JOHANNESBURG – There are 101 different ways to qualify for British citizenship, says Phillip Gamble, founder and managing partner of UK immigration and nationality advisors, Philip Gamble & Partners. But beyond having a standard claim to British citizenship – whether through being born in the United Kingdom before January 1 1983 or by living there for five years at some point in your life – it’s complicated.
Non-standard claims are many and varied, with some of them yet to be tested by the British Home Office.
“British nationality is not simply a question of being born in the UK,” says Gamble, a former Home Office executive with 24 years experience in British nationality law.
Gamble notes that you might have a claim to nationality in the following cases: where your country of birth is different to that of your parents or any grandparent; you have a UK-born grandparent; a parent or grandparent was British; where you were married to a British national; or you or a parent spent some qualifying time in the UK.
Take third generation South Africans for instance. Where you, both parents and all four grandparents were born in South Africa you may still have a claim to British nationality if your mother was previously married, you were adopted or you or a parent worked in Federal Rhodesia (now Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe).
Where your mother acquired citizenship not through your father but through a previous marriage, it’s possible for your to claim citizenship if her first marriage occurred before 1949. “Children from the second marriage who were born after 1949 can acquire citizenship in the same way as children in the first marriage,” Gamble explains.
After 1949, women could no longer automatically acquire citizenship through marriage.
Crown Service and Commonwealth connections
There are other anomalies in British nationality law. For example, if your grandmother was born in the UK and your mother was born outside of the UK but was registered British between February 7 1979 and January 1 1983 – in anticipation of the 1983 change to the British Nationality Act that would make claims on British citizenship gender neutral – you may have a claim to citizenship.
“Siblings may very well have different rights to nationality because they are born either side of a law change, or their parents took different actions at different points in time,” says Gamble.
“The law defines citizenship to be passed always in the first generation by descent and sometimes in the second generation by descent,” he adds.
If you were born after January 1 1983, and have a UK-born grandparent who was in Crown Service at the time of your parent’s birth, your parent would be British otherwise than by descent and this means you can claim citizenship in the modern day, Gamble explains.
If you were born before January 1 1983 and your parent was in Crown Service at the time of your birth, you have a claim to citizenship, says Gamble.
Crown Service includes working for the British military, the overseas civil service, colonial service or for the diplomatic corp.
Connections to former British territories may be beneficial, as may connections to Federal Rhodesia – particularly considering South Africa’s exit from the Commonwealth between 1962 and 1994 – and the ability to acquire an ancestry visa.
When it comes to children, there are different rules governing the period before they are born, before they turn 18 and after they turn 18. For instance, a child born in a country that does not grant citizenship to that child at birth may be able to acquire British citizenship through second generation by descent, even where a parent cannot otherwise pass on citizenship by descent.
If all else fails, you can acquire British citizenship through investing large sums of money into the country, because even the Brits know which side their bread is buttered.
Watch the video above to have more of your questions answered. To do a free British passport review and find out whether a claim on British nationality is worth pursuing, visit www.philipgamble.co.uk.