South African Nationals & British Citizenship

In February 2018, the UK’s Supreme Court rectified a discriminatory injustice in British nationality law which opened up British citizenship to thousands of ineligible South Africans. Previously, only a limited number with mothers who are British by descent (not by birth) had been able to claim British citizenship. It was therefore seen that some South Africans were eligible to apply for Citizenship through double descent.

The growing number of South African nationals applying for British Citizenship is continuously rising and below we have set out a sample of scenarios where you may be eligible for Citizenship.

APPLICANT BORN IN UK:

Born after 1 January 1983

If you were born in the UK after 1 January 1983 you only qualify  for British nationality based on the status of your parents  and can claim British nationality in one of two cases:

  • A parent was settled in the UK (ILR) at the time of the child’s birth
  • The person spent the first 10 years of their life in the UK

Children under 18

*A further provision is available for a child under 18 born in the UK after 1 January 1983 where a parent acquires settled status in the UK before the child turns 18*

Born before 1 January 1983

If you were born in the UK before 1 January 1983 qualifies for British nationality in several ways. A person born in the UK before 1 January 1983 will normally have become British at birth by way of law. That is, they are already British (whether they know it or not) and can apply for a British passport immediately. They will be classified as British otherwise than by descent*and will be able to pass their British nationality to their children, regardless of where they are born.

UK born mother or father:

If your father or mother was born in UK before 1 January 1983, you are a British citizen by birth by operation for the law and can apply for a British passport immediately. If your mother or father was Born after 1983:

  • If your mother or father was born after 1983 and was British at the time of your birth you are British by birth and can apply for citizenship straightaway
  • If your mother or father was not British at time of birth then your rights to British nationality depend on your age (whether you are under 18 or not) and the status of your parents at your birth and their status now
  • If you are under 18 you have certain rights that differ from those over 18. After 18, several of these rights to British nationality fall away and can be lost forever.

Pre 1 July 2006:

A person did not become British – or have a claim to British nationality – based on a UK-born father if the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth

Born before 1 July 2006:

A separate application must be made to claim British nationality.

After 1 July 2006:

If you were born after 1 July 2006, the fact that your parents were not married is irrelevant and you should assess your rights to British nationality set out above.

British Citizenship through double descent (maternal grandfather):

  • Your maternal grandfather (your mother’s father) was born in the UK or Northern Ireland
  • You were born between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1982
  • You were born during (and in) what was characterised as a “Foreign Country”. This includes South Africa during – the period 31 May 1962 and 31 December 1982, the United States of America and most European countries

Your potential claim will be complicated if:

  • Your paternal grandfather was also born in the UK
  • You (or your mother) were born out of wedlock
  • Your circumstances fall outside of the context of the court judgements

British Citizenship through double descent (grandparent born in UK):

Born after 1 January 1983 (Under 18):

There are special provisions in British nationality law for children under 18 that may make it possible for you to claim British nationality and an application should be made soon. After they turn 18, these rights to British nationality fall away.

Born after 1 January 1983 (18 and over):

An adult born outside of the UK after 1 January 1983 with a UK-born grandparent may have a claim to British citizenship by descent if:

You had a UK-born grandfather who was in Crown service at the time of the relevant parent’s birth and a parent who:

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

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

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 citizenship in certain circumstances.