UK Supreme Court Ruling Grants Citizenship Entitlement to ‘Thousands’

Last month the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom upheld and expanded a ruling of the Scottish High Court which will allow many more foreign-born people to register as British citizens based on ancestors who were born in the UK.

The judgment was made on a case relating to historic gender discrimination in British citizenship law brought by an American born in the USA in 1978. As a result of this landmark ruling, British citizenship may in many cases be obtained through a mother who was a UK citizen by descent.

Historically, if a male UK citizen by descent had a child in a foreign country before 1983, he could accord the child UK citizenship by registering the birth at a British consulate. If only the child’s mother was a UK citizen, this was not legally possible.

According to the new ruling, a person whose mother was a UK citizen by descent and who was born before 1983 outside the Commonwealth may now register as a British citizen, regardless of whether an attempt had been made to register the birth.

Although the judgment only affects individuals whose father was not a UK citizen, its impact could be far-reaching.

According to Bruce Mennell, director of citizenship law consultancy Passportia, this judgement ‘opens up the possibility of British citizenship to hundreds of thousands of people born outside the UK with a UK born grandparent.’

Who might benefit?

Someone seeking British citizenship may benefit if his or her mother (a) had a father born in the UK or (b) was born before 1915 in a foreign country and her father or father’s father was born in the UK or Ireland or (c) had a British Passport describing her a ‘citizen of the UK and Colonies’.

The person wishing to register as a British citizen would also need to have been born outside the UK or Commonwealth and before 1983. This would include, for example, the USA, Latin America, and Continental Europe before 1983; South Africa and Namibia after 30 May 1962 and before 1983; and Pakistan after 30 January 1972 and before 1983.

‘Act quickly’

This ruling might not be relevant for long, however.

‘The Government is likely to seek to change the law, and that may happen later this year’, explains Bruce Mennell.

‘I would advise anyone who wants to take advantage of this opportunity to act quickly.’



To find out if you qualify, contact Passportia on +1 (305) 770 6530, or using the form in the sidebar if using a desktop.

Alternatively, you can Request an Evaluation

4 replies
    • Stanley Johnson
      Stanley Johnson says:

      Hi Gideon,

      I would recommend giving our advisors a call or alternatively completing the “request evaluation” contact form at the bottom of the article.

  1. Antony Lavis
    Antony Lavis says:

    Please could you tell me how, where and when I can register as a British citizen. As well as what it would cost to do this. I am still in South African.

    • Stanley Johnson
      Stanley Johnson says:

      Hi Antony,

      We can help with this! The first step would be to find out if you are eligible. Please give us a call or submit a request through our website. We would be happy to advise.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *