British Citizenship by Descent

A person born outside of the UK may be eligible to obtain British citizenship based on the immigration status of their parents or grandparents.

In some cases, citizenship by descent is automatically granted, and in others, you will have to register to claim British citizenship.

If you are pursuing British citizenship by descent, contact Total Law for advice completely tailored to your situation from qualified immigration experts.

Call 0333 305 9375 or use the online contact form to get immediate assistance regarding your stress-free application for UK citizenship.

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    What is British Citizenship by Descent?

    British citizenship by descent is when someone born outside of the UK is granted UK citizenship based on the British citizenship of their parents or grandparents. In many cases, British citizenship by descent is automatically acquired when British parents pass British citizenship on to their children. However, in some circumstances when you do not automatically acquire UK citizenship, you may be eligible to register to become a British national and achieve dual citizenship in the UK. UK nationality rules allow a child born to a UK citizen to receive UK nationality themselves based on specific requirements that may change based on your date of birth.

    British citizenship by descent grants the holder many of the rights as other British citizens. Citizens who hold British nationality have the ability to:

    • Live and work in the UK permanently
    • Travel throughout the European Union and in and out of the UK without restriction
    • Apply for a UK passport
    • Vote in UK elections

    However, there are limits to citizenship by descent. When you acquire citizenship by descent, your UK citizenship will not be passed on to any children born abroad. In contrast, citizens otherwise than by descent are able to pass on their citizenship to their subsequent generations of children who are born outside the UK. Citizens otherwise than by descent include UK citizens by birth, adoption, naturalization, and registered UK citizens.

    If you are unsure if you qualify for British citizenship by descent or British citizenship by birth, consult a qualified immigration lawyer who can advise you on the best way to proceed in your situation. There are several routes to be eligible for a claim for British citizenship by descent. The requirements for eligibility will determine whether you are automatically granted British citizenship, or if you must apply to register in order to receive it.

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    Eligibility to Automatically Acquire British Citizenship by Descent

    British citizenship by descent applies automatically to those who:

    • Were born on or after July 1st, 2006, and have one or both parents who had British citizenship status at the time of birth.
    • Were born before the year 1983 and have a father who is a British citizen at the time of birth.
    • Were adopted on or after the date January 1st, 1983, and have at least one British citizen parent at the time of birth.

    Eligibility to Register for British Citizenship by Descent

    If you are not automatically granted British citizenship by descent, you may still be eligible to register as a British citizen by descent if one of the following circumstances applies:

    • You were born prior to 1983 and your parents were unmarried at the time of your birth, or your mother was a British citizen and your father was not.
      To be eligible to register for citizenship by descent, at least one of your parents must have been a UK citizen at the time of your birth.
      At least one of your parents must have citizenship otherwise than by descent unless they were working for the Crown service in the UK at the time of your birth.
    • You were born between 1983 and June 2006 and your parents were unmarried at the time of your birth, but your father was a UK citizen otherwise than by descent or was working as a Crown servant.
    • You may still be eligible for citizenship by descent if you were born outside the UK on or after July 1st, 2006 and you have lived in the UK with your parents, you were adopted outside of the UK, or your British citizen parent lived in the UK before you were born.

    Eligibility for Citizenship by Double Descent

    When you are applying for British citizenship on the basis of your grandparent’s immigration status, this is known as citizenship by double descent. Eligibility is determined by birth date, location, your parent’s or grandparent’s marriage and immigration status, and other factors. You may be eligible for citizenship by double descent if:

    • You were born after January 1, 1983, and you had a British citizen grandfather who was in the Crown service at the time of your parent’s birth, or if your parent had a British citizen mother and foreign national father and they were registered as a UK citizen between the dates of February 2 and December 31, 1982.
    • You were born before January 1, 1983, but you meet extenuating requirements for eligibility such as your parents being born in the former British territories or your grandparents being born in the UK.
    • You were born before 1949 and you or your parent were born in former British territories, or your grandparent was married to a British male citizen before 1949.

    Determining eligibility for citizenship by double descent can be complex. Working with a qualified immigration advisor is the best way to ensure that your application is correct.

    How to Register for British Citizenship by Descent

    If you are not automatically granted British citizenship by descent, but meet the eligibility requirements to register, you will need to apply for citizenship. Follow the steps in the application process carefully so that your application is not delayed or rejected.

    • Confirm you meet all eligibility requirements before submitting your application, and gather your supporting documents.
    • Fill out the online application form UKF. You can upload supporting documents directly online. You may choose to apply by post, but the processing time is significantly longer.
    • Pay the application fee.
    • Attend an appointment to have your fingerprints and photograph taken for your biometric residence permit at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application services center.
    • Once your application for citizenship is processed and approved, you are required to schedule a UK citizenship ceremony unless you are exempt. Private citizenship ceremonies can be arranged for an additional fee.
    • Once you have your citizenship certificate, you can apply for a British passport.

    Required Documents

    Required documents can vary depending on your circumstances. An example of required documents for UK citizenship includes:

    • Receipt of citizenship application
    • Full birth certificate or adoption certificate
    • Current and previous passports
    • Proof of relationship to the UK citizen parents or grandparents
    • Proof of the parent’s or grandparent’s UK citizenship
    • Biometric residence permit (BRP)
    • Other proof of eligibility to support your claim for citizenship by descent.

    Note that original certificates must be submitted and will be returned after processing at the address you provide. All documents that are not originally in the English or Welsh languages are required to be provided along with certified translated copies.

    British Citizenship Ceremony

    All new British citizens must attend a citizenship ceremony under UK immigration law.

    This is where you will receive your certificate of citizenship. Exempt individuals such as children under the age of 18 will receive their citizenship certificate by mail.

    At the ceremony, new citizens will take an oath of loyalty and pledge their allegiance to the UK. Private citizenship ceremonies may be arranged with the UK home office for a fee.

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      Costs and Fees

      Application fees can vary depending on your specific situation and circumstances. Child applicants under the age of 18 may be able to have the citizenship application waived if they meet eligibility requirements based on financial need. Generally, the fees associated with registering for UK citizenship are:

      • £1,012 application fee (children under the age of 18)
      • £1,206 application fee (adults over the age of 18)
      • £80 UK citizenship ceremony fee (mandatory for adult applicants)
      • Approximately £19.00 for biometric information per applicant
      • £49 British passport fee when applying online (£58.50 when applying by post)

      Processing Times

      The processing time for citizenship by descent can take between 3 and 6 months when you apply online at the UK government website. Applying by post can significantly delay the processing time. Generally, processing times depend on how complex the applicant’s situation is. Application processing may be further delayed due to the coronavirus.

      Once your application is approved and you receive your certificate of citizenship, obtaining a UK passport can take up to five more weeks. You may be able to purchase expedited processing for a passport depending on your situation.

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        How Can Total Law Help?

        At Total Law, our team of dedicated immigration experts can give you personal advice regarding the best route for you to claim British nationality.

        Your advisor at Total Law will provide you with the current information and monitor changes to UK immigration laws that may affect your application process.

        For further information, contact us today at +1 844 290 6312 or use our online contact form to get in touch with our team of qualified immigration lawyers.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  You can prove your UK citizenship with your certificate of citizenship, or you may apply for an official letter stating your immigration status. Keep in mind that a status letter cannot be used to prove citizenship in all circumstances, often a UK passport will be required. In such situations, you may be able to apply for an express passport by paying an additional fee for expedited service.

                  Yes. British citizens of descent have most of the same rights as other British citizens, including the right to live, work, and study freely in the UK.