Just so you know

We are both South African nationals, living in the UK since 2015. Due to our family’s British heritage (Andre’s maternal grandfather and great-grandparents were all British), we were issued with UK visas that are valid for 5 years. Our visa type is quite unique as we may work without restrictions for any employer, study or even start a business – a series of privileges not currently enjoyed by any other visa type.

However, when we travel around the world, we still need to apply for the relevant visitor-visa as any other South African would. Each time we arrive back in the UK, we need to complete a landing card and go through border control as non-UK/non-EU nationals, which makes the process of getting home much longer. On the visa system, we remain subject to immigration laws and any changes (as with Brexit) may pose a risk to Settlement. After living in the UK for 5 years, our visas will expire and we’ll need to apply for Settlement.

Our immigration progress

to obtain British Settlement 99%
to obtain British Citizenship 82%

Settlement, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain, allow us to permanently settle in the UK. This means we will remain South African nationals with green passports, but we are no longer subject to immigration laws. We can live and work in the UK for as long as we want (no expiration date as with a visa), but if we leave the country for more than 2 years, our ‘settled’ status would be cancelled.

After 12 months on ‘settled’ status, we can apply for citizenship. British citizenship gives us the right to British passports and the full rights of UK nationals. Unlike settlement, that expires when you leave the country for more than 2 years, British citizenship is for life. This means we can exit and re-enter the UK as we please, with no entry restrictions or additional checks whatsoever. We can also travel visa-free as British nationals to most countries around the world, claim state benefits, rebates or public funds and even stand to be elected as a member of parliament.

At the moment, South Africa and the UK allow their citizens to be dual citizens. This means we can be citizens of both South Africa and the UK and can therefore have two different passports. However, South Africa recently changed their rules and we can no longer become dual citizens by default. To retain our South African citizenship, we need to obtain special permission from SA Home Affairs before applying for our British citizenship. We would therefore only consider our options when we become eligible for British citizenship.