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British citizenship by descent

British citizenship by descent is when a person born abroad is able to acquire citizenship through the immigration status of one or both parents.

Find out more about citizenship by descent and whether you could be eligible. For more information speak with our team today on 0333 305 9375.

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    What is British citizenship by descent?

    According to British nationality law, all UK citizens are either citizens by descent or British citizens otherwise than by descent. Citizens otherwise than by descent include those who are British citizens by birth, registration, naturalisation or adoption.

    British citizenship by descent is when someone who was born overseas is able to apply for British citizenship based on either their parents or grandparents status as British citizens.

    British citizens by descent are not subject to immigration restrictions and have most of the same rights as any other British citizens including the right to a UK passport and the right to vote in elections. However, citizens by descent are not able to pass on their British citizenship to their children who were born outside the UK whilst citizen otherwise by than by descent are able to do this.

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    Who is eligible to become a British citizen by descent?

    British citizenship by descent is normally automatically passed down by one generation to children born outside of the UK. So, if you were born outside of the UK but one of your parent’s was a British citizen at the time of your birth then you may automatically acquire British citizenship by descent.

    Your parent can automatically pass on their citizenship if they were either born or adopted in the UK, obtained citizenship after applying for it in their own right, or was working as a Crown servant at the time of your Birth. You will not qualify for automatic citizenship by descent if your British parent obtained their own citizenship by descent.

    Whether you are an automatic citizen by descent also varies depending on when you were born and your parents immigration status at the time. If you were born outside the UK on or after 1st July 2006 then you will automatically have citizenship by descent as long as either one of your parents was a British citizen otherwise than by descent at the time of your birth.

    If you were born outside of the UK between 1983 and June 2006 then you are also an automatic citizen by descent if your mother or father was a British citizen otherwise than by descent at the time of your birth, however they must have been married at the time if your father has British citizenship but your mother didn’t.

    If you were born outside the UK before 1983 then you will only be an automatic citizen by descent if your father was British and was also a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, married to your mother and able to pass on his citizenship to you.

    Who is eligible to register for citizenship by descent?

    If you do not have an automatic right to British citizenship then there are some circumstances in which you may be eligible to register as a British citizen by descent instead.

    If you were born before 1983 – you could be eligible to register as a citizen by descent if either your parents were not married at the time of your birth or if your mother was British rather than your father. To be eligible to register your mother or father must have been a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies at the time of your Birth and they must have citizenship otherwise than by descent unless they were working as a Crown servant when you were born.

    If you were born between 1983 and June 2006 – you can register for citizenship by descent if your father was not married to your mother when you were born. To be eligible your father also must have been a British citizen otherwise than by descent or working as a Crown servant when you were born.

    If you were born outside the UK on or after 1st July 2006 – you could still qualify to register as a British citizen if either you have lived in the UK with your parents, your British parent lived in the UK before your birth or if you were adopted outside of the UK.

    Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to receive assistance on your British Citizenship case. Contact Us

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      How to apply for British citizenship by descent

      If you do not have automatic citizenship by descent and you are eligible to register instead then you can do so by completing the online application form available on the gov.uk website. The form that you will need to complete will vary depending on when you were born and the way that you are eligible. You can also apply by post, however the processing time for postal application is significantly longer than online applications.

      As well as completing the application form you will need to attend an appointment at UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to have your biometric information taken, this is your photograph and fingerprints.

      When making your application you will be required to submit a number of supporting documents to prove that you meet the requirements for citizenship by descent. You can submit your documents by either uploading copies into the online service or by having them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.

      Applicants who are over the age of 18 will also be required to attend a British citizenship ceremony if their application is successful. There is an additional £80 fee for this.

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      What is British citizenship by double descent?

      Although British citizenship by descent is usually obtained by citizenship being passed down one generation by a parent, in some cases people may be eligible for British citizenship based on having a British grandparent, this is known as British citizenship by double descent.

      Like with citizenship by descent, your eligibility for citizenship by double descent depends on when you were born as well as several other factors.

      If you were born after 1 January 1983 – you could be eligible for citizenship by double descent if either:

      • You had a UK born grandfather who was in the Crown Service at the time of your parents birth
      • You or a parent were born in a former British colony
      • Your parent had a British-born mother and not a British born father and and was registered as a British citizen between February 2nd and December 31st, 1982.

      If you were before 1 January 1983 – there are some cases which have allowed individuals to claim British citizenship by descent (or double descent) in the past:

      • You/your parent was born in a former British territory (excluding main Commonwealth countries of 1949);
      • You/your parent was registered as a British citizen;
      • Your parent was in Crown service when you were born;
      • Your parents married before 1949, and your father’s father was born in the UK;
      • Your mother’s father was born in the UK and you were born outside the EEA.

      If you were born before 1949 – you may be able to claim British citizenship by descent from a grandparent under certain circumstances. The most common types of claim happen in the following circumstances:

      • You and your parent were not in a Commonwealth country (must be born before 1915)
      • You or your parent were born in a former British territory
      • Your grandparent or parent was married to a British man before 1949

      How to prove you are a citizen if you have automatic citizenship

      If you have acquired British nationality automatically then you can prove this by either applying for a British passport or by applying for a letter confirming your immigration status.

      If you are under the age of 16 the you will need to apply for a child’s passport, if you are over the age of 16 then you will need to apply for an adult’s passport. You can apply for a passport either online or by post.

      If you do not wish to apply for a passport then you can request a letter confirming your British citizenship status completing the online form available on the gov.uk website. Your letter cannot be used to prove your immigration status for work, immigration or travel purposes, you will need a UK passport to do this.

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      If you have any questions about your citizenship by descent, our team is happy to assist. Contact Us

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        How can IAS help?

        Each case for British citizenship by descent will be judged by UKVI on a case-by-case basis as UK nationality rules can be incredibly complex. If you feel you may have a claim British citizenship by descent or double descent, it is advised that you speak with an immigration specialist.

        Our immigration lawyers can guide you through each stage of your enquiry or application process. They have assisted many individuals with their successful claims for British citizenship by descent and double descent. Our lawyers have a wealth of experience in British citizenship by descent cases. Your personal lawyer will work with you and your family to find the best route towards citizenship and manage your application. They will also assess your eligibility for British citizenship by descent or help you pursue other options, such as the UK Ancestry Visa.

        For more information or to discuss your circumstances in regards to British citizenship by descent, make an enquiry today or call 0333 305 3750 now for a free consultation. We have offices based in LondonManchester, and Birmingham, as well as in many other locations across the UK.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  Yes, you can claim British citizenship by descent grandparent if you meet certain UK nationality requirements. This process is called claiming double descent. Double descent claims are usually taken on a case-by-case basis. However, there are guidelines put in place which you can follow if you are looking to claim British citizenship by descent through a grandparent.

                  In section 14(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 there is an extensive definition of the term British citizen by descent. You are can usually be either an automatic citizen by descent or eligible to register as a citizen by descent if you were born abroad and at least one of your parents was a British national at the time of your birth. There are many factors that can determine whether you are eligible, our lawyers can assess your eligibility and offer you professional advice about your immigration options.