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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 18 Oct 2017 | 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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Hi, please I need advice. I came to UK with Tier 2 (3 years visa) and my husband and daughter as dependents. Upon expiry of the 3 years, I applied for another 3 years same with my husband and daughter as dependent. After 5 years I applied for ILR which I received. My husband was not qualified for the ILR. He did not spend much time in the UK. My daughter does not qualify as well because my husband does not have ILR. Can they still apply as dependent on my ILR status? for how long can they keep applying as my dependent. Considering the fact that they have been on dependent visa for 6 years now
abetiku - 18-Oct-17 @ 5:30 PM
Guy - Your Question:
Hello. It is written in the above page:"It may be possible to register a child born outside the UK to a British citizen by descent as a British citizen if:.OR, The child and both of its parents have lived in the UK for a minimum qualifying period of three years". But from what I understand, both parents must have 'indefinite leave to remain' in the UK for registration of the child, which requires living in the UK for a period of five years, not three. Can you please explain? Thank you, Guy.

Our Response:
The MN1 registration guide here has accurate information regarding this matter.
AboutImmigration - 17-Oct-17 @ 12:41 PM
@CLD if your child is born in the UK he/she will automatically be entitled to a British citizen passport. But if born outside the UK your child will not be eligible for a British passport since you were also born outside the UK meaning you are British "by descent". The child born outside the UK will however be eligible to register as a British citizen before turning 18 since you have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years before their birth and at least one grandparent was a British citizen born in the UK.
TJ. - 15-Oct-17 @ 2:18 PM
@BH if you hold a British citizen passport then your are considered a British national. If you or your partner are British nationals who were born or naturalized in the UK then your child is a British national at birth.
TJ. - 15-Oct-17 @ 2:09 PM
@Nav since your British citizenship was acquired in Hong Kong based on your BN(O) status then it is likely that you are a British citizen "by descent". This means that you cannot automatically pass on British citizenship to any of your children born outside the UK. You will not also be able to register them as British citizens if you did not live in the UK continuously for at least 3 years before they were born. Any of your children born in the UK or an overseas territory will be automatic British citizens.
TJ. - 15-Oct-17 @ 2:04 PM
@Guy children born outside the UK can only be entitled to be registered as British citizens if at least one parent was/is a British citizen. Indefinite Leave to Remain and other types of residency cannot be used to pass British citizenship to children born outside the UK.
TJ. - 15-Oct-17 @ 1:49 PM
Hello. It is written in the above page: "It may be possible to register a child born outside the UK to a British citizen by descent as a British citizen if: ...OR, The child and both of its parents have lived in the UK for a minimum qualifying period of three years". But from what I understand, both parents must have 'indefinite leave to remain' in the UK for registration of the child, which requires living in the UK for a period of five years, not three. Can you please explain?Thank you, Guy.
Guy - 14-Oct-17 @ 8:45 PM
Hi there, I was born in Hong Kong and got married in 2000 in India and have been living there since. I have 2 daughters- one born in India who is 17 years and one is 13 who was born in USA. I was a British National Overseas passport holder at that time. I am a British citizen now (passport issued in Hong Kong). I would like to know how can my daughters obtain British citizenship after me?
Nav - 13-Oct-17 @ 10:11 PM
BH - Your Question:
My son has just been born in Switzerland where I work. I am British. I am applying for a UK passport for him. The online 'gov' info is confusing in respect of citizens, nationals, subjects, descent criteria etc etc. The application asks if he "was born a British national". Clarity on what is a "British national", through links, then meandered off into "not by descent" and no clear answer. I thought that my son would assume British nationality because I was British? Please, was he or was he not a British national at birth?

Our Response:
Have you registered the birth? Did you register him as a British national, please see link here .
AboutImmigration - 10-Oct-17 @ 11:41 AM
CLD - Your Question:
Good Day. I have a British Passport which I have had since birth but was born in South Africa and therefore hold a SA passport as well. Both my parents are British and I was born December 1982. I lived and worked in the UK for 11 years but left UK in 2015 to go back to SA. My husband and I have now recently moved to Dubai and have a baby on the way, my question please is that if the baby is born here in Dubai will he or she be eligible for British Citizenship or a British Passport? My husband is South African and only holds an SA passport.Many Thanks

Our Response:
You would have to check via the gov.uk link here to see if you are eligible.
AboutImmigration - 10-Oct-17 @ 10:53 AM
My son has just been born in Switzerland where I work. I am British. I am applying for a UK passport for him. The online 'gov' info is confusing in respect of citizens, nationals, subjects, descent criteria etc etc. The application asks if he "was born a British national". Clarity on what is a "British national", through links, then meandered off into "not by descent" and no clear answer. I thought that my son would assume British nationality because I was British? Please, was he or was he not a British national at birth?
BH - 9-Oct-17 @ 2:54 PM
Good Day. I have a British Passport which I have had since birth but was born in South Africa and therefore hold a SA passport as well. Both my parents are British and I was born December 1982. I lived and worked in the UK for 11 years but left UK in 2015 to go back to SA. My husband and I have now recently moved to Dubai and have a baby on the way, my question please is that if the baby is born here in Dubai will he or shebe eligible for British Citizenship or a British Passport? My husband is South African and only holds an SA passport. Many Thanks
CLD - 9-Oct-17 @ 6:33 AM
I came to uk in 2008 .I had 3 children age under 5 who were born outside uk and my wife and children came to uk in 2011. Now we all have permanent resident card. The question is dose my children who still are under 13 can apply for british passport or has to apply for naturalisation first?
Khan - 8-Oct-17 @ 5:07 PM
Mag - Your Question:
Hi,my son was born in U.K. in 2006 while both parents we're studying in U.K. I want to know if he Qualifies for British citizenship as he is now 10 years old and residing in Botswana,thanks

Our Response:
Unless either parent holds British citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), then your son would not be entitled to British citizenship.
AboutImmigration - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:35 PM
Hi,my son was born in U.K. in 2006 while both parents we're studying in U.K. I want to know if he Qualifies for British citizenship as he is now 10 years old and residing in Botswana,thanks
Mag - 5-Oct-17 @ 10:08 PM
Hello My husbandand I are leaving in UK since 5 years. We're applying for permanent residence. Two of my boys are born in France, can we ask for British citizen for them? And my last baby was born in London? Is it British citizen? Thanks in advance
Nawel - 5-Oct-17 @ 2:26 PM
Hi My son was born (2007) in the UK when I was a student we left him to my parents back home(Non-EU & Non-Commonwealth country) in January 2008 at the age of 11 months. After I got my ILR, I applied for my wife's dependent VISA which was refused but was granted discretionary VISA for 3 years in 2011. In November 2014 my wife's discretionary VISA got extended for further three years ending November 2017. I applied for my son's settlement - dependent VISA (as my dependant) on October 2012. His application was refused but granted right to appeal. The Appeal cour judge overturn the decision of the ECO and ordered to gran the relevant VISA. Finally he was granted VISA on December 2014 till November 2017(same as my wife's VISA). He entered into the UK on 21st December 2014. My wife is eligible to apply for ILR in NOV 2017 as she will be completing her 6 years period of discretionary VISA.  Please advise me if I can register my son as BRITISH using MN1 and I can do I need to extend his existing VISA that is expiring on NOV 17. Thank you
roger - 5-Oct-17 @ 12:30 PM
Fay - Your Question:
I have a British citizenship and have lived in the UK for 18 years. I have two children with British citizenship, born in Uk. I am having a 3 child in Africa, will the new child born outside UK be registered as a British citizen? I am currently residing in Africa with my non British husband.

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 - 5-Oct-17 @ 10:46 AM
Sab - Your Question:
HiI want to enquire that when my child was born in uk in 2004, his father ( now my ex-husband) was on work permit but after our seperation, he got british citizenship amd I brought my child out of uk whem he was less than a year old. Now please tell me in this givem situation, can I apply for my son's british citizenship. He is now 13 years old.

Our Response:
You would have to see whether you qualify via the gov.uk link here . As a general rule if one of the parents is registered as a British citizen, you can.
AboutImmigration - 5-Oct-17 @ 10:41 AM
I have a British citizenship and have lived in the UK for 18 years. I have two children with British citizenship, born in Uk.I am having a 3 child in Africa, will the new child born outside UK be registered as a British citizen? I am currently residing in Africa with my non British husband.
Fay - 4-Oct-17 @ 6:33 AM
Hi I want to enquire that when my child was born in uk in 2004, his father ( now my ex-husband) was on work permit but after our seperation, he got british citizenship amd I brought my child out of uk whem he was less than a year old. Now please tell me in this givem situation, can I apply for my son's british citizenship. He is now 13 years old.
Sab - 4-Oct-17 @ 3:05 AM
Lee - Your Question:
My ex-husband and I both have British Passports but we were not born in the UK. Our two children were born on the 13 June 2002 and 15 October 2003, respectively, in Zimbabwe. Three out of the four grandparents were born in the UK. I would like to register their births. How do I register their births?

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which should help answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 3-Oct-17 @ 1:46 PM
Doriah - Your Question:
Hi. I am not a British Citizen but the father of my son is a white British and his parents are British too. We are not yet married but have been living together here in Uganda though he is back in the UK for the past 1.5 years. We have a 9 month old son who was born here in Uganda and I would like to get him British citizenship. Can you please tell me how I can go about this. Thank you!

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 - 2-Oct-17 @ 3:27 PM
My ex-husband and I both have British Passports but we were not born in the UK. Our two children were born on the 13 June 2002 and 15 October 2003, respectively, in Zimbabwe. Three out of the four grandparents were born in the UK. I would like to register their births. How do I register their births?
Lee - 29-Sep-17 @ 10:33 PM
Archie - Your Question:
I have always been a British citizen as we're both my parents. I have a 15 year old son who born in Brazil and lived there all his life. I was never married to his mother. I would like to know if my son will qualify for a British passport as I would like him to live with me in the 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 - 29-Sep-17 @ 12:59 PM
Matt - Your Question:
I am a British citizen and have a 3 month old baby girl in Gambia. I would like to apply for British passport for my daughter? How will I go about this?

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 gov.uk link here .
AboutImmigration - 29-Sep-17 @ 11:14 AM
Hi. I am not a British Citizen but the father of my son is a white British and his parents are British too. We are not yet married but have been living together here in Uganda though he is back in the UK for the past 1.5 years. We have a 9 month old son who was born here in Uganda and I would like to get him British citizenship. Can you please tell me how I can go about this. Thank you!
Doriah - 29-Sep-17 @ 6:39 AM
I am a British citizen and have a 3 month old baby girl in Gambia. I would like to apply for British passport for my daughter? How will I go about this?
Matt - 28-Sep-17 @ 5:04 PM
I have always been a British citizen as we're both my parents.I have a 15 year old son who born in Brazil and lived there all his life.I was never married to his mother.I would like to know if my son will qualify for a British passport as I would like him to live with me in the UK.
Archie - 28-Sep-17 @ 1:41 PM
My wife is UK passport holder, she is British nationality holder by descent having a British passport but never lived or visited the UK. We live here in Pakistan with our 2 years old son. I want to know the procedure, if I can apply for a spouse visa, what is the requirement for UK visa and how can we apply from here in Pakistan? And for our son (age 02 years) what is the procedure to get first child British passport from Pakistan?
AK - 26-Sep-17 @ 8:11 PM
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