Good news for South Africans who want British citizenship – here’s who could qualify

New avenues for British citizenship have opened for South Africans, with the UK introducing laws enabling many people who have not previously qualified for British citizenship to now be able to qualify.

Immigration specialist Breytenbachs said the new Nationality and Borders Act is causing a stir in the immigration world after being passed by the British parliament in April this year.

The first part of the act concerning nationality has recently come into effect resulting in new provisions for registration as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen, said Breytenbachs.

The part of the act focused on nationality seeks to remedy past injustices in the law. The new act aims to put persons in the position who would have automatically become British citizens had the past laws been just and fair, said Breytenbachs.

In the past, you could not claim British citizenship through your father if your parents weren’t married at the time of your birth or if your UK-born ancestors were women; you, as their descendant, were not able to become a British citizen.

The new laws aim to address the historic inability of mothers and unmarried fathers to pass on citizenship, register persons as citizens who could not do so due to historical injustice and implement a discretionary waiver of residence criteria for naturalisation (the process where citizenship is passed on).

Who will benefit?

Breytenbachs foresees that the following persons benefitting from the Nationality and Borders Act:


Through blood-related ties:

  • People born before 1983 with a UK-born maternal grandmother;
  • Persons with mothers were born as British subjects and with a UK-born paternal grandfather;
  • Persons born between 1983 -1987 with a UK-born maternal grandmother;
  • People born between 1983 – 1987 with a UK-born paternal grandmother;
  • People with a UK-born mother who was born before 1983;
  • People with a grandparent born in the UK before 1983 or Ireland before 6 December 1922,
  • Persons born before 1983 to a father who married before 1949, a woman who or whose parent was born in the UK,

Through marriage:

  • Males, born before 1983 and married to a female British Citizen;
  • Persons with a husband who has a UK-born mother and the husband was born before 1983;
  • Husbands with a wife who has a UK-born mother and the wife was born before 1983;
  • Husbands whose wife was born in the United Kingdom before 1983;
  • A person who got married before 1983 to a UK citizen or person in one of the categories above.

Breytenbachs added that as a general rule, you should explore your rights to British nationality if you:

  • Were adopted;
  • Have a UK-born grandparent or great-grandparent;
  • Have a parent or grandparent born in a former British territory;
  • Were married before 1983 to a person who had a family link back to the UK or a former British territory.

New passport system

The South African government has made UK travel, immigration and citizenship more accessible. The Department of Home Affairs is currently piloting a project to ease passport renewals for people living in the UK.

In partnership with VFS Global, the department aims to move away from paper-based processes, with VFS Global being able to receive applications for passport reissues at new centres across London, Edinburgh and Manchester.

“This is part of the effort to introduce innovative and effective methods of improving service delivery as the new passport service will accelerate the processing of applications and delivery of completed products to clients in the UK,” said the department.


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Good news for South Africans who want British citizenship – here’s who could qualify