a more complicated way of unlocking British citizenship for herself and her sister that she’d heard about based on their paternal grandfather, who was born in the UK. I researched the law and put together a letter explaining why she and her sister qualified for British citizenship based on the criteria. They each submitted this letter with their applications and each successfully obtained a British passport. Let’s discuss those criteria.
Criteria 1 – British Father by descent (through his father)
The client’s paternal grandfather was born in the UK and her father got British citizenship by descent.
Section 1(1)(a) of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 says that anyone born within Crown’s Dominions will be deemed to be a natural-born British subject. The former South African territories of the Cape, Natal, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal joined together to form the Union of South Africa (’the Union’) on 31 May 1910. The Union was classified as being ‘within the Crown’s Dominions’ for the purposes of British Nationality. This means that anyone born in the Union would have got British subject status at birth.
Section 12(2) of the British Nationality Act 1948 says that anyone who was a British subject immediately before 30 July 1948 became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, provided that their father was a British subject at the time of their birth and their father met certain other criteria.
Criteria 2 – British mother other than by descent (through her husband)
The client’s father married her mother before a certain date and she got British citizenship otherwise than by descent.
Section 12(5) of the British Nationality Act of 1948 says that any woman married to a man who became a citizen of the UK and Colonies on 1 January 1949 would automatically by operation of law and regardless of whether they had any British Passport at the time become citizens of the UK and Colonies otherwise than by descent, provided that:
- she was married to a British subject before 1 January 1949;
- her husband was re-classified as a citizen of the UK and Colonies; and
- she remained married to him up until 1 January 1949.
Criteria 3 – Client, British by descent (through her mother)
The client got British citizenship from her mother by descent.
The UK enacted additional legislation in January 2010 which allowed limited claims for British citizenship for those who were born to British mothers.
Section 45(3) of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (read with other relevant legislation) effectively says that to succeed in a claim, you would have to meet the following requirements:
- be born before 1983;
- your mother was a citizen of the UK and Colonies otherwise than by descent or a British subject when you were born;
- you would have acquired citizenship of the UK and Colonies at some point before 1 January 1983 if the legislation at the time had provided for citizenship to be passed from a mother to a child in the same way as a father to a child; and
- if you had been a citizen of the UK and Colonies prior to 1 January 1983, you would have also acquired the Right of Abode pursuant to our Immigration Act of 1971.
It’s generally not possible to get British Citizenship by double descent.
The law is changing all the time though and there has been some interesting case law recently involving British Citizenship by double descent from a maternal grandfather.
The court ruled to grant citizenship on the grounds that the applicant’s mother had been told that she could not register her daughter at the consulate at the time she was born because her descent was through her mother. At the time she was advised correctly but with changes in the law as regards gender discrimination that have taken place, that requirement was waived.
I referred to sections from the following pieces of legislation in this article:
- The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 – available at: http://legislation.data.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/4-5/17/enacted/data.htm?wrap=true;
- The British Nationality Act 1948 – available at: http://legislation.data.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo6/11-12/56/enacted/data.htm?wrap=true;
- The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 – available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2009/11/data.xht?view=snippet&wrap=true
Interested in finding out how to unlock British citizenship for yourself or a family member? Please enquire now.