British Citizenship by Descent For Canadians

Foreign nationals may claim British citizenship by descent through a British parent. The criteria varies depending on when and where they were born, and their parent’s circumstances at the time of their birth.

If you are from Canada and seeking more information on UK citizenship by descent, whether you are eligible, or how to apply, call us today on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online, to speak with one of our expert immigration advisers.

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    What Is British Citizenship by Descent?

    British citizenship by descent is a pathway for foreign nationals born overseas to apply for citizenship in the UK by virtue of having at least one British parent.

    In some scenarios, you may be able to apply based on your grandparent’s British nationality as well.

    Since Canada was a British colony and later a dominion, it has strong historical, cultural and social ties with the UK.

    Canadians born to a British parent can apply to become a UK citizen if they fulfil the eligibility criteria, which varies depending on the date and place of their birth as well as their parents’ immigration status at that time.

    British citizens by descent enjoy most of the rights similar to British citizens by birth, adoption, naturalisation or registration. However, there is one significant difference according to British nationality law.

    If you are a Canadian considering the option of obtaining British citizenship by descent, please be aware that you will not be able to pass your UK citizenship automatically to your children born outside the UK, unlike other British citizens.

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    Who Is Eligible to Apply for British Citizenship by Descent?

    If you were born outside the UK to a British parent, you may either automatically become a British citizen as per the UK nationality rules, or be eligible to apply to register as a citizen in the UK. The eligibility criteria will vary depending on whether you were born:

    • Before 1983
    • Between 1983 and June 2006
    • On or after 1 July 2006

    If You Were Born Before 1983

    Canadians born outside the UK before 1983 will automatically become a British citizen provided their father:

    • Was a British citizen at the time of their birth
    • Was married to their mother
    • Was able to pass on his citizenship to you since he:
      • Was born or adopted in the UK, or
      • Was granted citizenship after applying for it in his own right and not based on having a British parent himself, or
      • Was in Crown service (e.g. diplomatic services or armed forces) when you were born

    Alternatively, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship in the UK provided:

    • You have a British father but your parents were not married at the time of your birth
    • You have a British mother but not a British father
    • At least one of your parents was a citizen of the UK and Colonies when you were born, and they were:
      • Born or adopted in the UK, or
      • Granted UK citizenship after applying for it in their own right, or
      • In Crown service when you were born

    If You Were Born Between 1983 and June 2006

    You will automatically become a British citizen if:

    • You were born outside the UK between 1983 and 30 June 2006
    • Either of your parents was a British national at the time of your birth
    • Your parents were married when you were born in case your father was a British citizen but your mother was not
    • Your British parent is eligible to pass on their citizenship to you

    You may be able to apply for UK citizenship even if your British father was not married to your mother at the time of your birth but he is eligible to pass on his citizenship to you.

    If You Were Born on or After 1 July 2006

    People born outside the UK on or after 1 July 2006 will automatically become British citizens if either of their parents was a British citizen when they were born, and eligible to pass on their citizenship to their children since they themselves were born or adopted in the UK, or applied for and received UK citizenship in their own right (and not by descent).

    If they were working as a Crown servant at the time of your birth, they will also be eligible to pass on their British citizenship to you. Alternatively, if you were born outside the UK on or after 1 July 2006, you may be able to apply for British citizenship by descent if you:

    • Have lived with your parents in the UK (only in limited circumstances)
    • Have a British parent who lived in the UK before you were born (additional conditions apply)
    • Were adopted by a British citizen outside the UK
    • Have a British citizen father but your mother was married to someone else when you were born

    Additionally, if your father had indefinite leave to remain in the country at the time of your birth but your mother was married to someone else, you may be eligible to apply to become a British citizen by descent.

    What Is British Citizenship by Double Descent?

    The British Citizenship Act also has provisions for foreign nationals having a British grandparent (or a great-grandparent in rare cases) to become a citizen in the UK, which is referred to as British citizenship by double descent.

    Your eligibility criteria for this route will vary depending on when you were born.

    Born After 1st January 1983

    • If your grandfather was born in the UK and was in the Crown service when your parent (who is their child) were born, or
    • If you or either of your parents were born in a former British colony (e.g. Canada in this context), or
    • If one of your parents had a UK-born mother but not a British father, and they were registered as a British citizen between 2 February-31 December 1982

    Born Before 1st January 1983 but After 1949

    • If you or either of your parents were born in a former British territory, or
    • If you or either of your parents were registered as a British citizen, or
    • If either of your parents was in Crown service when you were born, or
    • If your paternal grandfather was born in the UK and your parents married prior to 1949

    Born before 1949

    • If you and either of your parents were not born in a Commonwealth country, and you were born before 1915, or
    • If you or either of your parents were born in a former British territory, or
    • If your mother or grandmother was married to a British man before 1949

    Apply for British Citizenship by Descent

    Based on the abovementioned eligibility criteria, if you qualify to automatically become a British citizen, you will only have to apply for a British passport if you so wish. In such a scenario, you may apply for:

    • A child’s passport if you are under 16
    • An adult passport if you are aged 16 or more
    • A letter confirming your British citizenship

    However, if you are eligible to apply to become a British citizen by descent instead, you will have to fill in your relevant online application form (depending on when you were born) on the Home Office website. If you are a Canadian national but currently live in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British overseas territory and are applying from there, you must apply by post or in person though.

    Start with creating an account on the Home Office website with an email ID. Please have all your supporting documents and other relevant information ready with you so as to answer the questions on the online form completely and accurately.

    After completing the form, please submit it along with scanned copies of your supporting documents and pay the fees online (unless you are eligible to apply for a fee waiver). Next, you will have to book an appointment with a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric details.

    You may either upload your documents into the UKVCAS online service or have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.

    Call us to receive assistance with obtaining your British citizenship by descent. Contact Us

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      British Citizenship by Descent Processing Time and Fees

      Typically, it takes up to six months for processing a British citizenship by descent application. However, this timeline may increase if the Home Office asks you to submit additional documents depending on your circumstances.

      The application processing fee is £1,214 for applicants born after 1 July 2006. They may be able to apply for a fee waiver if aged under 18 years and cannot afford to pay the required fee. People born on or before 30 June 2006 will only need to pay £80 to attend a citizenship ceremony.

      What Happens After You Get British Citizenship by Descent?

      If your British citizenship by descent application is successful, you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony if you are 18 or more. You must attend this ceremony within three months of receiving your invitation from the Home Office.

      People living outside the UK may ask the local British embassy or consulate if they can attend the ceremony there instead. Canadians may check with the British High Commission in Ottawa or UK consulates in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver if they can have their citizenship ceremonies there.

      During the ceremony, you will need to make an oath of allegiance or an affirmation and a pledge, to promise to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK. You will get your British citizenship certificate at the end of the ceremony.

      How Can Total Law Help?

      Becoming a British citizen by descent comes with many terms, conditions and what-if situations, with the eligibility criteria varying depending on when and where you were born, and your parents’ circumstances at the time of your birth. A thorough understanding of, and clarity about, the associated rules and regulations can at best be confusing for common people if not outright challenging.

      Speak to Total Law. If you are a Canadian national seeking expert advice on how to proceed with your British citizenship by descent application, our team of immigration advisers can guide you throughout the process.

      Moreover, our document and application checking service package offers a thorough assessment to confirm that your documents and application are in line with the guidelines set by the Home Office. Dial +1 844 290 6312 or make an inquiry online today, to speak with one of our legal team members.

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                Frequently Asked Questions

                Yes. Since the UK and Canada both allow their citizens to have dual citizenship, you can retain your Canadian nationality after becoming a British citizen by descent.

                If you are a Canadian national who does not qualify (or does not wish to) to become a British citizen by descent, you can explore other pathways to British citizenship, e.g. by birth, by marriage, through indefinite leave to remain, or under the Windrush Scheme as a Commonwealth citizen etc.