Are you interested in having a British passport and acquiring British citizenship? Only British citizens may hold British passports, so you need to apply to become a British citizen first. This article explains how to become a British citizen.
Meet the qualifying criteria
You could qualify for British citizenship, provided that you have documentary proof of your line of descent (such as birth and marriage certificates to show your relationship to your parents and grandparents), if:
- Your paternal grandfather was born in the United Kingdom
- Your father was born in South Africa
- Your parents were married in South Africa before 1 January 1949 and were they still married on that date
- You were born before 1983
British citizenship is either passed on ‘by descent’ or ‘other than by descent’ and used to only be attainable via the male line. In order not to discriminate against women, the law changed. For certain people who meet the above criteria, an opportunity currently exists for anyone born before 1983 to a British mother, to apply for citizenship ‘by descent’.
The British authorities can take up to six months to consider your citizenship application, sometimes longer. They will check your credentials and documents thoroughly, so it’s very important that they are all in order when you submit your application.
Get a legal opinion
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that your application will be successful and even if you meet the criteria – the British authorities may still refuse to grant you citizenship.
But a legal opinion, detailing the various laws which have changed over the years in the United Kingdom and South Africa and commenting on exactly how they relate to your application in particular, can enhance your chances of success greatly. Using the same law firm as a contact address in South Africa is also an excellent idea. It indicates that you have legal backing and have gone into what is required very thoroughly. We are such a law firm.
The legal opinion will explain how your mother became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies through marriage, according to the law. This would have given her British Citizenship ‘other than by descent’. Her citizenship can in turn, be passed on to you, ‘by descent’.
British Citizenship may not be passed down by ‘double decent’ which means that if you acquire British citizenship, it cannot be passed on to your children. It is possible for you to be a dual citizen of South Africa and the United Kingdom.
How can we help?
We can provide you with a package of legal services in support of your application for British citizenship, including:
- a legal opinion confirming whether you fulfil the criteria to apply for British citizenship with specific regard to the relevant legislation, genealogical research about your lineage, and necessary documents; and
- acting as a service address for all correspondence related to your application.
However, we do not do family research and you will have to get a genealogy researcher to:
- check whether you fulfil the criteria to apply for British citizenship by looking at your documents
- do any genealogy research necessary for your application
- advise you on how to obtain any documents necessary for your application, such as birth or marriage certificates, or arrange to get them on your behalf
- supply instructions on how to complete the actual application form and submit it or complete it and submit it on your behalf with the supporting documents
We do not undertake family research, the ordering of documents relating to your line of descent, or the completion of your citizenship application. We will present a legal opinion based upon what you plan to submit in relation to the laws governing your application in order to prove that you were born to a British mother before 1983.
We are able to put you in touch with various genealogy researchers who handle these other aspects. They can assess the documents you already have and, for a fee, assist you in getting your application to the point where it can be presented to us.
What does it cost?
Some costs are constant, others vary. Here’s a breakdown of what you’re going to have to pay for and how much:
Citizenship application costs in this instance are currently £80.
Requesting any documents to prove your line of descent (which you may need) from the Department of Home Affairs generally costs R75 per document, but getting them from other authorities, particularly in the UK, will have variable costs.
Genealogy researchers generally charge by the hour because it is often unclear how much research they will need to do for you, what documents they will need to find about your ancestors, and whether they will need to help you collect documents. A good rate is about R300 per hour.
This package costs R4,927 incl. VAT for one applicant. We offer a 20% discount on the same support package for any applications for British citizenship beyond the first, provided that the details of the lineage of the person involved in each subsequent application are substantially similar to those in the original application.
Applying for a British passport after getting British citizenship currently costs between £102 and £111.