Under British nationality law a child born to British parents outside of the UK does not automatically become a British citizen. However, depending on the type of citizenship or nationality held by the parents, it may be possible to register the child as a British citizen or as another type of British national. British citizens or nationals who adopt children from abroad may also use the procedure described below to register their adopted children as British citizens or nationals.
British nationality rules changed on 1 January 1983 when the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force – prior to that date British women were not able to pass their nationality on to their children. Some of the rules and definitions changed again on 21 May 2002 - the procedure described below applies to children born after that date. The rules on registration also differ for children born before 1st July 2006 as, prior to that date, fathers could generally only pass on their nationality if they were married to the child’s mother.
Citizenship by Descent and Citizenship Otherwise Than by Descent
Whether or not British citizens can pass on citizenship to their children depends, in part, on whether they are citizens by descent or “otherwise than by descent”. British citizens by descent inherited their citizenship from a relative. Examples of citizens “otherwise than by descent” are those who were born in the UK, or in a qualifying UK territory, or who have become naturalised British citizens. However, it is also possible to become a British citizen “otherwise than by descent” through registration.
British citizens otherwise than by descent have a much greater ability to pass citizenship on to their own children than British citizens by descent.
Children Born Outside the UK
Children born outside the UK to parents who are British citizens otherwise than by descent will usually be British citizens by descent. For children born before, 1st July 2006 this would generally only be the case if either the mother was a British citizen and / or the child’s British father was married to the child’s mother at the time of the birth. (However, exceptions may apply – for example if one of the child’s parents is employed by the British armed forces.)
Children born outside the UK to parents who are British citizens by descent will not automatically be British citizens but may be eligible to be registered as British citizens. A child born abroad who is adopted by a British citizen, in a recognised adoption procedure, will automatically be entitled to become a British citizen.
Registering a Child as a British Citizen
It may be possible to register a child born outside the UK to a British citizen by descent as a British citizen if:
The parent was born to a British citizen otherwise than by descent and satisfied a minimum qualifying residence period in the UK of 3 years prior to the child’s birth. An application to register a child on this basis must be made before the child is one-year-old. The child would become a citizen by descent and therefore would generally not be able to pass on British citizenship to his or her own children. OR,
The child and both of its parents have lived in the UK for a minimum qualifying period of three years. If both parents agree to the child being registered as a citizen, applications may be made on this ground up to the child’s 18th birthday. A child registered as a citizen on this basis will become a citizen otherwise than by descent and will be able to pass citizenship on to his or her own children. Children over 10 must be “of good character” to qualify for registration which means that they must have respected the laws, rights and freedoms of the UK.
Children who would otherwise be stateless may also be entitled to be registered as British citizens.
For children who do not satisfy all the requirements for registration, but in respect of whom there may be some good reason why they should be registered as British citizens, it is possible that the Home Secretary could exercise his discretion to agree that they should be registered as British citizens.
Registering a Child Born Outside the UK for Another Type of Nationality
Even if a child does not satisfy the requirements to be registered as a British citizen, it may qualify for another form of British nationality. Depending on the type of nationality being applied for the application may be entirely discretionary or there may be specific requirements which must be met.
My son who is a British passport holder (born in the UK) married an American lady some 9 years ago.They had adaughter born in New York who is now 7 who obviously has an American passport.What is the procedure for my granddaughter to get dual nationality - obtaining an English passport.
SNOWY - 24-Feb-17 @ 3:35 PM
Taylor - Your Question:
Hi I have a 7 month old daughter in Thailand and wish to get her to the uk to be with me as I miss her so much, is there any chance of that happening or what the process is? Thanks Paul
I am sorry to hear you are missing your child. You would have to seek legal advice. However, it is not an easy route you are taking, as it is highly unlikely any court would remove a child from the primary carer and pass the child to the other parent, unless there was a very good reason/no alternative.
AboutImmigration - 22-Feb-17 @ 12:44 PM
Hi i have a 7 month old daughter in Thailand and wish to get her to the uk to be with me as i miss her so much, is there any chance of that happening or what the process is? Thanks Paul
Taylor - 21-Feb-17 @ 8:17 PM
Hi I need some advice, I am in the process of applying for security clearance to join the police force.I have been asked to provide my nationality reference number as I was born outside UK.When I turned 1 month I came to the England in 1982.Both my parents were also born in Pakistan but gained British nationality status in the 80's. I am confused as not sure if I will have a British nationality certificate and my parents are not sure either.I have held a British passport and lived majority of my life in England.I am confused can someone please advise?
Ace - 17-Feb-17 @ 11:11 PM
Hi, my two children are both Filipino citizen, they came here in uk last September 2015, I am a British citizen as naturalisation , I am living in in this country uk for almost 13'years now. When can I apply for their British citizenship, or apply first for ILR? Thanks
Nene - 15-Feb-17 @ 10:24 AM
Rosie - Your Question:
Hi I'm a British citizen , my 11yrs old son was born outside the UK he is currently holding ILR for almost 1yr 4months. But my husband is not an ILR holder he is currently holding a visa as a Soiuse dependant can I register or apply my son a British citizenship since my 11 yrs old who is not born here is my dependant and ILR holder? Please help me tinknoe the best thing to do. Thanks
You can see more via the gov.uk link here, which should tell you all you need to know.
AboutImmigration - 14-Feb-17 @ 10:08 AM
Hi I'm a British citizen , my 11yrs old son was born outside the UK he is currently holding ILR for almost 1yr 4months . But my husband is not an ILR holder he is currently holding a visa as a Soiuse dependant can I register or apply my son a British citizenship since my 11 yrs old who is not born here is my dependant and ILR holder? Please help me tinknoe the best thing to do . Thanks
Rosie - 13-Feb-17 @ 5:39 AM
Hi! I am married to a British guy but we are living in Malaysia for 6 years. I have children in my previous marriage. They're living with us in malaysia also studying here. We applied adoption in Philippine because me and my kids are Filipino, Malaysia government didn't allow to adopt here because me and my husband are not resident in this country. After the adoption it is possible my kids can get British passport even we are not living in uk? If not, what is the best way we can bring my kids in uk even they're more than 18 years old? My husband is no plan yet to go back to uk and my eldest daughter is 16 years old now.
Cindy - 11-Feb-17 @ 10:50 AM
Hi, I ask some days ago about my daughters registration and nationality, can anyone help me pizzazz. My guestion is can i apply for my daughtersregistration as British citizen and British nationality same time or not? My daughter is born in Denmark and we have live her in England more then 3 years.
Asi - 8-Feb-17 @ 10:44 PM
Akhtargee - Your Question:
Hi, My friend who is British Passport holder (not British by birth) is marrying an Indonesian women. If he has children born in Indonesia , will they become British by birth or would they be able to apply for British nationality whilst living in Indonesia. As he may keep his wife in Indonesia and does not bring her to UK. He lives and will continue to live in U.K. As full time resident !
Your friend may be able to apply for his children (under 18 years of age) to be registered as British citizens, for example if he is a British citizen but his children were born outside the UK. Please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 8-Feb-17 @ 11:21 AM
Hi, My friend who is British Passport holder (not British by birth) is marrying an Indonesian women. If he has children born in Indonesia , will they become British by birth or would they be able to apply for British nationality whilst living in Indonesia. As he may keep his wife in Indonesia and does not bring her to UK . He lives and will continue to live in U.K. As full time resident !
Akhtargee - 7-Feb-17 @ 6:04 PM
Hi, i came to England in 2013 with my 2 years old daughter from Denmark.
i have british passport true my dad and i cant pass it to my daughter.
know we have been more then 3 years in england. and my daughter have a residence card for 5 years.
Can i know apply for her registration and british nationality same time,because i give my ducoments to my solicitor to apply british nationality for my daughter, but know my solicitor told me that i have to register my daughter first. And she will apply both things together
asi - 5-Feb-17 @ 7:30 PM
Hello, I am a British citizen (born in the UK) living in U.S.A. I have adopted a child born in the U.S.A and I would like to apply for my adopted child to have British citizenship. My child is now 12 years old. Please confirm that I should use application MN1 and which section of the British Nationality Act applies (question 1.1). Thank you in advance.
foneill - 4-Feb-17 @ 5:25 PM
Hi i m from Brazil but a naturalized britsh citizen by marriage living in UK for 14 years.
I wonder if i can bring my daugther from Brazil to live with me.
She is 22 years old with husband and my granddaugther.
diogenes - 3-Feb-17 @ 5:50 PM
AK - Your Question:
Hi, My Father is a British citizen through naturalisation and he adopted me when I was 5. I'm 29 now and was wondering if I can claim British citizenship.
You can check whether you can apply via the gov.uk link here .
AboutImmigration - 3-Feb-17 @ 11:36 AM
My Father is a British citizen through naturalisation and he adopted me when I was 5. I'm 29 now and was wondering if I can claim British citizenship.
AK - 2-Feb-17 @ 1:43 PM
Brittany - Your Question:
Hi there, I was born before 2006 to my mother who is South African and father who is British. my parents were not married at the time of my birth. I currently hold a South African passport and citizenship. am I eligible to register as a british citizen? thanks
Hi there, I was born before 2006 to my mother who is South African and father who is British. my parents were not married at the time of my birth. I currently hold a South African passport and citizenship.am I eligible to register as a british citizen?thanks
Brittany - 29-Jan-17 @ 9:13 AM
Hi, I am a British citizen through Registration. I was born outside of UK while my dad was serving the British arm force overseas. Now, I am married to a US citizen and live in US. Will my US born child able to get the British citizenship?
Printer - 29-Jan-17 @ 3:43 AM
I am an EEC citizen with a document certifying permanent residence. I also have a letter certifying that I acquired permanent residence status on 30 April 2006. I am in the process of applying for British citizenship (I first came to the UK at the end of 1995 to do a PhD here). I have 3 children, born on 20 April 2006, 21 November 2008 and 29 September 2016. My wife is also German and has a document certifying permanent residence. All three children were born in the UK and have permanently lived in the UK since their births.
What forms should I use for applying to register my children as British citizens? Would it be form MN1 for all three? Or should I use form T for my oldest child who’ll turn 11 on 20 April?
Many thanks and kind regards
Tom - 28-Jan-17 @ 4:18 PM
My child was born in the UK. I am filipino (on ILR status) and my husband is british. We were married in the UK. Can our child apply for a British passport?
sher - 28-Jan-17 @ 9:22 AM
Hello I am a British citizen and have a child of 4 years. The father of the child is German. I had my child in Germany so he currently holds a German passport. We have since lived in UK.
How do I get him a British passport
Chacha - 25-Jan-17 @ 7:46 PM
Lua - Your Question:
Hi there! My partner and I are both EEU citizens (Portuguese) and in a period of 10 years living In the UK we left the country for 1 year and 3 months. I am 19 weeks pregnant would my child be a British citizen?Many thanks
Unless either you or partner hold British citizenship, then your children would not be eligible for British citizenship.
AboutImmigration - 25-Jan-17 @ 2:35 PM
Hi there! My partner and I are both EEU citizens (Portuguese) and in a period of 10 years living In the UK we left the country for 1 year and 3 months. I am 19 weeks pregnant would my child be a British citizen?
Lua - 25-Jan-17 @ 9:03 AM
Am married to British citizen by descend he as been living in the UK for close 1 years and working a different agency . but he heard he can register our kids also born outside the UK . I am wondering since he only been living in the UK for 1most one years can he just go a head and register is kids . please reply
Dominique - 24-Jan-17 @ 2:15 AM
Beresh - Your Question:
My baby is 9 months now his father is British was working in Ghana for 4years but got a job back in the UK when I was 16 weeks pregnant. I need child support and a British passport
Please see gov.uk link here which is the visa you and the father of your child would have to apply for. You would also both have to fulfil the requirements laid out in the 'eligibility' section in order to be able to apply.
AboutImmigration - 23-Jan-17 @ 12:10 PM
My baby is 9 months now his father is British was working in Ghana for 4years butgot a job back in the UKwheni was 16 weeks pregnant. I need child support and a British passport
Beresh - 22-Jan-17 @ 12:04 PM
I have lived in Uk for the last 8 years and got married to British national 4 years ago.What are the steps I need to follow to get British citizenship for me and my son age 15 that is a Romanian national?I am Romanian as well.
Please if anyone knows let me know
Thank you so much in Advance.
Miky81 - 21-Jan-17 @ 12:05 PM
My daughter has a British passport by descent and worked in UK for 15 years. She now lives in South Africa and is about to give birth to a baby boy. What will the status of the boy be regarding British citizenship.
Decuman - 19-Jan-17 @ 8:12 PM
Val69 - Your Question:
I am a British Citizen (born in the UK) and now live in Italy. My child was born in Italy. I understand she is British by descent but do I have to register her ? She is 8, I'm abit confused.
Please see gov.uk link here which should help you further.