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Thousands of South Africans eligible for British citizenship through double descent after ground-breaking Supreme Court ruling

by Philip Gamble | Apr 17, 2018
  • A recent ruling by the Supreme Court in the UK has opened a new route to British citizenship for thousands of previously disqualified South Africans. The ruling remedies some gender discrimination in the UK’s nationality legislation. If you have a mother who is British by descent (i.e. your mother’s father was born in the UK), then you could now have a claim to British citizenship through double descent.
    british citizenship double descent

    First things first: Are you eligible?

    If you meet the following criteria, you may now be eligible for British citizenship by double descent:

    • You were born in a “foreign country” (which included South Africa between 31 May 1962 and 31 December 1982);
    • You were born between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1983; AND
    • Your maternal grandfather was born in the UK.

    The criteria above represent the most common set of circumstances in which a claim could proceed under this new ruling however many others exist. If you suspect you may be eligible for a claim fill in the obligation-free citizenship assessment at the bottom of this article to find out more.

    Find out if you are eligible for British citizenship

    Opening up a new route to citizenship, eliminating discrimination

    South Africans (and individuals from other countries outside of the Commonwealth) with a maternal grandfather born in the UK and who were born after 1948 and before 1983 are now eligible to claim British citizenship by double descent. Under previous legislation, this wasn’t possible.

    Before 1983, British citizenship could not be transferred through the female line, only through the male line. Legislation was passed in 1983 (and again in 2003) to address this gender discrimination. However, elements of gender discrimination still existed. The recent ruling of the Supreme Court in this matter has further eliminated some (but not all) of the remaining instances of gender-based discrimination in nationality law.

    These applications are not run-of-the-mill

    It’s important to note that this is still a complex route to British citizenship. It is based on case law and not regular legislation. An applicant’s situation must meet all the requirements set out in the court ruling and it is clear to us that even some of those who meet the basic criteria listed above may not succeed with their applications. As a result, these cases must always be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

    Anyone who meets the criteria outlined above and thinks they could be eligible for British citizenship should consult a registered British nationality expert who can assist with their case.

    Fill out our free British citizenship assessment below to find out if you are eligible.


    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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