- British Citizenship for South Africans
- Routes to British Citizenship for South Africans
- How to apply
- British Citizenship by Naturalisation eligibility
- British Citizenship by Marriage eligibility
- British Citizenship by Descent eligibility
- Required Documents
- How much does it cost?
- How long does it take?
- Do I need a referee?
- Can I get dual citizenship as a South African?
- What happens if my application is successful?
- How can IAS help?
- Frequently asked questions
British Citizenship for South Africans
If you are wanting to apply for British Citizenship as a South African, there are various routes that may be available to you to make this possible.
Becoming a British Citizen is one of the most important steps for any South African who wishes to make the UK their permanent home, and for many, it marks the end of a long immigration journey in the UK.
As a British Citizen, you will have the right to live, work, and study in the UK permanently and without immigration restrictions. As well as this freedom, you will also be eligible to apply for a British passport that you can use to travel in and out of the UK, and you will also be eligible to register to vote, which will allow you to vote in all UK elections.
Routes to British Citizenship for South Africans
The most common route to British Citizenship for South Africans is via naturalization, but there are also other routes that may be available to you as a South African.
The various routes to are as follows:
British Citizenship by Naturalisation – this is for South Africans who have lived in the UK continuously for a long period. You must have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status for at least 12 months, and you will usually be eligible for this after living in the UK for 5 years. So, South Africans will usually be eligible for Citizenship by Naturalisation within 6 years of living in the UK.
British Citizenship by Marriage – This is for South Africans who are in a civil partnership with or married to a British Citizen and have lived in the UK for at least 3 years. You can apply for British nationality this way as soon as you have been granted ILR status.
British Citizenship by Birth or Descent – If you were born in the United Kingdom after the 1st January 1983, then you could automatically be recognized as a British Citizen. If you have a British parent but were born overseas, you could also be eligible for citizenship by descent.
How to apply
There are two ways that you can apply for British Citizenship, you can either make the application yourself using the relevant form for your route available on the gov UK website, or you can have a representative apply for you on your behalf.
Whichever route you choose, you will first need to gather an extensive portfolio of evidence to support your application. The evidence you need will vary depending upon the British nationality route you have chosen but this portfolio is vital to the success of your application as it will prove that you can meet all the relevant requirements.
As mentioned, you can complete the application yourself if you wish, but it’s highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer due to the complexity of the application process.
You can submit your application from both the UK or South Africa. Once you have submitted your application, as well as the supporting documents, you will need to have your biometric details taken. This is your photograph and fingerprints, and they are taken for the purpose of proving your identity, you will need to go to your nearest UKVCAS centre to have this done.
The Home Office may ask you for additional documents after you have submitted your application.
British Citizenship by Naturalisation eligibility
The main eligibility requirement for naturalisation is to have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status for at least 12 months. To achieve this status, you would have had to live legally in the UK for a certain period of time, usually 5 years. As well as this, there are other requirements you will need to meet to be granted British nationality by Naturalisation, these include:
- Being 18 years old or over
- Passing the Life in the UK test
- Demonstrating your knowledge of the English language
- Meeting the Good Character requirements
- Continuous residence in the UK, meaning you can’t have spent more than 450 days outside of the UK during your qualifying period
- No breach of immigration rules during your residency in the UK
British Citizenship by Marriage eligibilty
To be eligible for British Citizenship by Marriage as a South African, then you must be married to or in a civil partnership with a British Citizen. However, being married to a British national will not automatically qualify you for British nationality, you will still need to go through a form of naturalisation. You will need to have lived in the UK for at least 3 years before you are eligible. People who are granted British nationality by marriage usually live in the UK under a Spouse Visa before applying.
As well as being married to a UK national and living in the UK for at least 3 years, there are also a number of other requirements that you will need to meet to become a UK citizen by marriage.
You will also need to:
- Be aged 18 or older
- Demonstrate your “good character”
- Have lived in the UK for at least 3 years and you must not have spent more than 270 days outside of the UK in this time
- Have been granted settled status under ILR
- Prove that you have a knowledge of the English language by passing an English language test as a registered facility
- Pass the Life in the UK test
You cannot apply for British Citizenship by Marriage is your partner has died before you have submitted your application, but you may still be eligible for British nationality through another immigration route.
British Citizenship by Descent eligibilty
For a South African to be granted Citizenship by Descent, you will normally have to have been born in South Africa but have at least one parent of British nationality who was a British Citizen at the time of your Birth.
In some circumstances, you may also be eligible for nationality by Descent if you have a British grandparent.
Because you were not awarded nationality at birth, you will still need to meet certain eligibility criteria to qualify for Citizenship by Descent, you could be eligible if you:
- Were born outside of the UK to a parent who was a ‘British Citizen otherwise than by descent’
- Were born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to a mother who was a British Citizen or settled person in the UK
- Were born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to parents who were married, and where the father was already a British national or settled person
- Were born outside the UK on or after 1 July 2006 and either of your birth parents were a British citizen or settled person
The requirements become more complicated if you were born before 1 January 1983 due to changing UK nationality laws. If you were born before this date but think you may still qualify for nationality you can speak to one of our expert attorneys who can discuss your circumstances with you.
Alongside your application, you will need to submit a portfolio of supporting documents that will act as evidence that you can meet the eligibility requirements. This is the most important part of your application, so it’s vital that you make sure that you have everything you may need.
Some of the documents that you will need to provide in your portfolio include:
- Proof of your identity – this can include your passport, your birth certificate, driving licence, or other relevant travel documents
- Confirmation that you were lawfully resident in the UK during your qualifying period
- Proof that you have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK
- Proof of your previous immigration status (including before settling in the UK)
- A letter to confirm you’ve passed the Life in the UK test
- Details of any time spent outside the UK during your qualifying period
The Home Office will examine your portfolio and use it to make a decision about your application. It’s worth noting that any documents not written in either English or Welsh must be translated before you submit them.
Any documents you send with your application will be sent back to you once your application has been processed. They will usually be sent back using standard 2nd class postage, however you can get your documents sent back using recorded or special delivery. To do this you’ll need to provide the Home Office with a pre-paid and self-addressed envelope large enough to fit your documents into.
How much does it cost?
Applying to become a British citizen is an expensive process, the current fees are as follows:
- £1,330 for British citizenship by naturalisation
- £1,206 for nationality registration
- £80 for the citizenship ceremony
- £5 for the administration of a citizenship oath
As well as these fees you should also consider other costs you may incur as part of your application, this includes the cost of the Life in the UK test, an English language test, and any document translations you may need.
How long does it take?
The processing time for British Citizenship applications can vary. The Home Office claims that they aim to process applications within 6 months. However, this timescale varies, some will receive a decision on their application sooner than this and for some, it will take longer.
The processing time could be delayed if the Home Office need any additional information or documents from you once you have made your application.
You should note that you will not have access to the documents you have sent of with your application until it has been processed, so should prepare to not be able to use any of these documents for at least 6 months.
To speed up the application process, you can make sure that your portfolio of evidence is comprehensive and that there are no errors in your application. The Home Office also offers priority and fast-track services for an additional fee.
What is a referee and do I need one to apply for British Citizenship?
A referee is someone who will certify your application for British Citizenship by establishing your identity and to apply to become a UK citizen you’ll need the signature of two referees.
Your referees must have known you for at least 3 years, they cannot be related to you and they also cannot be related to each other. At least one of your referees must have some sort of professional standing, this means they must be in a certain profession which includes roles such as doctors, teachers, accountants and much more. This person does not need to be a British citizen.
Your second referee does need to be a British citizen and they must also be over the age of 25.
As well as not being related to you, your referees also must not:
- be your legal representative
- be employed by the Home Office
- have been convicted of an imprisonable offence in the last 10 years for which the sentence is not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
Due to the restrictions and specifications, finding two suitable referees is often difficult for those applying to become a UK citizen, but our attorneys can help you with this process.
Can I get dual citizenship as a South African?
South Africans applying for British nationality can get dual British and South African Citizenship. Dual citizenship will allow you to live in both South Africa and the United Kingdom.
It’s important to note that whilst you still apply for British nationality in the same way if you would like to retain your South African citizenship, then you need to apply for the retention of your South African Citizenship before you acquire your British Citizenship. Otherwise, you will lose your status as a South African citizen.
If you do lose your South African citizenship this way it is possible to have it re-instated but this is a complex process.
To retain your South African Citizenship, you’ll first need to apply for a Certificate of Non-Acquisition from the UK Home Office. This will prove that you have not already been granted British citizenship. Once you have this, you’ll need to apply for a Certificate of Retention from the South African High Commission. You can apply for this either in person or via post.
How can IAS help?
Here at the Immigration Advice Service, our expert lawyers have helped thousands of people to successfully apply for British Citizenship. Because of the high standard of training that all of our lawyers have received, they are able to offer several services that can help you with your application for British Citizenship.
Just a few of these services include:
Application Package – this is for those who would like support throughout the entire British Citizenship application process. With this service, one of our lawyers will help you to fill in the application form, gather your portfolio of evidence, apply to the Home Office on your behalf, and will even liaise with the Home Office for updates regarding your application.
Advice Package – this is for those who are unsure of their British Citizenship options. With this service, one of our lawyers will discuss your situation with you and will offer their professional legal opinion as to what your best options are. This untimed advice session will also give you the chance to ask any questions you may have about British Citizenship
Document and application checks – this service is for those who have already completed their British Citizenship application but would like it professionally checked before submitting it. With this service, one of our lawyers will examine your application and ensure that there are no errors or inaccuracies, minimizing the chances of refusal.
Fast-track application services – This is for those who want to submit their British Citizenship application as quickly as possible. With this service, one of our lawyers will dedicate their time to having your application completed and submitted in as little as 24 hours.
Our IAS lawyers can assist you with your application no matter where you are. They offer appointments in person, at one of our offices located across the UK, as well as over the phone, or via Skype call.
To find out more about the ways they can help you, or to begin your British Citizenship application today, simply get in touch on 0333 305 3612.
What happens if my application is successful?
If your application for British Citizenship is successful, then you’ll need to attend a citizenship ceremony. This will be the final step in your journey to becoming a British Citizen. Your ceremony will usually be with a group of people who have also recently been granted citizenship, but there are also options to have a private ceremony.
Once you have received your citizenship certificate, you’ll be able to apply for your first British passport that will prove your identity as a British Citizen and allow you to travel in and out of the UK.
You’ll be given the same rights as any other UK citizen, which means you can also put your name on the electoral register and will be able to vote in any UK elections and referendums once you have done this. You’ll also be eligible to run for public office if you wish.
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Once you receive your British Citizenship certificate, you can apply for your first British passport. You can apply for your passport online, using the form on the Gov UK website or via a paper application that you can get from a UK post office.
To apply online, it costs £75.50 and to apply by post is costs £85
If you were born in South Africa, but have at least one British grandparent you may be able to apply for British Citizenship by Double Descent, however the requirements for this are particularly complicated.
Your eligibility for British Citizenship by Double Descent varies depending on how old you are, where you were born and the circumstances of both your parents and grandparents, the requirements differ for each of the following categories:
- Born after 1st January 1983
- Born before 1st January 1983
- Born before 1st January 1949
You can apply to become a British Citizen by Double Descent using an online form, however due to this area of immigration law being very complicated it is highly suggested that you seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer before you do this.
Our attorney’s offer an advice package that will help you to determine your eligibility for Citizenship by Double Descent. With this service, one of our attorneys will discuss your circumstances with you and will use their extensive expertise in immigration law to assess your eligibility and can advise you whether you should apply for citizenship this way.
If they think that you are not eligible for this, they will advise you on the other options you may have to become a UK citizen.
Your child will be entitled to British Citizenship by Birth if he or she is born in the UK and has at least one British parent, in this case, your child is automatically granted citizenship and you do not need to register them for this.
If your child is under 18 and was born outside of the UK, then you’ll need to register them as a British citizen.
Having an application for British Citizenship be refused can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you’ve spent so much time, effort, and money on your application. The most common reasons for refusals by the Home Office are errors in the application or a lack of supporting evidence. You can prevent the chances of a refusal by hiring a professional immigration lawyer to assist you with your application. Our lawyers can make sure there are no errors and that you have all of the evidence you need.
If you’ve already submitted your application and it has been refused, don’t worry, our lawyers can still help you. In your refusal letter, the Home Office should inform you whether you have a right to appeal. Our lawyers offer an Appeal package that will help you to make your appeal.
If you do want to appeal the Home Office’s decision, then it is important that you do this quickly, as you will have a better chance of success this way.
Our lawyers can get started on your appeal today simply contact them on 0333 305 3612.
Having a previous conviction is likely to affect your application for British Citizenship and is grounds for refusal.
However, the effect this has is also dependent on the seriousness of the offence and the type of conviction.
If you have a previous conviction, we recommend seeking the help of one of our immigration lawyers who, with their expertise in immigration law, will be able to discuss your situation with you and let you know how this may affect your application.
Yes, it is possible to renounce your British Citizenship. You should note that you do not have to renounce your British citizenship to apply for citizenship in another country, and you will usually be able to apply for dual citizenship providing the other country allows this.
Renouncing your British Citizenship will not affect the citizenship status of any of your family members, but it could affect any future children you may have.
To renounce your British citizenship you must:
- Be over the age of 18
- Already have another citizenship (Such as South African)
- Or will acquire another citizenship after renouncing your British citizenship
As a British Citizen, you will have the right to live, work, and study in the UK permanently.
As well as this, you will also be eligible to apply for a UK passport and can use this to travel in and out of the UK.
You will also have the right to register to vote and will be able to vote in any UK election or referendum.
Yes, the final step in naturalizing as a British Citizen is a citizenship ceremony, and you must attend this to be recognized as a British national.
You will need to pay to attend your ceremony, it costs £80 to attend a group ceremony or you can pay more for a private ceremony.
During the ceremony, you will need to make a pledge to respect the rights, freedom, and laws of the UK.
If you are in South Africa when you are granted your citizenship then you may be able to ask the British embassy in South Africa to hold your ceremony for you, if they are not able to do this then it may be delayed until you are in the UK again.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a form of settlement in the UK. It may give you similar rights to British Citizenship, such as the right to live, work, and study in the UK permanently, but it is different in several ways.
Your Indefinite Leave to Remain status can be revoked if you spend more than 2 years living outside of the UK. Whereas British Citizenship allows you to enter and exit the UK without any restrictions.
Under Indefinite Leave to Remain, you will also not be eligible to apply for a British passport, and you do not have the right to register to vote in the UK.
Yes, in some circumstances South African’s may already be a British citizen by automatic acquisition. The rules surrounding automatic acquisition are very complex because of changes to UK nationality law.
Under the British Nationality Act 1981 a person automatically became a British citizen if immediately before January 1 1981 they:
- were a citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC)
- had the right of abode in the UK under the Immigration Act 1971
There are many other ways that South Africans could have automatically acquired citizenship. Whether you were eligible for this depends on many factors, including whether you were born in the UK or in British overseas territory or whether your parents were British citizens or were settled in the UK before a certain date. The rules for automatic acquisition are very complex but our attorney’s will be able to let you know whether you have this once they have spoken to you about your circumstances.