Migration naturalisation frustration
December 13, 2013 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Father: had a British passport he let expire. Grandfather: British citizen. Grandmother: married him pre-1949, automatically making her a citizen. Me: Australian national, NZ resident, wants to live in the UK. Please help me make sense of what I can apply for!

I've combed through previous AskMes on the subject as well as the UK Border Agency, but I'm getting some severely conflicted information on the subject and my head is spinning. I'm on the cusp of applying for an ancestry visa, but I'm not sure whether I can actually get citizenship via my father. YANML, but I'd love to rule out getting citizenship before I start my ancestry visa application slog.

GRANDFATHER: British by birth, British passport + citizenship, married my grandmother (South African citizen but British by descent) in 1940. Deceased.
GRANDMOTHER: British by marriage via the pre-1949 automatic citizenship ruling, but never claimed it. Dual South African-Australian citizen. Living.
FATHER: Born in South Africa in '45. Gained British passport in 1960s; let it expire. Never resided in England for more than 1 year. Became Australian citizen and permanently resides in NZ. Living.
ME: Born in Australia mid-80s, Australian passport, permanent resident of NZ, wants to live and work in the UK. Have never lived or worked there previously.

I'm not sure if letting one's passport expire goes hand-in-hand with giving up citizenship. Here are my questions.

* If Dad renewed/gained a British passport again, would it strengthen my ancestry visa application?
* OR if Dad gained a British passport again, would I be able to automatically apply for British citizenship?

This family tree confuses Dad and I every time we look at it. When we try to ask family and friends, everyone acts as though I'm a nutbar for not just marrying my British partner. If/when I do, it's super important for me that I can marry my partner without even a whiff of hilarious comedy-romance Greencard: in fact, one of the reasons why I'd love to get citizenship is so that's never a pressure on the table!

In conclusion, I would be terrifically grateful to get some info on this. Thank you in advance!
posted by monster truck weekend to Law & Government (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Were you born before or after Jan 1, 1983? That seems to be the key date when citizenship by descent changed. You also said nothing about your mother. It depends on whether your mother and father were married or unmarried.
posted by sbutler at 10:07 PM on December 13, 2013

Crap. Shan't threadsit, but I'll add those details in here:

MOTHER: South African-Australian citizen, living, married to my father. Her mother was born in pre-independence British Rhodesia but was a South African citizen and, in any case, I can't find any info that means this is helpful.
ME: Born after the Jan 1, 1983 cut-off point, still not absolutely sure what that cut-off point cuts off.

Hope that helps!
posted by monster truck weekend at 10:12 PM on December 13, 2013

IMHO, I think you're out of luck with the citizenship route. It sounds like your father has citizenship by descent, and that your mother never had British citizenship or at best has citizenship by descent (no more helpful than your father). A British citizen by descent can't normally pass on citizenship.

Here's a long list of requirements for citizenship to come from a parent who has citizenship by descent. From what you've provided here, and what I can read in between the lines, I think you fail on several of those points (5 and 7).

A passport is just a single source of proof that a person has citizenship. That is, if you possess one then officials know you went through all the many steps requirement to gain it. Your father having or not having one doesn't strengthen your case for citizenship, but it might bring together documents you'd need for an ancestry visa.
posted by sbutler at 10:36 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Was your father a citizen at the time of your birth? How did he acquire that citizenship (by descent or otherwise)?

Were your parents married at the time of your birth or while your father was a citizen?

These are the questions that determine the answer. Details about passports, etc are not relevant.

From the details you give here, it seems that you are not a British citizen because you were born after 1983 and your father had citizenship only by descent.
posted by ssg at 10:39 PM on December 13, 2013

I'm not sure if letting one's passport expire goes hand-in-hand with giving up citizenship.

It doesn't. Passports are just after-the-fact things here. And Jan 1st 1983 is the date when the new criteria of the British Nationality Act 1981 kicked in.

This is a succinct explanation of the law from 1983 onwards:
British citizenship may descend to one generation born abroad. So if you were born outside the United Kingdom or qualifying territory and one of your parents was a British citizen otherwise than by descent, you are a British citizen by descent.
If you are not automatically a citizen by descent, then there's still the possibility of registration by satisfying the criteria in sbutler's link.

The most straightforward interpretation is that your father "[g]ained [a] British passport in 1960s" because he was (already) a citizen by descent, which means you're out of luck regardless of any further actions he takes. If it's any more complicated than that, then the answer is more complicated.
posted by holgate at 10:51 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

From the details you give here, it seems that you are not a British citizen because you were born after 1983 and your father had citizenship only by descent.

Yes, this. If you were under 18 and your Father had lived in the UK for more than three years then you might have an in, but those don't seem to be true. Apply for your ancestry visa, that's the correct one here.

And for what it's worth, my sister married her British partner pretty much specifically so they could live together in the UK and despite having no claim to European anything herself it was totally fine for immigration. It wasn't a fake marriage, they have children and are a family (just don't care about the marriage part so much), but the border agency was more interested in that piece of paper than anything else. No weird questions or Greencard-esque scenarios. It did still take several years before she could work and then get citizenship so you're much better off with the ancestry visa for now anyway. Then you can decide your personal life on your own without UKBA having a say.
posted by shelleycat at 12:34 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have both an ancestry visa (5 year) and a British partner. If it helps, after five years of residence you are eligible to apply for permanent residence, then citizenship one year later. Due to new rules regarding marriage, its actually easier for me to stick it out and get citizenship by myself, rather than through marriage. Basically the rules have changed (2012) and all partners need to reside for five years before permanence. Remember, you can also apply for ancestry multiple times throughout your life.
posted by teststrip at 1:38 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it helps, ancestry is the easy way to citizenship, assuming you fulfill the five-year residency requirement and pass the Life in the UK test. I don't know anyone who has been declined through that route. It is, however, more expensive in total.
posted by goo at 2:44 AM on December 14, 2013

Guys, thank you so much -- I'm now much more solid on what I should bring to my ancestry visa and I'm content that there's nothing I could've done to swing a by-descent citizenship application. Much more confident now!
posted by monster truck weekend at 12:34 PM on December 14, 2013

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