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Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Old Jun 20th 2011, 6:31 am
  #1  
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Default Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

I'm not sure if this is the most appropriate forum for this question, but I thought I'd give it a shot.

I'm a US citizen, born in California and having lived most of my life in San Francisco. However, I'm seriously considering emigrating to Britain under the "right of return" clause for non-British citizens who have one or more grandparent who was born on UK soil.

As it happens, my grandmother was born in Alberta, Canada, in 1903 -- a couple of years before it was technically a proper Canadian province but, AFAIK, it was still part of the UK at the time. Her family then emigrated to Oregon in 1912.

Unfortunately, I've had little success finding anything like reliable information about the viability of my (hypothetical) claim on "right of return", nor how to go about doing it. I realize (sorry -- "realise") that a visit to the British Consulate here in SF would probably be useful, but I want to do some research first. I have a few specific questions directed at anyone with knowledge about this process:

1. Does a grandparent being born in Alberta while it was part of the UK but not yet the province we know of today, qualify her as a Canadian-born citizen, even though her family took her with them when they emigrated to the US when she was just 9 years old?

2. If I can prove her birth on Canadian soil, would that qualify me for "right of return" *anywhere* in the UK, or just to Canada?

3. How does the British government view such applicants -- as unwelcome opportunists or legitimate repatriots? Are there any pitfalls I should be aware of that might complicate (or ruin) my chances?

4. For US citizens who successfully employ the "right of return" clause to move to the UK, is it possible to get dual citizenship?

5. My wife, while partly of British ancestry, had no grandparents born in the UK, so I presume that her "right" to be in Britain would be subject to me proving my "right", correct?

6. Are there any other forums or groups that might be more appropriate places for me to ask these questions?

FWIW, my ancestry is mostly British plus some German. My wife and I were married in Britain 20 years ago (she's also American, tho') and we frequently visit it.

Useful advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 10:08 am
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

The Canadian immi forum is for people wanting to move to Canada, so not sure you'll get much luck with responses here. I'll move your thread to the Moving Back to the UK forum where people with more knowledge may be able to assist.

Good luck.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 10:54 am
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

You could try over at UK Yankee where more folks might be up to date on British citizenship by descent. I am pretty sure that it currently only goes back one generation, even if you could prove that your grandparent was born on British soil, but there might have been a "grandfather clause" so to speak. It's easier to get citizenship by decent to other European countries if eligible (Ireland for instance) and go from there under EEA rules.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 11:05 am
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by RCH

As it happens, my grandmother was born in Alberta, Canada, in 1903 -- a couple of years before it was technically a proper Canadian province but, AFAIK, it was still part of the UK at the time. Her family then emigrated to Oregon in 1912.

It was never a part of the United Kingdom.

There are some cases where Canadians born before 1949 outside Canada did not become Canadian citizens (by descent) before 1949, and these people may in some cases have acquired UK & Colonies citizenship on 1.1.49. They would either have become British citizens or British Overseas citizens in 1983.

However, UK & Colonies citizenship acquired under this provision was citizenship "by descent".

Last edited by JAJ; Jun 20th 2011 at 11:50 am.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 4:05 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by JAJ
It was never a part of the United Kingdom.
exactly it has never been part of the UK... only place i know that has been part of the UK thats is not so now is the Republic Of Ireland.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 4:53 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by JAJ
It was never a part of the United Kingdom.
Sorry, I misspoke. The terminology is a bit confusing to me. So, it's a "dominion", part of the Commonwealth and a former colony, but not part of the UK, much less GB or England. Correct? There just aren't enough terms being used to refer to overlapping categories!

Originally Posted by JAJ
There are some cases where Canadians born before 1949 outside Canada did not become Canadian citizens (by descent) before 1949, and these people may in some cases have acquired UK & Colonies citizenship on 1.1.49. They would either have become British citizens or British Overseas citizens in 1983.

However, UK & Colonies citizenship acquired under this provision was citizenship "by descent".
I'm confused. Immigration and the Nation-State; The United States, Germany and Great Britain (Oxford University Press, 1999), quoted from on Wikipedia, says this:

"The British Nationality Act 1948 conferred full and equal citizenship and settlement rights in Britain on all 800 million subjects of the worldwide British Empire. The Commonwealth Immigration Act 1968, amending legislation passed in 1962...required 'substantial connection' to Britain, defined as (a)birth or the birth of a parent or grandparent in the United Kingdom, (b) a parent or Grandparent who was Naturalised in the United Kingdom, (c) a parent or grandparent who became a citizen of the United Kingdom or its colonies by adoption (d) had acquired British Nationality under legislation passed in 1948 or 1964. Further provisions extended rights to stepchildren...The Immigration Act 1971 affirmed the principles of the 1968 legislation, giving the right of immigration to the grandchildren of British citizens and nationals born in the Commonwealth nations...The British Nationality Act 1981 differentiated between British Citizenship, British Overseas Citizenship, and British Dependent Territory Citizenship, recognizing the right of settlement only for British citizens. It is notable that it was enacted after the contraction of the Empire was completed, and was offered to all substantial populations of descendents of ethnic Britons in the former colonies."

This is the source of my confusion. I am "descended from ethnic Britons in the former colonies". My reading of this made it seem that, since my grandmother was born in a "former (British) colony" and a part of the Commonwealth nations, it qualified me for "right of return".

Has the law changed or am I simply misreading it?
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 5:02 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

But she wasnt born in the UK though... im sure there must be a line drawn somewhere or else the 'descended from ethinc britons' could mean anything and be interpreted to mean all sorts of things by anybody. Surely that would mean half the population of world could claim citizenship??
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 5:15 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by cheeky_monkey
But she wasnt born in the UK though... im sure there must be a line drawn somewhere or else the 'descended from ethinc britons' could mean anything and be interpreted to mean all sorts of things by anybody. Surely that would mean half the population of world could claim citizenship??
Yeah, yeah -- I've been corrected on the "UK" thing; that's no longer a source of confusion for me.

The law, as clearly as I can find it described, says "...descendents of ethnic Britons in the former colonies". That's a considerably smaller pool than descendants of someone of any ethnicity, born in a former British colony.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 5:25 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by yumi
You could try over at UK Yankee where more folks might be up to date on British citizenship by descent.
Thanks! That site looks promising.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 5:26 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by RCH
The law, as clearly as I can find it described, says "...descendents of ethnic Britons in the former colonies". That's a considerably smaller pool than descendants of someone of any ethnicity, born in a former British colony.
But which of the bit prior to this do you think applies to you i.e. (a), (b), (c), or (d)? I really can't see any way that you'd have a claim to UK citizenship based on a grandparent who was born in Canada!
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 5:54 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by christmasoompa
But which of the bit prior to this do you think applies to you i.e. (a), (b), (c), or (d)?
I don't know that any of those apply to me. However, (c) says "...a citizen of the United Kingdom or its colonies...", which leads me to wonder if the law was intended to be (or could be) interpreted in that broader way.

Originally Posted by christmasoompa
I really can't see any way that you'd have a claim to UK citizenship based on a grandparent who was born in Canada!
This is why: "British Nationality Act 1981...was offered to all substantial populations of descendents of ethnic Britons in the former colonies."
  • My grandmother was an "ethnic Briton".
  • Canada was a "former colony" of Britain.
I'm not claiming that's QED, I'm saying that what little information I've been able to find from primary and secondary sources is ambiguous and suggests that it might be legally interpreted this way. That's assuming that what I've read is the most up-to-date on the subject, and it may not be. Wikipedia (or rather, the source I quoted from it) seems to suggest that "right of return" would apply to someone like me. I'm posting here to ask for informed views to support or contradict that.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 6:01 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by RCH
I don't know that any of those apply to me. However, (c) says "...a citizen of the United Kingdom or its colonies...", which leads me to wonder if the law was intended to be (or could be) interpreted in that broader way.



This is why: "British Nationality Act 1981...was offered to all substantial populations of descendents of ethnic Britons in the former colonies."
  • My grandmother was an "ethnic Briton".
  • Canada was a "former colony" of Britain.
I'm not claiming that's QED, I'm saying that what little information I've been able to find from primary and secondary sources is ambiguous and suggests that it might be legally interpreted this way. That's assuming that what I've read is the most up-to-date on the subject, and it may not be. Wikipedia (or rather, the source I quoted from it) seems to suggest that "right of return" would apply to someone like me. I'm posting here to ask for informed views to support or contradict that.

I think that the real question you want to be asking is "am I eligible for a UK ancestry visa, based on my grandparent's citizenship".

Apart from anything else written on this thread, the fact that you are a US citizen goes against you here. UK Ancestry visas are only available to Commonwealth citizens.

Where were all of your other grandparents and parents born?

Last edited by Ozzidoc; Jun 20th 2011 at 6:18 pm.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 6:07 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

I'm not informed but your claim to British citizenship seems quite tenuous, I can't quite see how you came to the conclusion you did, sorry.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 6:33 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Originally Posted by Ozzidoc
I think that the real question you want to be asking is "am I eligible for a UK ancestry visa, based on my grandparent's citizenship".
OK, that sounds like a better way to phrase it.

Originally Posted by Ozzidoc
Apart from anything else written on this thread, the fact that you are a US citizen goes against you here. UK Ancestry visas are only available to Commonwealth citizens.
I see. I hadn't gotten that impression from the information I had previously found. Thanks for clarifying this.

Originally Posted by Ozzidoc
Where were all of your other grandparents and parents born?
The other three grandparents (and my parents) were all born in the US, despite two of them (in addition to my grandmother in Canada) being of British stock.
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Old Jun 20th 2011, 6:59 pm
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Default Re: Can a US citizen become a British one through Canada-born grandparent?

Yeah but those particular ethnic britons kicked the UK out, remember?
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