USA and the UK
Claiming British Citizenship by Descent (Grandparent)
Claiming British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) – also known as British Citizenship by double descent – is based on at least one of your grandparents being British. Double descent will require you to meet certain guidelines depending on when you and your grandparents were born.
There are several ways that you can qualify for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) but they must be provisional in the law providing that a grandparent or great grandparent was classified as British or born in the UK.
- In what circumstances are you eligible for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent)?
- What is the alternative to British Citizenship by double descent?
- How can you apply for British citizenship by double descent?
- Are there British Citizenship by double descent rules that I need to be aware of?
- How can IAS help with my British Citizenship by descent application?
In what circumstances are you eligible for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent)?
There are 3 possible scenarios in which a successful claim for British Citizenship by descent through a grandparent can be made:
- Children who are under the age of 18 may be eligible for British citizenship by descent
- A person born before the 1st of January 1949
- A person born after the 1st of January 1949
Children who are under the age of 18
Once a child turns 18, there are particular circumstances that normally apply for British Citizenship that are no longer available for applications. This is why it’s important that any applications for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) are complete before the child turns 18.
If a child is looking to claim British Citizenship by double descent before the age of 18, there are particular circumstances that can make them eligible:
- A parent has spent at least 3 years in the UK where there hasn’t been an absence from the country for more than 270 days over the 3 year period and the relevant grandparent was born in the UK
- A parent will be staying in the UK for at least another 3 years in the future, providing that the child is still under the age of 18 when the application for British Citizenship by descent is made.
- A parent who is British has given birth to the child who is classed as ‘stateless’ when they are born (the child does not take up the citizenship of the country that they were born or the nationality of their parents) can be eligible to apply for British Citizenship by descent
- In exceptional circumstances, a discretionary registration is provided such as being gifted in sports, music or theatre etc.
Adult Born After the 1st of January 1949
There are a number of situations where you can qualify for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) under this scenario. This includes:
- You or your parents being born in a former British Territory (British Protectorates, British Protected States, Mandated Territories, Foreign Countries with ETJ or Post 1949 Colonies)
- If your parent is classed as a British Citizen you may be eligible to apply for British Citizenship by descent.
- You have a parent or grandparent that is in the Crown Service (British Military, Overseas Civil Service, Colonial Service or Diplomatic Corp)
- You have parents that are married before 1949 and your mother was a British subject
Adult Born Before the 1st of January 1949
If you were born outside of the UK and claim to have a UK-born grandparent, you may be eligible to apply for British Citizenship by descent (double descent) depending on your circumstances. These can be complex cases which means they must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. There are 3 common scenarios that occur under this circumstance:
- You and your parents were not born in a Commonwealth country. You were born before the year 1915
- You or your parent were born in a former British Territory (See list above).
- You’re a woman who was married to a British man before the year 1949.
British Citizenship for a child born outside the UK to parents that are British citizens is not automatic. This means you would be required to apply for British citizenship by descent and will be eligible providing you meet guidelines to qualify.
What is the alternative to British Citizenship by descent (grandparent)?
If you are not British but have a British grandparent and are a Commonwealth citizen, then you have the option to apply for a UK Ancestry Visa as an alternative to applying for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent), also known as double descent. In order to be eligible to apply for a UK Ancestry Visa, you would need to match the following requirements:
- Be aged 17 or over
- Prove that you’re able to support yourself whilst be accommodated in the UK
- Have the intention to work in the UK
- Be a Commonwealth citizen
- Have a grandparent that was born in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, on a British-registered ship or aircraft or in the Republic of Ireland before 31st of March 1922.
It must be noted that if you have step-parents then you will be unable to claim for an Ancestry Visa.
How can you apply for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent)?
In order to apply for British citizenship by descent (grandparent), you will initially have to apply for British Citizenship. It’s then through this process that you’ll be able to confirm whether or not you’re eligible to make a double descent claim.
Each application for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) will be assessed by UKVI on an individual basis. Since this is a complex procedure with a number of routes depending on your age, it is advisable to contact IAS for expert immigration advice and assistance.
Are there British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) rules that I need to be aware of?
In order for you to qualify for British Citizenship by descent (double descent), there are particular guidelines that you need to match. The information provided on this page can help you find out how to get British Citizenship by descent through your Grandparent.
How can IAS help with my British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) application?
Your IAS immigration lawyer will assess your eligibility for British Citizenship by descent (grandparent).
They will advise you on the best route towards British Citizenship, working closely to support your family and preparing a robust application. If relevant, they can also assess eligibility for citizenship by descent through a parent, or any other route that may be applicable to you, such as the British Citizenship by double descent route or the UK Ancestry Visa. Call us on +1 844 290 6312 or use our online contact form to discuss your case and start your next steps.
If British Citizenship by descent is not appropriate for your situation and a visa route is something you are considering, you can find out about UK visas routes for Americans by visiting UK immigration advice for U.S. citizens.
Last modified on June 17th, 2023 at 7:49 am
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If you were born after January 1, 1983
These are the following circumstances in which you can claim British Citizenship by double descent if you were born after 1983:
- Your (British-born) grandfather was in crown service at the time of your relevant parent’s birth
- You or a parent were born in a former British colony
- Your parent had a British-born mother, non-British father and was registered as a British citizen between February 2nd and December 31st, 1982
If you were born before January 1st, 1983:
You may be able to claim British Citizenship by double descent when:
- You/your parent was born in a former British territory (this excludes main Commonwealth countries of 1949)
- You/your parent was a registered British citizen
- Your parent was in crown service when you were born
- Your parents were married before 1949 and your paternal grandfather was born in Britain
- Your maternal grandfather was born in the UK and you were born outside the EEA
If you were born before January 1st, 1949:
The most common cases of those born before 1949 claiming British Citizenship by descent (grandparent) include:
- You and your parent were not in a Commonwealth country (must have been born before 1915)
- You or your parent were born in a former British territory
- Your grandparent or parent was married to a British man before 1949
Only British citizens are able to apply for a British passport. Before you can begin this application, you must be registered or naturalized as a British citizen.
If one or more of your grandparents was born in the UK, there may be some circumstances in which you could claim British Citizenship through them, called British Citizenship by double descent.
Like British Citizenship by descent through a grandparent, citizenship through a parent is equally complex, due to the number of rules and different scenarios that need to be clarified in the process.
Factors that must be considered are when you were born, when your parent was born, if they were born inside or outside the UK, how your parents(s) became British and more. This is an area that is too complex to document on one page, as an ancestry analysis would need to be conducted by an immigration expert in order to determine if you are eligible via the descent route.
Contact IAS to get help with the complex process of establishing if you have a claim to British Citizenship by descent through a parent.
You can also learn more about British Citizenship by Birth.
If at the time of your birth one of your parents was a British citizen or settled in the UK, then you are automatically a British citizen.
If neither of your parents was a British citizen or settled in the UK when you were born, then you can register to become a British citizen. However, note that being born in the UK is not a guarantee that you will be eligible for UK nationality.
If you were not born in the UK and and you have a parent, grandparent, and in some cases, great grandparent who was British, you may be able to claim British Citizenship by descent.
British citizenship by triple descent refers to the ability to acquire British Citizenship through great-grandparents.
This route to British Citizenship is less common than by descent by a parent or by double descent by a grandparent.