Colonial Birth Rights

This page is designed for applicants who have parents that were born in former British colonies. Including Rhodesia.

The qualifying hurdles involved in these applications leave very few applicants eligible to claim British citizenship through descent. This page serves to reveal how many hurdles applicants are faced with.

Parents born in former British colonies

This page is designed for non-EU nationals (South African born nationals) that have a parent (father or mother) that was born in a former British colony. Attached below is an image of the British Empire between 1815 and 1920:

With the above British Empire in mind, British passports were previously issued to nationals of each of the British colonies. As time progressed, each British colony fought for its own independence and all eventually broke away from British governments rule.

The Commonwealth of Nations was then formed (thanks to the help of Jan Smuts (who coined the phrase)). This was formed as a means to protect British investments (specifically the infrastructure and investments the British government has made in each of these countries). This investment and development is something South African should not take for granted as it is a vital part of our economies history (debate for another time perhaps?).

In the late 1970s the British were faced with too many countries issuing British passports (fears of UK over-population began to grow). To address this, the British government implemented the British Nationality Act of 1981. Here they made differentiated types of British citizenship (specifically British born nationals versus British overseas nationals). This was a strategic means to stop issuing British passports through colonies (the British government specifically stopped colonial birth rights from being passed down through birth). During this time, the British government also stopped issuing British citizenship through marriage.

In the 21st century, this now means that even if your parents hold British passports, it does not mean that you (their children) can automatically qualify to claim British nationality (in order to get a British passport).Click here to find out more about how UK birth rights operate.

Let me help put this in even simpler terms, if an applicant’s parent holds a British passport (blue or red), it does not mean that the applicant (biological or adopted child) will automatically be entitled to claim the same citizenship. Emphasis is now placed on date (whether the Colony was under British rule at the time of birth) and place of birth (British colony or the United Kingdom).

If your parents were born in a colony, Move Up unfortunately cannot further assist in British nationality application. In these cases, we encourage clients to find out if their grandparents were born in the UK to see if they can claim UK Ancestry working rights.