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British citizenship by double descent

How do I apply for British citizenship by double descent?

Feb 08, 2024
Last Updated on May 21, 2024

There are two ways to obtain British citizenship. Individuals are either British citizens by descent or they are British citizens otherwise than by descent. Otherwise than by descent simply means those who are British from birth, by registration, by naturalisation or through adoption.

Those who have British citizenship otherwise than by descent will be able to pass on their British citizenship to any children born outside the UK. For those who are British by descent, it would be unusual to be able to pass on British citizenship to children born outside the UK. There are a few exceptions to this rule which we will discuss in this article.

What does the law say?

Double descent refers to British citizenship acquired through a British grandparent. According to the British Nationality Act of 1981, 

“A person born outside the United Kingdom and the qualifying territories after commencement shall be a British citizen if at the time of the birth his father or mother— 

(a) is a British citizen otherwise than by descent; or…”

This suggests that double descent is not possible, since your parent would have to be British otherwise than by descent for you to be eligible. This simply means that British citizenship by descent cannot typically be passed on a second time. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. 

What is British Citizenship by double descent?

British citizenship by descent simply means that an individual born outside the UK is eligible to claim British citizenship because they have a British parent. 

In some cases, you may be eligible for British citizenship because you have a British grandparent, which would be British citizenship by double descent. Your eligibility for this citizenship path will all depend on where you were born and when.

If you are a British citizen by descent or by double descent, you will have all of the same rights as British passport holders. This means you’ll be eligible for a British passport and will also have the right to vote in elections.

Who is eligible for British citizenship by double descent?

The most common route to British citizenship by double descent is if you were born outside the UK to a British parent. How your parent acquired their British citizenship will determine if they can pass it on to you.

For double descent, it all depends on your grandparent and their circumstances.

If you were born after 1st January 1983

For those born after 1st January 1983, you could be eligible for British citizenship by double descent if any of the following conditions apply:

  • Your UK-born grandfather was in the Crown Service at the time of your parent’s birth.
  • You or your parent were born in a former British colony.
  • Your British-born mother was registered as a British citizen between 2nd February and 31st December 1982.

If you were born before 1st January 1983

There are examples where individuals born before 1st January 1983 have been able to secure British citizenship by double descent. This includes:

  • If you or your parent were born in a former British territory, not including the main Commonwealth countries of 1949.
  • If you or your parent were registered as a British citizen.
  • If your parent was in the Crown Service at the time of your birth.
  • If your parents were married before 1949 and your father was born in the UK.
  • If your mother’s father was born in the UK but you were born outside the EEA.

Establishing British Citizenship

If you have a British parent or grandparent, or if your parents or grandparents had extensive links to the UK through the Crown Service, you might be curious to know if this means you are entitled to British citizenship.

The best way to establish this would be through working with an immigration expert. Establishing British citizenship through descent is a complex process and you will need keen knowledge of UK law in order to make the most of this route.

If you suspect you might be eligible for this route, we recommend getting in touch with our team to find out how we can assist you in staking your claim to British citizenship. 

How do I apply for British citizenship by descent?

The application process is the same as other British citizenship routes. The exception is that you will need to establish your claims, which could require extensive documentation. 

Many people applying for British citizenship by descent or double descent will work with an immigration expert in order to strengthen their application. Since the British citizenship application fee is quite high, you will want to ensure your application is accurate.

Applications typically take around 6 months to receive a decision. This could take longer if there are aspects of your application that require more extensive investigation. 

The Home Office may get in touch to request further information. If this happens, it’s important to respond quickly or you could delay your application. Unlike other visa routes, there are no fast-track routes to get a faster decision.

If you are successful in your application, applicants over the age of 17 will need to attend a citizenship ceremony. 

Alternatives to double descent British citizenship

The Ancestry Visa might be a more suitable route if you have British relatives and would like to come to the UK to live and work. While this route won’t offer the same benefits as British citizenship, it is an alternative route towards applying for British citizenship further down the line.

To be eligible for this visa route, you need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be over the age of 17
  • Be a Commonwealth citizen
  • Have a grandparent who was born in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, on a British-registered ship or aircraft, or in the Republic of Ireland before 31st March 1922. 
  • Plan to work or be self-employed in the UK
  • Have the means to support yourself while in the UK

The UK Ancestry visa costs £637. You are eligible to bring dependents to the UK on this visa type, provided you can demonstrate that you have the financial means to support yourself and your family. You need to show that you will not have to rely on public funds. 

How can A Y & J help?

A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with British citizenship applications. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or contact us today. We’re here to help!

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Yash Dubal

Yash Dubal, Founder & Director of A Y & J Solicitors, is a renowned lawyer and entrepreneur. Known for innovative immigration law webinars, he's propelled the firm to award-winning heights. His work champions equality and accessibility, aiding UK immigrants. Yash also dedicates himself to social causes, participating in marathons for charities like the British Red Cross and Pratham. His dedication to immigrant success is unwavering.

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