In this third episode of the Sable International UK Citizenship Series, Mishal Patel, Director of Sable International’s Citizenship and Immigration division, details a number of UK citizenship routes that could be available to Americans with UK family ties that won’t require relocation to the UK.

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Posted on 2 July 2021.

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Episode transcript

(This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity)

Tallulah van der Made 

Hello and welcome to the third episode of The Sable International UK Citizenship Podcast. My name is Tallulah, and I'm here with Mishal Patel, a British citizenship and immigration expert and director of our Immigration and Citizenship division. It's Fourth of July weekend in the States, so we thought we'd deal with something topical, namely how Americans might qualify for UK citizenship through ancestral ties. Mishal, maybe you can take us through the three most common routes to UK citizenship for Americans?

Mishal Patel 

It is indeed very topical and today we just want to touch on the three most common routes we see people from the US qualifying for British citizenship, and specifically qualifying for British citizenship without actually relocating to the UK for a significant period of time, or any period of time at all. 

Citizenship by descent

So, the first one that I want to just touch on is by descent. It sounds simple, but at the same time, there are a lot of moving parts to that route. The simplest is if your father was born in the UK, which is a very common one, or if your mother was born in the UK. Now, if a father was born in the UK, it really doesn't matter whether you're born before 1 January 1983 – and I'll come to why that date is important – or if you’re born after that date. 

Now, the reason why that date is important is because on 1 January 1983, we had the current act come into force, which controls British nationality. And that was the first time that women could pass on British nationality the same way a man could. Can you believe it? So it does matter which parent was born in the UK. And then the next generation is born in the USA, for example. So, if a father is born in the UK, like I said, then it should fairly be straightforward.

Say, for example, you are born in 1976, in the USA, but your father was actually born in the UK, things to look out for is: 

  • Did your father naturalise as a US citizen before you were born? 

  • When did naturalisation happen? 

Because the UK did at some stage, and mainly before 1949, strip British subjects of their UK nationality when they're naturalised as aliens as they call them or foreign citizens. 

TV: So there's a couple of dates there. So let's just revise. So the first date is when you say that they were stripped of UK nationality. That was? 

MP: So, that was when someone naturalised as a US national before 1949.

TV: Right, because it was a dual citizenship issue. 

MP: It was an issue in the UK. Correct. So if I was a British subject born in the UK, I went over to the US and I naturalised, immediately on naturalising as a US citizen, especially before 1949, I'd be stripped of my British subject status. 

TV: Okay. And the other date you mentioned was the date that the UK government enacted its current citizenship legislation, is that correct?

MP: Correct. That was on 1 January 1983. But alongside enacting the current act, it also then provided a provision for women to pass on British nationality for the first time in the same way men could. However, that change wasn't retrospective. 

TV: Right. So it's very important when you were born when it comes to claiming British citizenship by descent.

Key dates in British nationality law

MP: That's absolutely right. Yes. So if you are someone,  say in the same exampleI gave, born in the US in 1976, but your mom was born in the UK, and let's say with all things being equal, your mom's never naturalised as a US citizen or anything of that nature. You were born to a British mom. But in 1976, you couldn't claim your mom's nationality by descent. So, you can't have a claim to a British passport in the modern day, right? As you would, had it been your father. 

So these are all little things to look out for when you do have a parent who was born in the UK, for example, and you're born in the US. 

So that's usually the two scenarios we currently face on a weekly basis, where we see these family trees where you'd have either parent born in the UK, then the next generation born in the US. Now, of course, if you're born in the US, on or after the first of January 1983, and your mom was born in the UK, then that doesn't matter in terms of whether she can pass it on to you. Most likely she can. 

TV: Because the law changed. 

MP: Yeah, correct. It just wasn't retrospective. That's the main point here. So, that's the number one sort of main route and that does lead, if it does work out, to a British passport application. 

Now, these passports, as many people now would know, are actually being done in the UK for applicants based overseas, no longer going through the British post abroad. So you can't go into a British Consulate and apply down there anymore. That was stopped more than a few years ago. Now you have to apply directly to the UK. 

TV: So you have to do it in person in the UK?

MP: No, you can do it while you're overseas. It's an online application. You have to post certain originals into the passport office in the UK, but you don't need to necessarily come to the UK to do it. You're treated as an overseas applicant, in other words.

TV: And the second route? 

MP: So the second route, yes. We mentioned that women couldn't pass on nationality before 1983. So, if you are someone that's born in the US in, I use my example again, 1976, and your mom was born in the UK, then you are allowed to register as a British citizen in the modern day. 

That's a formal route of acquisition, it will allow you to become a British citizen and have a British passport. But you've first got to register as a British citizen. 

Registration as a British citizen – through your mother

That takes me to my second route, which is registration as a British citizen.

Many categories fall under that, but we can always talk about that number one category, which is through the mom, and you yourself are born in the US before 1983. So anyone listening to this podcast, if you are such a person, then you probably have a right to register as a British citizen. 

Now, again, it doesn't require you to come to the UK. You can do it whilst you're abroad whilst you're living in the US or wherever it is. It is a fairly straightforward process as long as you can prove the biological link between yourself and your mom and that your mom never lost her British nationality before you were born. So you are born to a mum who was a British citizen, or what we call a Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC). 

It doesn't matter if your mom didn't have a valid British passport when you were born in the USA.

Now a common misconception for people in the US (and I've heard it a lot of times because I've been talking to quite a few people from the US in the last six to eight months, being stuck at home and having these foreign consultations instead of actually meeting anyone) is that a lot of people believe that, “My mom didn't have a British passport when I was born. Yes, she was born in the UK, but she didn't have a British passport, a valid British passport when I was born.” That doesn't matter. Because it's not that you're issued British citizenship on the day your passport is issued. British citizenship is issued by operation of law. So it doesn't matter if your mom didn't have a valid British passport when you were born in the USA.

TV: Yeah, a passport is not citizenship. Citizenship is not a passport. A passport is just the travel document that proves your citizenship.

MP: Absolutely correct. So registering as a British citizen through your mom's birth in the UK, wouldn't have to do with, like I said, her British passport. 

And that opens up all the doors as well for you and your family to then follow suit if you do want to move to the UK. So there is an advantage to getting it if you do have that claim. So that's the one registration type that we do see, especially for those born before 1983. The other registration that we've seen a lot of in the last three years now, is registration through a mother and someone born before 1983. But the mother wasn't born in the UK. It was her father who was born in the UK.

TV: So the citizenship passes down to her through her father, and then she can pass it down to you.

MP: Right. Through a formal registration in the modern day. The reason why it's more recent, that route, is because we did have a court case that was won here in the UK that created the precedent

The straight facts of that case were that the lady that brought that action against the UK government was born in the US. She was a US applicant. She was born before 1983 to a mother who was, herself, British by descent through our own father's birth in the UK. So that's the maternal grandfather born in the UK.

UK citizenship by double descent romein  

Now her argument was that had it been her father in that same position, then, as a man, he was allowed to register her birth at the British Consulate, which would have led to her (the applicant) becoming a British national at the point of that birth being registered in the British Consulate in the US. 

So men, even though they weren't born in the UK or just British, could register their children. That would have led to those children becoming British if those children were born in a foreign country, any country that's not part of the Commonwealth, which is the USA. So, her argument was that due to the gender discrimination in the earlier law before 1983, her mother couldn't register her birth because she was a woman, and she won that. That's led to a lot of claims through the maternal grandfather's birth in the UK, for people who are born in the US before 1983 to a British mother who, even if she doesn't know she's British, was British because her dad was born in the UK.

I'm always amazed at how many people that are in the US do have ancestors born in the UK, so it's just worth checking where your grandparents were born.

TV: So, essentially, you want to check your parents as well. Not only your own citizenship status, but the status of your parents, and see if they are able to pass that down to you. Mishal, is that what we call British citizenship by double descent?

MP: That's absolutely correct. The reason we dubbed it that is because the nearest born ancestor is in two generations down–

TV: Hence the “double”–

MP: Hence the “double”. Correct. Because it's the maternal grandfather in this specific solution that allows that citizenship to pass to two generations. Obviously, we used the court case to push it through, but we've done countless of them now, and it does work. So again, that's a registration type. 

TV: It is one of our most popular citizenship claims. 

MP: I'm always amazed at how many people that are in the US do have ancestors born in the UK, so it's just worth checking where your grandparents were born. If they happen to be born in any part of the UK, great, this could apply to you. Especially if you're born before 1983 and it comes down the maternal line. Then this solution definitely applies. 

Registration as a British citizen – as an “illegitimate” child

The other one is a little bit different. Again, a registration provision, but now we’re talking about illegitimacy. 

Earlier, I mentioned that you can get British citizenship by descent through either parent, depending on which side of the law change you were born. Right? But there is another case where, even if your dad was born in the UK, or your mom was born in the UK, and you happen to be born in, for example, 1981 in the USA, but your parents weren't married when you were born. Then, unfortunately, with British nationality law, they do have a distinction between those born in a marriage and out of a marriage, and they won't allow British nationality to pass to children born out of a marriage, especially when it comes to the father. So a definition of parent for British nationality purposes only takes into account children born to a father in a married couple, in other words, or within a marriage, if it's coming through the father. Or it's always the mom. If a mom was born in the UK, then you don't have to worry about the marriage. As such, the mother is always taken as a parent for that. 

British citizenship by descent

TV: Of course, because you wouldn’t need a DNA test or anything to prove your mom’s your mom. 

MP: Yeah, right. Exactly. But with the father, that was an issue and is still an issue. Just like the gender discrimination, they did change the law on the first of July 2006.

TV: That recent?

MP: Yeah. So after that date, yes, you can just prove your paternity. You don't have to worry about it. And you'll be granted a British passport through your dad, even though you're born out of a marriage. You just have to prove the paternity. Now, just like gender discrimination, this change was not made retrospective. So, in other words, if you were born before 1 July 2006, you can't get it automatically through one's father, which then takes me to the registration, because what the UK did introduce in 2016 was certain provisions, about three or four provisions, within the current act (British Nationality Act 1981) that allows people in various positions, who were born out of a marriage, to register as British citizens if they can prove that, had they been born in a marriage, they would be British now. To try to correct that historic wrong, just the same way as the gender discrimination.

All these are historical moments and they do affect people in the USA.

All these are historical moments and they do affect people in the USA because we do see claims in the USA where it is as straightforward as my dad was born in the UK, but my parents got married after my birth or they didn't get married, they actually split, or they didn't decide to get married,  which is absolutely fine. So, in a scenario like that, we then have to look at whether the person can register as a British citizen, which in 99% of cases they can.

The real problem comes in when trying to prove the paternity on these type of claims, where the father has subsequently passed away, and so on. But that's, I think, where we come in with our experience of what alternative proof you can use to prove the paternity. We see that countless times now where, unfortunately, they’ve applied for the passport, the passport office has said, "No, you don't have a claim, because you were born out of a marriage", and then we'd have to go ahead and register them as a British citizen first, which then allows them to claim a certificate of registration. Then they use that certificate to then apply for a British passport. So that's another common one that we see. We've seen a lot of these now coming in. 

Automatic citizenship vs citizenship by registration

TV: So, when we're talking about registration, what we're basically talking about is whether you are automatically a citizen, or whether you first have to claim your citizenship through the registration. So if you are automatically a citizen, and there's no doubt about that, you know, your parents were both born in the UK and came over to the US and they had a child, they were both married. That's simple. That's the passport application. But, when it's more complicated, first, you have to prove your citizenship to the UK by kind of claiming it with this registration. That's the key difference. Then you can get the passport once you've done that.

MP: Yes, once you've been registered as a British citizen, the passport application is more of a formality, it shouldn't be that difficult. Because at this stage, now, you're a British citizen already, having been registered. 

Registration as a British citizen – child under 18

The last one under registration is for children under the age of 18, specifically. I only mentioned this because again, we see many of these and sometimes we see them a little bit too late, or almost too late. So they come to us when they're like 17, with 10 days left, or even I had one that was 48 hours. 

TV: Wow, that's amazing. 

MP: We managed to put it in, which is great. But rather not if you can avoid it! 

TV: Yes, because that’s a bit of a risk. 

MP: Yeah. So, we do have dual citizens in the USA at the moment, there are countless of them, who are British, and US citizens or British citizens living in the USA.

Now, what we notice is that these parents are what we call British by descent. So, in other words, they can't pass their nationality automatically, as you said, to children born in the USA, or anywhere out of the UK, for that matter. However, these parents who are British by descent have lived in the UK themselves. Specifically, they lived in the UK for, say, a minimum of three years, which is kind of what's required for this registration. They themselves are British by descent because they were born out of the UK to a parent who was themselves born in the UK. 

UK citizenship by double descent 3-2

TV: So, for example, it would be somebody who decided as a teen that they wanted to go over to the UK, they worked there, they spent three years living there, and then they left again. But their parents were born in the UK, and they did that time in the UK. Those are the two requirements. Then their child isn't automatically British because they themselves weren't born in the UK, but…

MP: ...can be registered as British citizens. But that registration has a deadline, which is the 18th birthday. 

TV: While they’re still a child. 

MP: While they're still a minor. Yes, correct. So the point there, is we do have a lot of children born to British citizens by descent in the USA, which is great in one way because the children do pick up US citizenship, so they're not stateless. But at the same time, if the parents want their children to get British citizenship, than they need to act on that as quickly as possible, not leaving it to the last minute, especially where we they need to prove that they themselves, as the British parent, lived in the UK at some stage for say three years before the children were born.

TV: This counts as well if they're currently living in the UK, right? So if you're British by descent, that means you can live in the UK because you're British, and you have a child and you've been living there for about three years. Your child doesn't automatically become British just because they were born in the UK. You have to live there for three years and then you have to register the child as a UK citizen.

What you don't want is the awkward scenario, which has happened to me, where one sibling gets it and the other sibling has missed the boat. Not nice. Trust me, very hard to explain.

MP: Correct. So even if you have, say, US nationals, who may be dual citizens who have come back to the UK or lived here and decided to come back in the future, and they brought their children who are US citizens back with them, then yes. You've got to live here for a minimum of three years, usually. If, at the end of those three years, your children are still under the age of 18, then we can register them as British citizens. whilst they're still under 18, and have been here three years, and they were born to a parent who is British, which ideally would be the case. The usual situation we see is one parent is British, children are US citizens, and the husband, or the wife is a US citizen as well. They just relocated to the UK.

TV: Just to ensure that the children get that UK citizenship?

MP: To ensure the children get that UK citizenship. You are correct, yeah. So they could move back, and you kind of have to move before the eldest child is 15, because you want to be able to amass a three-year period of residence for the entire family, including that child, before the 18th birthday. See, if you move in when they're 16, then that might not really work. You don't have the three years. 

But that registration obviously requires relocation to the UK and residency in the UK. Whereas if you are a British citizen and you do have children born in the US, and they are under 18 now, and, as a British citizen, you have lived in the UK, for, say two and a half or three years, it's worth getting in touch and getting that that looked at before it's too late. What you don't want is the awkward scenario, which has happened to me, where one sibling gets it and the other sibling has missed the boat. Not nice. Trust me, very hard to explain.

TV: We are going to be doing a whole episode dedicated to children under 18 and all the various ways that they can qualify for British citizenship.

MP: Yeah, we'll cover that a little bit more in depth there, alongside other age-limited applications. 

So we've covered different registration types. I don't think we covered adoption, did we?

British citizenship through adoption

MP: So I think that's worth just quickly mentioning, especially in the last couple of years, I've been looking into it quite a lot in my team. The UK still has a distinction between biological children and adopted children. So, children who have been adopted by, say, British citizens abroad. In other words, where a biological child can get rights to British citizenship almost automatically, or through registration, an adopted child doesn't fall into that definition. 

We’re just trying to make things equal and fair across all these different types of scenarios, especially where we know the law hasn’t adapted to that situation.

What we have been able to do as a firm is push forward different scenarios to the Home Office to get them to close that gap. Because, even now as we speak, there's no law that covers that. There is a discretionary provision that allows us to paint a picture and ask for the Home Office to use discretion to register that child, but the problem is the word "child". In other words, again, at the time of application, that adopted child has to be under 18 years old. Otherwise, again, they miss that opportunity.

Uk citizenship by adoption

Now, what I quickly want to say is we have a fair few, not that many, but fair few children who have been adopted by British citizens in the USA. What we've been able to do as a firm is say to the Home Office that they should register an adopted child as a British citizen if we are able to prove that, had that child being a biological child of that same parent, they would have been entitled to register as a British citizen, or they’d be British automatically.

TV: So, similar to the case of an illegitimate child. 

MP: It would be very similar. We’re just trying to make things equal and fair across all these different types of scenarios, especially where we know the law hasn’t adapted to that situation. 

So we've got to ask for discretion. It's something that's fairly recent, but we have had quite a bit of experience and success. So, again, one worth mentioning there as well. So that's registration and different variations of that. 

Marriage to a British citizen

MP: Then going to the next one, marriage to a British citizen. I specifically mentioned this in a pre-1949 scenario, where if you are married to a British national and your marriage happened before 1949, then that still in the modern day allows the wife to claim British citizenship in the modern day. 

TV: So remind me why it’s 1949?

MP: Because, in the period before 1949, the British nationality law at that stage allowed women to automatically acquire their husband's British nationality. As long as the woman then didn't subsequently renounce that British nationality, it would have evolved throughout the ages to become British citizenship in the modern day. Hence, you can claim a British passport. 

Uk citizenship by marriage

Now, of course, these are rare, but there are a handful to mention. This year itself I've had about, I would say, close to around 20 of these applications come in. Some of them had the documents, which go through, some of them didn't. But we do have people who are still around who had married a British citizen before 1949. It's that simple. That's because marriage now to a British citizen doesn't give you those rights.

TV: No. You have to get a partner visa, you have to live with them in the UK, spend five years in the UK, get ILR and then claim citizenship. So it’s a six-year process really. 

So not only am I able to claim nationality because of that marriage, but if I have any children born to me before 1983, so can they.

MP: Absolutely. Now, one of the sort of side effects of getting British nationality as a woman that way is that in the modern day if you had children born to you before 1983. So, for example, say I married a British national in 1941 and, whether I know it or not, I'm British because of that marriage. Now, if I had children, born to me in 1976, in the USA, again, those children can register – would you believe? – as British citizens through the earlier amendment to the gender discrimination that I mentioned. An application to registration, basically. So not only am I able to claim nationality because of that marriage, but if I have any children born to me before 1983, so can they. 

UK citizenship by double descent 125

TV: Which is why it’s so important to check your grandparents and your parents' UK nationality options as well when trying to look at your options. Sometimes you need that stepping stone of the previous generation and that’s where the magic happens. 

MP: Right? Sometimes even I find, after 12-13 years doing this, I'm still astonished when that happens. Like, not only do you have it, but also your children have it.If they get that now, then they could do the right thing, and their children could perhaps get it in the future. So it goes on. 

But I mentioned that for those two reasons. One, not only does the wife get it, but also her children born before 1983 can acquire it through her as well. So, again, if someone is born in the USA, your parents got married before 1949, and you specifically know that your father was either born in the UK, or maybe you're British because his dad was born in the UK, then those are the right ingredients for a claim like that, not just for your mom, but for yourself. 

So that's marriage before 1949 to a British national and how her children can acquire the nationality. Now the other thing I wanted to just quickly mention, before I forget, is right of abode, because I've seen it talked about a lot lately.

Right of abode

If you could go back to what I just said to you, Tallulah,  which is before 1949 you get British nationality, if you're married to a British man, but from the first to January 1949 to the first of January 1983. So that period of time, if you are a woman who is a Commonwealth citizen who married a British man – whether he was born in the UK or it could be his dad was born in the UK - it works either way, it's fine. But if you are a Commonwealth citizen, married in this period of time, to a British man, then you would be entitled to the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

UK citizenship right of abode

It's an entitlement. It's not a grant. It's automatic. In other words, just like how nationality is passed on, this is passed on automatically to the woman on the date of her marriage. But it won't apply to women who are US citizens, married to British men, because they're not Commonwealth citizens. But what we have noticed is a lot of people in the USA also have Canadian citizenship. So that is a Commonwealth citizenship. You will be entitled, therefore, to right of abode.

Now the thing with the right of abode is it is still very much alive. A lot of people think it's not, but it is. It does entitle the holder to visa-free access to the UK, and there are no time restrictions on their stay in the UK either. In fact, the “no restrictions” is probably how I best describe it to people, it’s the next best thing to being a British passport holder.

We’re just trying to make things equal and fair across all these different types of scenarios, especially where we know the law hasn’t adapted to that situation.

If you choose to live in the UK for five years (or three years depending if you're still married to a British citizen) on the right of abode, then you can naturalise as a British citizen. So, again, it's a good stepping stone if you do want to get a British passport. I just want to quickly mention that before we move on, because I think that's been mentioned on a few forums and a lot of people are talking about it. It's worth mentioning what right of abode means in the modern day, which is it's an entitlement, it's visa-free access to the UK and no restrictions on your stay or work in the UK.

The most unusual US British citizenship claims

TV: I was curious, what is the most unusual case that you’ve encountered for US citizens or people living in the USA who have claimed UK citizenship?  

MP: It would have to be... I mean it's been a while, but it's still very unusual to see it and I'll probably never see it again, which was someone that approached us some time back. This was, I think, when I was still in training, so it wasn't like it was my case, but I still remember it. A gentleman that was born before 1983 and after we did our investigations on that, it actually turned out that he had a claim to register as a British citizen through his mother's previous husband.

You know, sometimes the law is mischievous.

TV: So, not his father?

MP: Not his father. Another man basically that she was married to before she married his father, and then had him. Yeah, so it was because of what I said earlier, you know, when I mentioned marriage before 1949. Now, this person did that. His mom had been married to a British citizen before 1949 and picked up nationality. Now, subsequently, they're divorced. But the law doesn't strip off her British nationality when she divorces. It gives it, but it doesn't strip it automatically. She never renounced it. Then she married a US citizen and then the gentleman was born. It turned out that his mom had been British all the time from the date of first marriage.

Family tree3

TV: So, he basically got citizenship from someone he hadn't even met who had been involved with his mom, long before he was born. That's a stroke of luck.

MP: That is a stroke of luck and he couldn't quite believe it as well. I mean, needless to say, you know, it did make the news at that point in the office. Everyone was talking about it because no one could quite believe how that happened. But really sit down and work it out properly. You know, sometimes the law is mischievous.

TV: Yeah and family trees are fascinating. You never know what small aspect of your family tree can lead to weird and wonderful citizenship opportunities.

MP: Absolutely, absolutely. It reminded me of another case, which is actually worth mentioning on this podcast. I had a lady who was born in the UK, in the period before 1983 in the UK. Usually, if you're born in the UK before 1983, you get nationality just because you're born here. Just like how it is in the US, I believe, at the moment. But the thing is, there is one reason why you wouldn't be British if you're born in the UK before 1983. That's if you're born to a father, who was a diplomat, or was afforded diplomatic privileges, or was immune to sort of suit and legal processes in the UK.  
UK citizenship by birth diplomatic service exception

Now her dad, and I specifically remember this because I used to live in a part of London that was right next to where the Royal Air Force is now, but previously, was the US Air Force Base. Her dad was a US Air Force man. So, he actually was employed by the US Air Force and was in the UK.

TV: Right, but employed by the US, not by the UK.

MP: Not by the UK,  yeah. We used to have a lot more US Air Force bases or training grounds here and they had children born here and she was one of those, born to a father who was serving in the US Air Force. Now, the thing is with the US Air Force, they are immune to most legal processes in the UK, so they can't be tried here domestically, they have immunity. But we were able to argue out that his immunity was partial, he didn't have full immunity. We did actually end up winning that argument, and she was granted a British passport. 

But what was fascinating about it was that, she was born in the UK andhad the UK birth certificate, she'd gone back to the US. She just put this birth certificate away in a cupboard because she'd been told it wouldn't work for x, y, z reasons and maybe she had tried and they actually refused it. But it's just worth mentioning again, because from what I know, there were over 50,000 or so children born in the UK to US Air Force men. So, it's worth people knowing that.

TV: How did we manage to win the argument that he only had partial immunity?

MP: So, there is an act that actually covers this type of immunity, but it’s quite complex and it talks about where people are immune and how much immunity they have and that alongside some of the US… I learned a lot during that one. 

TV: A lot of legal work and research just to build the argument?

MP: Right. Because there was a Visiting Forces Act that covered visiting forces to the UK and so on. That, again, talked about what would happen if one of the US Air Force men decided to go out drunk and smash someone’s front door or something like that. So, we were able to develop an argument that his rank and what he was here for only afforded him partial immunity at that point. For that reason, it worked. Because of partial immunity across those couple of different pieces of legislation. Complex, but quite rewarding. I think for the last – I mean, she’s definitely in her mid 40s – so I think for the last 30 or 40 years she’s always thought it’s a no-go basically. 

Not only did she get it – and this is the real cherry on the top for me – her children can register as British citizens because she got her nationality. So, children born before 1983 can register now that we're allowed to do that. So, it created another class of British citizens, basically, who had never even come to the UK, just because their mom was born here.

TV: All these strange and interesting routes. So, I also want to ask you, what should people do if they think they might have a claim or if they're just intrigued based on what you've spoken about today, and they want to check their own family.

How to check your family tree for UK citizenship opportunities

MP:  I mean, it's very straightforward. We've been able to develop a system where we can provide free of charge British citizenship assessments or Status Traces. So, basically where they can come in, input all their family details on our website, parents and grandparents. Don't worry if you don't have all the details at once, you can always log back in and keep on uploading this thing until it's accurate. 

What that does is gives an accurate picture of what your family tree looks like. Now, once you've done that, then you can order one of our free status traces and you will see that button once you've finished inputting all your data. Once you click that button, myself and my team will get an alert to login and assess your family tree, after which we can provide some indication of where you lie, what your chances are.

So, what we'd like to do is brainstorm each family tree and give an accurate answer on what we think the likelihood is.

TV: Basically the likelihood, right? So, if it’s a definite thing, if it’s extremely likely, if it’s going to be one of those complex cases or if there’s no chance. 

MP: What we don't want to do is lead anyone up this kind of golden path, then take money, and then at the end of it say, "Oh, no, it doesn't work." You know? Because we didn't do our due diligence. We are not in that business. We really don't want to give people hope when there isn't any, and we want to be as transparent as possible from the get go. 

So, what we'd like to do is brainstorm each family tree and give an accurate answer on what we think the likelihood is, as you said, and there were those four outcomes we just mentioned. So, for example, if the outcome is likely, then you're given an option to engage with our staff or myself for that matter. So, that would be one possibility. If it's unlikely or completely remote, then at least you know, and you know what any alternatives to move to the UK are. 

If you feel like you need to email in, then you can email in. You can find all our details on our website. You can email us if there's something you can't input on the family tree, but it's worth mentioning, you could just please just use the same email addresses you used to register on our website.

TV: Our system can see and add it to your case if you use the same email address.

MP: I believe that's the best way to get the answer. Like I said, it's completely free of charge. There's no obligations attached.

TV: Yeah, it’s all online. You can take your time with it. 

MP: Exactly. 

TV: Thank you so much, Mishal, this has been really interesting. Thank you to everybody who tuned in today. In the next episode, we will be fully focused on those unusual routes to UK citizenship from various places, not just the US, and we might even have a special guest. So, that's one you won't want to miss. 

Until then, you can now send us your questions. If you go to Anchor FM, you can click on the "message us" and record a quick voice note for us with your questions and we may use that in a future episode. Or it might actually inspire a topic for a future episode, so please don't hesitate to do that. Until next time.


Get in touch with Mishal and our citizenship team at citizenship@sableinternational.com or by calling +44 (0) 20 7759 7581.


Catch up on the rest of the series

  1. How Mishal gained his UK citizenship
  2. The EU Settlement Scheme
  3. Routes to UK citizenship for Americans
  4. Complex UK nationality (with Philip Gamble)

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