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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 21 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Uk British Citizenship Nationality Child

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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[Add a Comment]
@Jan - Your child can apply for a British passport only if you were born in the UK or naturalized in the UK at the time the child was born. If you are a British citizen by descent then your child is not entitled to a British passport.
TJ. - 21-May-18 @ 3:54 PM
@Ali - You can apply to register as a British citizen using the UKF form as the child of an unmarried British father.
TJ. - 21-May-18 @ 3:52 PM
Ysa - Your Question:
Hi I want to know if I can register my kid to be a British citizen while I'm out of the country his father is British thank you for your concern

Our Response:
You can see more about registering children born outside the UK via the link here.
AboutImmigration - 21-May-18 @ 11:28 AM
Hi I want to know if I can register my kidto be a British citizen while I'm out of the country his father is British thank you for your concern
Ysa - 20-May-18 @ 4:51 PM
I wanna know that I was married with Indian boy in Hong Kong after our child born we get divorce but I have British passport and now I’m living in hk even my child was born in hk as well can I apply my child British passport
Jan - 20-May-18 @ 2:40 PM
I got a similar question like some other guys here that Can I get a British nationality ? if My Father was a Naturalized British citizen at the time of my birth (still is) and I am 19 now.But my father is also Married to another women in UK and I was born and raised outside UK to his second wife who is my mother and their marriage is not recognized in UK .My father is still married to both,my mother and my step mother.
Ali - 17-May-18 @ 10:15 AM
@Nick - For you to be eligible for a British passport your parents marriage does not need to be registered in the UK but it needs to be recognised in the UK. If your father married your mother while he was still married to another woman then your parents marriage is not recognized in the UK and you cannot apply for a British passport. You can however apply to register as a British citizen as the child of an unmarried British father using form UKF but this is a lot more expensive and you must have a clean record to be eligible.
TJ. - 15-May-18 @ 10:44 PM
@TJ Hey Nick again.{My parents were married when I was born and still are. Their marriage is legal and I have all concering documents but it isn't registered in UK.}By the time of my birth only my father had Naturalised British nationality (my mother still doesn't have it) But he already had a Wife in uk and is still married to him also. can I still get British Nationality ? ?(I am 18 now)
Nick - 15-May-18 @ 11:14 AM
@ali - You can apply for your daughter's British passport in Pakistan through the govuk website and the British High Commission. If your new marriage is recognized in the UK, you can apply for a spouse visa online through the govuk website.
TJ. - 14-May-18 @ 10:11 AM
@Nick - Because you were born before July 2006, you will only be eligible for a British passport if your parents have had a marriage that is recognized in the UK. If your parents have never been married you will first have to register as a British citizen before you can apply for a British passport. All this only applies if your father was a British citizen when you were born and he was born in the UK or is a naturalized citizen.
TJ. - 14-May-18 @ 10:02 AM
@Lucy - Unless both you and your husband become British citizens your daughter will not be eligible to apply for British citizenship until she is at least 18 years old because she was born outside the UK.
TJ. - 14-May-18 @ 9:55 AM
Nick - Your Question:
Hello. I wanna know that if my father is a British and my mother is not (she is not registered as his wife in UK,But they both are still married) and I was born and raised out side UK I'm 18 now.Am I eligible British Passport ?

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here, which will help answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 14-May-18 @ 9:20 AM
Hello, I have given your reference from one of my friends who have been your client in past. I would like to make an enquiry about registering British citizenship abroad by descent and apply for spouse visa for my wife. I would explain my case below and would like a detailed answer if possible, including your fee. I moved to UK from Pakistan in year 2004. First time I got married to British citizen girl in Pakistan November 2011 and then came back to UK together, and had a baby on August 2012. I gave verbal divorce to my ex wife in November 2016. I have a written evidence for that but its not registered. My marriage was not registered in U.K but in Pakistan. I traveled to Pakistan in January 2017 and I got married again to a Pakistani citizen girl. I came back to UK in March 2017. My ex-wife then travelled to Pakistan and applied for divorce through Union council in August 2017. We received decree absolute in November 2017 from Pakistan. Divorce certificate is in English and its registered and attested from Foreign office and Pakistan embassy in London. My second baby was born in October 2017 from Pakistani wife in Pakistan, whom I want to apply visa for and register my baby as a British citizen. On the basis of descent, as I am naturalized British Citizen. I have explained my case clearly with all dates and facts. Could you please advise me best option possible. Many thanks.
ali - 14-May-18 @ 6:11 AM
I am divorced and I have a 4 year old daughter. I have a marriage contract and all the information about the parent that I do not have a copy of the brtish passport. I do not have a copy of the citizenship certificate, but I do have a social security number, which is the solution
lily - 12-May-18 @ 5:41 AM
Hello. I wanna know that if my father is a British and my mother is not(she is not registered as his wife in UK,But they both are still married)and I was born and raised out side UK I'm 18 now.Am I eligible British Passport ?
Nick - 12-May-18 @ 2:58 AM
Hello, my name is Lucy and I have a 13 year old daughter, she was born in Brazil. She has been studying in London for 8 years now and both me and my husband (including my daughter) have indefinite leave to remain. I have spoken with different lawyers and they have told me that I'd have to wait until she has been studying here for 10 years before applying for her citizenship, and that she can only get her naturalisation after she turns 18 years old. However, I am a bit unsure about this. Could she get it before that period of time due to the amount of years she has been studying? Thank you
Lucy - 11-May-18 @ 6:26 PM
i am a british by decsenti have a daughter in jamaica the question is can my daughter become a british national if yes how can i apply can she get a british book
ria - 10-May-18 @ 11:12 PM
Hi, I have my british passport and am a citizen as my dad was born in the U.K. I now live here in the U.K. with my 4.5 year old daughter. She is on ancestry visa with my husband. Can she get her British citizenship without waiting the 5 years?
Nats - 10-May-18 @ 4:31 PM
Peter - Your Question:
Hi.I just want to know that my father is a British and I was born and raised in Pakistan.Now I am 18 ( I don't want to live here with my mum.I just can't fit in this culture.) AM I ELIGIBLE FOR BRITISH PASSPORT ?

Our Response:
You can see more via the link here , which shows that you should have an an automatic claim to British citizenship by descent.
AboutImmigration - 10-May-18 @ 10:24 AM
@Peter - If your father was a British citizen at the time you were born then you are a British citizen by descent and you can apply for a British passport. If you were born before July 2006 then he must have also been legally married to your mother at one point before you can apply.
TJ. - 9-May-18 @ 1:37 PM
hi.I just want to know thatmy father is a British and I was born and raised in Pakistan.Now I am 18 ( i don't want to live here with my mum.I just can't fit in this culture.)AM I ELIGIBLEFOR BRITISH PASSPORT ?
Peter - 9-May-18 @ 1:34 PM
@Tara - If the child's father was not born in the UK, then the child will only be eligible for a British passport if born in the UK. You can apply for a visa to visit the UK to give birth if you can prove that you can meet the expenses. If the father was born in the UK you can give birth in Zimbabwe and apply for a British passport directly from the UK and it will be delivered to the British High Commission to you. Please also note that if your mother was born in the UK and you were born after 1983 then you are also entitled to a British passport and if you were born before 1983 you can apply to register as a British citizen by descent.
TJ. - 8-May-18 @ 5:54 PM
@Gigs - Your sons will unfortunately not be eligible for British passports at their age because you are only a British citizen by descent and they were also not born in the UK. They are however eligible for Ancestry visas through their grandfather which will allow them to live/work in the UK for 5 years and apply for settlement thereafter.
TJ. - 8-May-18 @ 5:40 PM
Good day, Would our child be eligible to acquire a British Passport & what would I need to do? Father - British Citizen Mother - Zimbabwean Citizen Maternal Grandmother - British Citizen Where would I be able to give birth? Zimbabwe or would it need to be in the UK? If in the UK would I the mother get a Visa through my husband? Or if in Zimbabwe - can I able to our babies Passport from Zimbabwe?
Tara - 8-May-18 @ 10:35 AM
Hi there. I acquired British citizenship through my father who was born in Scotland. I was born in South Africa and hold a South African passport as well. Would my two sons, aged 24 and 21, be able to qualify for British passports? Thanks so much.
Gigs - 6-May-18 @ 3:35 PM
@Sweet - your child is a British citizen by descent. Since India does not allow dual citizenship then the father's citizenship is irrelevant
TJ. - 5-May-18 @ 12:35 PM
I am British citizen(wife)and husband is ILR Indian,our baby is born in Georgia by surrogancy which citizenship will baby get?indian or British .how long does parental order takes?and which form do we apply? Thanking you
Sweet - 4-May-18 @ 8:04 PM
Hi, i recently got british citizenship about 2 years ago. My husband still has german citizen and no british PR. My son and daughter(under 18) have german passports, how can i change to British passport for them? thank you
Puni18 - 1-May-18 @ 4:30 PM
@MJ - if you are a British citizen, you'll be fine. They cannot take your citizenship away, it's only the Windrush settlers where this has applied. The Windrush generation were given settlement and leave to remain, but not given documentation. Trying to prove their status has beeen the difficult thing and the government jumped in to try to send them all home (wherever home is, most have been in the UK all their lives). It's a dreadful state of affairs and one that should never have been allowed to happen.
Khan - 1-May-18 @ 10:35 AM
Hello. I am originally Spanish, but lived in the UK 15 years and was UK nationalized in 2014, and I hold a British passport since then. I live now in Germany and have a son born in Germany in 2017. Is my son "British Citizen by descent" or is he eligible to register as a British Citizen? If the first, could I apply directly for his british passport? Many thanks, Ana.
AnaB - 30-Apr-18 @ 9:16 PM
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