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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 17 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
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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.

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I am unsure on wether you are able to help me on the matter, but I would like to know if our child to be born, if born outside the uk can be British ? My father is born and bread British, my mothers parents were working in Thailand and she was born out there but returned here. My parents moved to do aid work in Nepal where I was born in 1991. My wife is of German parents but born in Kenya. If we were to have the child in Germany or Kenya could the child take on my British citizenship ? Hope that all makes sense let me know if not. Kind regards Josh
Josh Rex - 17-Aug-17 @ 8:56 PM
I'm British citizen and my partner is south African and born in SA. His parents were British so he has a British passport by descent. He has a son now 15 and he was born and raised in SA and we want to get him a British passport/residency. How and what can we do?
Squares - 15-Aug-17 @ 11:50 PM
I am so confused by all the information regarding uk citizenship for a child born outside of the uk. Please please please could someone just answer my question in a simple way and give me details of what to do next? My background in brief, I was born in the uk, to British citizens , I lived in the uk for 22 years I left to work in Australia met my male partner who's an Australian citizen. We have been together in de facto relationship for 23 years, then had our son, born here in Australia.He is now 16 years old and we are all still living in Australia together. My Questions :Can my son register as a British citizen ? How ? Apply for his uk citizenship? How? Is it easier to do it before his 18 years old ? How ? Please could you give me some straight answers as I've been going mad with all this for months now and still this matter is not a bit clearer to me . I'm soooo confused . Thank you Anyone ???
Wends - 15-Aug-17 @ 5:04 PM
I'm adopted from Moldova and have full citizenship in the United States. My father is British and my mother is American. I'm currently 19 and am thinking about becoming a UK citizen as much of my family is over in the UK. Is it still possible to claim dual citizenship?
Ian - 13-Aug-17 @ 6:42 PM
I am a British citizen living in Portugal with my Portuguese wife and two children. My son was born in England, was registered and has a British passport. However, my daughter was born in Portugal. Does she qualify as a British citizen or do I need to register her using an MN1 form? Can I apply for a British passport for her? Thanks.
Marc - 13-Aug-17 @ 8:51 AM
@Billy since you are a British citizen born in the UK you may apply for British passports for your children regardless of where they were born. In this case you may apply from the embassy in your country of residence. Please ignore the advice regarding MN1 forms as it does not apply to you.
TJ. - 11-Aug-17 @ 4:41 PM
mani - Your Question:
Hi,I alongwith my husband and 2 kids got ILR last year in feb and we are now applying for naturalisation.Which application form is applicable for kids under 18 years and born in UK but before the ILR grant to us(parents)?

Our Response:
The MN1 form is used to apply to register a child under 18 as a British citizen if they qualify through birth or adoption. Please read the guidance first here to see if it is applicable.
AboutImmigration - 7-Aug-17 @ 2:08 PM
Hi...My Partner lives in the Philippines and i am British Born and Bredin London UK, and we have a Son he is 6.5 years Old. My Question is can we apply for a British Passport for him and if so can i apply here in the UK for it ? We are planning on getting married the next time i am in the Philippines.
Billy - 7-Aug-17 @ 9:30 AM
Hi,I alongwith my husband and 2 kids got ILR last year in feb and we are now applying for naturalisation.Which application form is applicable forkids under 18 years and born in UK but before the ILR grant to us(parents)?
mani - 5-Aug-17 @ 1:51 PM
Dana - Your Question:
I have a British passport but my kids born in Iraq. And my wife also iraqi how do I get them out and take them to U.K. Please any help

Our Response:
If you are living in the UK, you may be able to apply for your wife and children to come to live in the UK if you fulfil the requirements laid out in the gov.uk link here .
AboutImmigration - 1-Aug-17 @ 11:40 AM
I'm a British citizen who moved to Sweden in 2008 and subsequently married my Swedish fiancée. We have since had 2 children, both born in Sweden in 2011 & 2013 respectively. First question, under the current rules, can I apply for dual citizenship in Sweden and hold both passports and secondly can I apply for British passports for my children? Finally, does any of the above change if I divorce my Swedish wife but remain in Sweden? Thanks in advance, BR, Ian
Fanowl - 1-Aug-17 @ 12:09 AM
I have a British passport but my kids born in Iraq. And my wife also iraqi how do I get them out and take them to U.K. Please any help
Dana - 31-Jul-17 @ 11:18 AM
Hi...My Partner lives in the Philippines and i am currently in London UK, and we have a Son he is 6.5 years Old. My Question is can we apply for a British Passport for him and if so can i apply here in the UK for it ? We are planning on getting married the next time i am in the Philippines.
Billy - 31-Jul-17 @ 8:27 AM
Hello, do l have to have a status in UK before l can take my child for biometric enrolment for naturalisation for a child born in UK who has been living in UK for 10years. Thanks
Cl-audio - 28-Jul-17 @ 9:49 PM
@Anne if you were born in the UK or you naturalised as a British citizen before your daughter was born then she can apply for a British passport using govuk website.
TJ. - 27-Jul-17 @ 7:10 AM
I am a British citizen living in the United States. My husband was born in the United States. Can my daughter, who is 26 obtain British citizenship? If so, what form does she need to complete and submit?
Anne - 26-Jul-17 @ 3:04 AM
solace - Your Question:
I have two sons born in uganda.the father is a British citizen.one is getting 11 years and an other one is getting 8 years. can he apply for British passport for his two sons?

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which will help you further.
AboutImmigration - 24-Jul-17 @ 11:33 AM
@Solace if the children's father was born in the UK or if he naturalised as a British citizen before the children were born then they do qualify for British passports. If you are not legally married to the father then his name must appear on their birth certificates and a DNA test may be required. I am assuming that both children were born after July 2006.
TJ. - 22-Jul-17 @ 5:17 PM
@Parbin if any of your parents became British citizens or settled after you were born then your only chance to become a British citizen was before your 18th birthday.
TJ. - 22-Jul-17 @ 5:09 PM
@RAAH if your father is a British citizen born in the UK then your are also a British citizen. However if your father naturalised as a British citizen after you were born then it is too late for you to qualify for British citizenship.
TJ. - 22-Jul-17 @ 5:03 PM
@MFA if you are a British citizen born in the UK then your children will be automatic British citizens regardless of where they are born. They can apply directly for British passports.
TJ. - 22-Jul-17 @ 5:00 PM
@Leslie you can register your children under 18 and born in the UK as British citizens after you or your spouse become permanently settled in the UK i.e. either of you have ILR or PR
TJ. - 22-Jul-17 @ 4:57 PM
I have two sons born in uganda.the father is a British citizen .one is getting 11 years and an other one is getting 8 years. can he apply for British passportfor his two sons?
solace - 21-Jul-17 @ 9:15 PM
Hy, I have spend my whole childhood away from my parents in Nepal. My father is serving for the British military force and it has been a long time already. I have completed my study in Nepal and I want to continue it further. This year I will be reaching 30+ and I heard from out sources that It wont work for the process migrating back to UK after you cross certain age period(30 years) Is it true or I can still go for it without any doubts?
Prabin - 20-Jul-17 @ 9:20 AM
MFA - Your Question:
I am a British Citizen living in UAE who is to marry a Kyrgyz (Repulic of Kyrgyzstan) wife later this year. We plan to have children, but what nationality will they be, can we apply for a British Citizenship for them if they are not born in UK?

Our Response:
You may be able to apply for your child (under 18 years of age) to be registered as a British citizen, for example if you’re a British citizen but your child was born outside the UK. Please see link here .
AboutImmigration - 18-Jul-17 @ 3:30 PM
Hi, I'm here in Bangladesh. my father is British Citizen and he lives in Uk. I'm 25years old. Can my father apply for me or can I apply for British Citizenship?
RAAH - 18-Jul-17 @ 2:34 PM
I am a British Citizen living in UAE who is to marry a Kyrgyz (Repulic of Kyrgyzstan) wife later this year.We plan to have children, but what nationality will they be, can we apply for a British Citizenship for them if they are not born in UK?
MFA - 18-Jul-17 @ 2:25 PM
My son was born in May 2015. I have a 5 years residence due to my husband is Spanish. My residence will expire in Feb 2018.then I should apply for the citizenship. When my son was born my husband was told that he could apply for my son British citizen when he was 2 years old. It's that true because now I read that we need to have the nationality and then apply for my son's could you help us please !
Leslie - 18-Jul-17 @ 12:53 PM
Nanny - Your Question:
My son is british born from a british father and from a french mother.He has a son in Thaïland when he was married to a thai woman. Can he apply for a british passeport for his son? Thank you.

Our Response:
If he is the biological father of his son and is a British citizen, then yes he can apply to register his son as a British citizen.
AboutImmigration - 17-Jul-17 @ 3:17 PM
Rocio - Your Question:
Hello, I met my husband in 2000 in London while I was studying English. He came to live in Mexico with me and got married in 2005. we have 2 children a 9 year old girl and a 7 year old boy. After a successful career in Mexico my husband would like to go back to the UK and just applied to some jobs over there which are going very good. We have never registered our marriage or children in the UK so I'd like to know what I would need to do to be able to move to the UK, and register my kids at school, if he gets a job.Thanks a lot for your support

Our Response:
Your husband would have to be living and working (for at least six months) in the UK in order to be able to apply. In order to sponsor you, he would have to fulfil all the other requirements also in the gov.uk link here.
AboutImmigration - 17-Jul-17 @ 2:04 PM
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