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Are you eligible for British citizenship by double descent?

By May 17, 2018November 23rd, 2023FinGlobal

Are you eligible for British citizenship by double descent?

May 17, 2018


A change in British nationality law means that thousands of South Africans, who were previously prevented from claiming British citizenship, are now able to. The change in the law affects all South Africans who have a mother who is British by descent. This means that if your mother inherited her British citizenship from her father, who was born in the UK, then you too could have claim to British citizenship.

The change in law puts an end to gender discrimination, which previously prevented UK citizenship from being transferred through the female line. This meant that people were told they were not eligible for British citizenship because they were applying for it through their mother’s grandfather.

Claiming British citizenship by double descent

Claiming citizenship by double descent means you are claiming citizenship as a result of a UK-born grandparent. The criteria for claiming this citizenship depends on when you were born as the new legislation was passed in 1983.

If you were born after 1 January 1983, you can claim citizenship if:

  • Your UK-born grandfather was in the Crown service at the time of your parent’s birth
  • Your parent had a UK-born mother (and this parent did not have a UK-born father) and was registered as a British citizen between 2 February 1979 and 31 December 1982
  • A parent was born in a former British colony

If you were born before 1 January 1983, the situation becomes more complex and each case needs to be considered on an individual basis. Common applications include people who have:

  • A parent in Crown service at the time of their birth
  • Being born, or having a parent born in a former British territory
  • Having parents married before 1949 with a paternal grandfather born in the UK

If you were born before January 1949 claims are a lot less common but can be valid if:

  • Your mother was married to a UK citizen before 1 January 1949 (even if the man was or was not your father)
  • You or one of your parents was born in a former British colony.

How to acquire dual citizenship

If you are able to claim British citizenship, it is important to remember that in order to retain your South African citizenship you must get written permission from the Minister of Home Affairs prior to applying for your second citizenship. If you do not do this, you automatically forfeit your South African citizenship when you acquire your British citizenship.

South African citizens that are under the age of 18 are exempt and do not have to apply for dual citizenship, as long as they acquire the foreign citizenship before their 18th birthday. In this case they automatically retain their South African citizenship for life, unless, once they have reached the age of 18 they wish to acquire a further foreign citizenship – in which case they will have to apply for prior permission to retain their South African citizenship. Failing to do so, they will automatically lose their South African citizenship.

If you have acquired a second citizenship in addition to your South African citizenship and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.

**Please note that FinGlobal cannot provide you with UK Visa and residency advice, however, we can definitely assist with your financial emigration and foreign exchange…


  • chaylene says:

    Hi, Hope you well. Please could you give me further information about applying for British citizenship? I saw your post of facebook.
    Many Thanks

  • Brian John Blitenthall says:

    Hi There my Mom is a British citizen. Am l eligible to become a citizen. Plus my wife and 2 girls.

  • Bronwen says:

    A query with respect to claiming citizenship by double descent. I was born prior to 1983 in South Africa. My father was South African, my mother Rhodesian. My mother was born in 1948 to a British-born mother and South African father. My maternal grandmother was born in London before World War I. My mother has successfully claimed citizenship via her mother’s British citizenship rights.
    I’ve read through the Romein case and as far as I can see it does not exclude claiming citizenship through the maternal line for more than one generation. That is, I believe that as my maternal grandmother was British born, I should be eligible via double descent.
    However all the emigration attorney sites state only “maternal grandfather” and the UK Home Office will only give me a response if I go ahead and lodge a UKM application – thus risking rejection with no idea of whether there is legal precedent for claiming via a maternal grandmother.
    Any suggestions would be useful.

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