Kinley Legal previously published an article on the different types of British citizenship and we considered naturalisation and registration applications. This article is the second in our nationality series and focuses primarily on British citizenship by descent.
As a starting point, and as explained in more detail in our earlier article, British citizenship is divided into two separate classes:
The primary difference between these two classes of citizenship, is that British citizenship by descent cannot usually be handed down to the next generation born overseas. Nevertheless, it can still be a valuable option for people born outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man who have a British born parent (and even, in some rare cases, a British born grandparent).
Automatic acquisition of citizenship by descent vs registration
Due to changes in British nationality law over time, some people will automatically become British citizens by descent, while for others the situation can be more complicated and a registration application is required in the first instance.
If you were born outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man on or after the 1 January 1983, you will normally automatically become a citizen by descent if at least one of your parents was born or adopted somewhere in the British Isles, acquired citizenship in their own right before you were born, or worked for the Crown at the time of your birth.
If you were born before 1 January 1983 however the rules are different and depend on various factors like the date you were born, whether your parents were married at the time of your birth and even which parent was born in the British Isles. For example, if you were born prior to 1983 to a British born mother, you do not automatically qualify but you may be eligible to make a registration application and acquire citizenship in this way.
What is British citizenship by “double descent”?
As we’ve mentioned, British citizenship by descent cannot usually be passed from one generation to the next. The term “double descent” refers to exceptional cases where you can obtain citizenship even though your parent is British by descent if at least one of your grandparents was born in the British Isles.
Working out whether you are eligible for British citizenship by “double decent” requires an in depth analysis of your unique circumstances and depends on a number of factors.
The nationality laws both in your birth country and as they applied in the British Isles at the relevant times have to be considered in the context of your date of birth and that of your parents and grandparents and all this has to evaluated against the backdrop of your birth country’s history and arrangements with the former British Empire at the relevant times.
Is citizenship by descent the only option?
If you are eligible for citizenship by descent, it may seem entirely logical to apply for British citizenship but it is always worth taking professional advice to fully understand the ramifications, particularly if you are considering obtaining British citizenship for the purposes of emigrating to the Isle of Man or United Kingdom.
If you are emigrating with your partner and children, for example, and they are not eligible for British citizenship, your obtaining British citizenship by descent before you move can, quite perversely, limit the immigration options available to your family, making it more complicated, more expensive and more time consuming for your family to obtain the appropriate immigration permissions than what would have been the case if you had not acquired British citizenship beforehand.
British Ancestry – an alternative to British Citizenship by Descent
If you do not qualify for British citizenship by descent or by double descent but you have a grandparent born in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, on a British-registered ship or aircraft (or even in Ireland before 31 March 1922) and you are a commonwealth citizen, then you may be eligible to apply to come to the Isle of Man on an Ancestry visa. Your family may also be able to join you as your dependants.
Ancestry visas are a type of work visa and you need to demonstrate your intention to work or be self-employed. You should seek professional advice from local experts who can properly advise on the immigration requirements and any potential employment law limitations.
How can Kinley Legal help?
As a result of the complicated arrangements following the end of the British Empire, British citizenship law remains one of the most complicated in the world.
Making the wrong application, or having errors in an application, can prove very costly in terms of both wasted time and application fees.
Kinley Legal’s nationality and immigration lawyers are experienced in assessing whether or not a person already holds British citizenship by descent, and if not, they are able to advise on all the available alternatives. They can also advise on first passport applications and the supporting documents and information required as well as on registration applications. We can also advise on the alternatives, like the ancestry visa, and all other types of immigration routes.
If you would like to make an appointment for a call, in-person meeting or online meeting to discuss your situation please get in touch by e-mail at email@example.com or complete our simple contact form, and we would be pleased to help.