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British citizenship through marriage

Marriage to a British citizen allows a person to potentially qualify for the UK spouse visa. However, old Colonial law also passed on further rights to women (but not men) who were married to British husbands before 1 January 1983 and to the children of women married before 1949.

Let us assess your right to claim British citizenship

We can help out in the following three situations:

  • Married to (or in a relationship with) a British citizen
  • Women married between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1982
  • Women married before 1 January 1949

You can qualify for a UK spouse visa if you are married  to, or in a relationship with, a British citizen.

Women married between 1 January 1949 and 31 December 1982

A woman who married a British citizen (or a man whose father was born in the UK) before 1 January 1983 - and this woman was a Commonwealth citizen on 1 January 1983 - can claim the right of abode.

The right of abode is unique to the United Kingdom. It takes the form of a stamp in a passport and is considered the next best thing to a British passport. The right can never be lost. It allows the holder to live and work in the UK, and counts time towards naturalisation as a British citizen.

Please note the following important anomalies to the above requirements:

  • Commonwealth nationality can come from one of the following:
    1. Birth in a country that remained a Commonwealth country on 1 January 1983 (so this excludes South Africa)
    2. Descent from the father (in most cases, his country of birth)
    So a South African-born woman could qualify if her father was born in Rhodesia (as an example).
  • Previous marriages can also convey the right of abode. So even though a woman may have remarried, divorced or become widowed, she keeps the right of abode from the previous marriage.
  • The man can be British by birth or by descent. So the woman can get the right of abode from her father-in-law.

Read more about this right of abode to the wife of a British husband.

Women married before 1 January 1949

A woman became a British Subject on her wedding day if she married a British man (including a man whose father was born in the UK) before 1 January 1949. Find out more information on this historic right to British nationality through marriage.

Please note the following three important anomalies:

  • Previous marriages also convey this transfer of British nationality. So even though a woman may have remarried, divorced or become widowed, she remained a British subject.
  • Any children born to this woman after 1 January 1949 can claim British nationality.
  • The husband can be British by birth or by descent.

A consequence of this old nationality law occurs where a person born after 1 January 1949 can have a claim to British nationality from a paternal grandfather born in the UK.

A strange consequence could arise if all three of these factors apply: A person born after 1 January 1949 can have a claim to British nationality from the father of his mother’s former husband.

South Africa

Cape Town

Regent Square
Doncaster Road
Kenilworth 7708 +27 (0) 21 657 2120

Durban

201 The Annex
Ridgeside Office Park
Umhlanga +27 (0) 31 536 8843

United Kingdom

London

Castlewood House
77/91 New Oxford Street
WC1A 1DG +44 (0) 20 7759 7514

Croydon

5-7 Selsdon Road
South Croydon
CR2 6PU +44 (0) 20 7759 7581

Australia

Melbourne

9 Yarra Street
South Yarra
VIC 3141 +613 (0) 8651 4500

Sable International is a trading name of 1st Contact Money Limited (company number 7070528) registered in England and Wales. Sable International is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK (FCA no. 517570), the Financial Services Conduct Authority in South Africa (FSP no. 41900) and holds an Australian Financial Services License issued by ASIC to deal in foreign exchange (AFS License number 335 126).

Please note: Sable International is a trading name of Philip Gamble and Co. Ltd. Philip Gamble and Co. Ltd is registered in the UK with the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC) under no. F2001-00004. Our staff based outside of the UK are not regulated by the OISC and may be involved in some client casework. However, they work to the same high standards as our UK staff and clients receive the same service regardless of which office they engage with.

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