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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 23 Mar 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'm British, my wife is Russian, and our baby is to be born in Russia. Shortly after, my wife and baby plan to move to the UK to live with me. I know my wife will need a Visa, but what documentation will my child need? And how do I go about obtaining these documents? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.
Matt - 23-Mar-17 @ 7:48 PM
Z - Your Question:
Hi,Can you please advise on the law if a woman who is a UK national marries a non U.K national from Pakistan. She is now in U.K. expecting their child. What is the right for the father to obtain a visa and apply to join his wife and child in the U.K. Is this based around Human Rights law??Many thanks in advance for your advice.

Our Response:
Your only recourse is to apply via the gov.uk link here. Both the mother and father would have to fulfil the eligibility requirements.
AboutImmigration - 23-Mar-17 @ 3:01 PM
Hi, Can you please advise on the law if a woman who is a UK national marries a non U.K national from Pakistan.She is now in U.K. expecting their child.What is the right for the father to obtain a visa and apply to join his wife and child in the U.K.Is this based around Human Rights law?? Many thanks in advance for your advice.
Z - 23-Mar-17 @ 11:47 AM
Hi, My wife and I are Spanish. We have been living and working in the UK for the last 4 years. We have adopted in the UK, a British child, born in the UK, from British birth parents. We applied for the British passport and HM Passport Office is telling us that the child is not British since we adopted him, being non UK citizens, and therefore he can´t get the British passport. Basically, it´s like he lost his British nationality. Could you confirm me this point, please? thanks
Alfonso - 17-Mar-17 @ 6:42 PM
An American born, dual citizen (mother was British citizen by "other than decent") has a claim to British citizenship herself. She has never lived outside the USA, her mother is a permanent residentry (in possession of a green card) in the country. Does the child need to formally renounce her British citizenship to claim only American citizenship for work? She does not have a passport from the UK and is over 18.
Kelly - 17-Mar-17 @ 5:29 PM
We have started the process for my husband to adopt my two biological children that he has raised for the past seven years.My question is that they were born in the US however our case worker is unsure what will happen with a new birth certificate being issued.Surely they can't have an UK birth certificate? If so do I have to apply for them American citizenship and they would be considered born abroad? My husband is not British but Swedish and we have lived in the UK for seven years.
Sarah Hj - 17-Mar-17 @ 10:08 AM
mai05 - Your Question:
Hi I need help im british citizen not yet divorce with my ex husband in the philippines. I want to get my 3 kids to join me here. im not yet divorce with my ex husband, we are separated for 10 yrs now and move on to our life. how can I get my kids with out the interference of my ex husband? please please help.thanks

Our Response:
Your only option would be to get the agreement of your ex husband, or seek legal advice about applying to court. However, this would be costly and I'm afraid it is unlikely a court would rule to disrupt your children's lives and hand children from one parent to another without very good reason.
AboutImmigration - 15-Mar-17 @ 12:57 PM
hi i need help im british citizen not yet divorce with my ex husband in the philippines. i want to get my 3 kids to join me here. im not yet divorce with my ex husband, we are separated for 10 yrs now and move on to our life. how can i get my kids with out the interference of my ex husband? please please help. thanks
mai05 - 14-Mar-17 @ 5:55 PM
I am a UK citizen living in America with a valid green card & visa, When my fiancé and I are married can he (American Citizen) and his daughter (American Citizen) legal live in BVI under dual citizenship? Do we need non resident visa's for them?
Charlie - 14-Mar-17 @ 1:15 AM
Hi, I need a advice . Me and My husband are citizens now, but my 2 daughters born in india and they are with us since last 4 years and they still valid Tier1 dependent child visa for another 1 more year. So, should we need to go for ILR for them are can we apply for naturalisation to them and get British citizenship? Is this possible ? hence we are citizens then my kids can go for citizenship even if they born outside UK hence they are with us since last 4 years in UK? Or still they need to go ILR and then they need to go citizenship next? Both kids are below 7 years old Thanks Swahti
Swathi - 12-Mar-17 @ 10:26 PM
Hi, I would like to know if I can apply for British citizenship for my son (who lived in UK since he was 2years and 4 months and now is 11, born in a EU country). I am EU citizen and I have obtained the British citizenship by naturalisation in Sept 2016. I am divorced and my ex husband is an EU citizen still living in UK (from 2007) - he has obtained the blue card (permanent work permit) in 2009.
Bonfire - 9-Mar-17 @ 4:57 AM
Hi, my wife's father was a british national. He passed away last June 2016, my wife did not get her british citizen eventhough her mom and dad were legally married. Her father had another partner, they had children and are all british cititizen. They born and grew up in Philippines just like my wife. My wife and her half sibling's are alll close and have a good relationship. Can my wife and our baby get a british citizenship?
PJ - 8-Mar-17 @ 6:03 AM
Am British citizen through naturalisation. .my 7 year old daughter was born in Ghana after my British citizenship. That means she is a British citizen by decent. However. I want to find out if.. 1. I have to register her before I can apply for her passport or I can apply for passport straightaway. 2. Can i make those applications from here UK and use my home address OR i have to apply from Ghana where she is living currently?
lexis - 2-Mar-17 @ 4:53 PM
@Fikrat - if your are a British citizen by descent you can't pass this to your child. This can only travel down to one generation i.e you.
Nuri - 1-Mar-17 @ 2:43 PM
Hello, I would appreiate any advice or help you could give me on this matter: both my late husband's parents were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, being that they resided in the Bahama Islands for many years. My late husband's certificate of the ( British Nationality Act , 1948)Registration of a Minor as a Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies is dated March, 1968 and he also had a British passport. I myself am an American Citizen (born there) but since marrying my husband we've been living in Greece, were our children were also born. Both being of Greek nationality. Can my son who was born July 1983 qualify for citizenship or can he be registered as a British Citizen through his Fathers' and Grandparents' citizenships ???Thank you , I would be grateful for the advice. Irene
NONE - 1-Mar-17 @ 12:13 PM
Im a british citizen by decent and never lived in UK im Married and want to give my daughter the British Passport she is 2 years of age . kindly advise me if I could give her the passport as my wife is not a British Passport holder either !
Fikrat - 1-Mar-17 @ 8:52 AM
Hi there I would like to know if it's possible to get the British nationality. My father was a british citizen and my grandparents also living in Bahamas that was aBritish colony. I am 33 and born in greece by a father with British citizenship and a mother with an American citizenship.
Question guy - 1-Mar-17 @ 8:03 AM
Carfiest - Your Question:
Hi all. I would like to get some advice about this. My wife and I are Spanish but our daughter was born in UK in 2015. We came here in 2013 so we haven't been living for enough time to apply for British Citizen but we would like that our daughter had the British Citizen option. When we could apply for her? She is growing in a British culture so she is more English than SpanishThanks.

Our Response:
I'm afraid you can only claim British citizenship for your daughter if either of you have permanent residence. There currently has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, as a result of the referendum. Therefore, by the time this comes to pass you should be eligible to apply, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 28-Feb-17 @ 10:55 AM
Izza - Your Question:
I have a 10 yr old son fr a British guy.We didn't end up married and he had last seen his son when he was only 2 y/o. I want my son to be registered as british citizen while still a minor. Is it possible for me to do it alone without the father's consent because we have long time ago moved on wih our own lives and I don't want to make contact with him over this matter?anyone, please advice. Thank you

Our Response:
It may require verification from your ex if you want to apply. You would have to check via the gov.uk MN1 form and guidance here.
AboutImmigration - 28-Feb-17 @ 10:09 AM
Hi all. I would like to get some advice about this. My wife and I are Spanish but our daughter was born in UK in 2015. We came here in 2013 so we haven't been living for enough time to apply for British Citizen but we would like that our daughter had the British Citizen option. When we could apply for her? She is growing in a British culture so she is more English than Spanish Thanks.
Carfiest - 27-Feb-17 @ 1:01 PM
I have a 10 yr old son fr a British guy.We didn't end up married and he had last seen his son when he was only 2 y/o. I want my son to be registered as british citizen while still a minor. Is it possible for me to do it alone without the father's consent because we have long time ago moved on wih our own lives and I don't want to make contact with him over this matter?anyone, please advice. Thank you
Izza - 27-Feb-17 @ 2:18 AM
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

Our Response:
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? Thanks
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 Maricar
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

Our Response:
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
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