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What is British Citizenship by Double Descent?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as British citizenship by Double Descent for those born after 01 January 1983.  If you were born outside the UK, and so was your British parent, you are unlikely to be British by descent. 

British Citizenship by Double Descent

Section 2 of the British nationality Act 1981 says: 

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 [emphasis added]

The effect of the words “otherwise than by descent” is that there can be no “double descent”. 

Examples of British Citizenship by Descent

So, for example, if you were born outside the UK after 01 January 1983 and your British parent is British by descent, you will not be British by descent.  

If you were born outside the UK and your British parent was British otherwise than by descent, for example, because she naturalised as a British citizen, you will be British by descent. 

British Citizenship by Descent Exceptions

There are exceptions for children born outside of the UK whose British parents were  in crown designated or EU service (sections 2(1)(b) and 2(1)(c) of the British nationality Act 1981).  

There were different provisions for those who were born before 01 January 1983. Until 1983, a person born outside British controlled territory who had a father who was British by descent could be British if their birth was registered at a British consulate.  Following Advocate General for Scotland v Romein [2018] UKSC 6, those who had a mother who was British by descent can also benefit. 

Other types of British Nationality

It is also important to note that British citizenship (which entitles a person to reside in the UK without immigration restrictions) is just one form of British nationality.  There are many types of British nationals, most of whom do not automatically have a right to live in the UK. Some historic types of British nationality no longer exist. If you are looking into your family history to try to establish whether you are or may be British, this is something to be aware of.  

Establishing British Citizenship

There are a number of complexities in establishing whether a parent is British by descent and there are many different ways to acquire British citizenship. Therefore, if you have a British parent and would like to know if you are a British citizen, you should seek expert legal advice. 

UK Ancestry – A Potential Alternative to British Citizenship by Descent

If you have a British grandparent, and you are a Commonwealth citizen, then, even if you are not British, you may be able to come to the UK on the UK Ancestry visa route. In summary, you will need to: 

  • Be a Commonwealth citizen; 
  • Be 17 years old or over; 
  • Have a grandparent who was born in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, on a British-registered ship or aircraft or in the Republic of Ireland before 31 March 1922; 
  • Intend to work or be self employed in the UK; 
  • Be able to maintain and accommodate yourself in the UK. 

Contact our Nationality Immigration Barristers

For expert advice regarding your entitlement to British Citizenship, contact our specialist nationality law barristers on 0203 617 9173 or via our contact form below.


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