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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 9 Nov 2018 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Hi both me and my parents are Filipinos, my father is now a naturalized British citizen. However, he was naturalized after i was born.. My parents were never married.
Pan - 9-Nov-18 @ 12:51 PM
@Sara - Your child can only apply to naturalise as a British citizen after being granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK and after she turns 18.
TJ. - 30-Oct-18 @ 10:22 AM
@LiiB - Your children will be entitled to British passports if your husband was born in the UK or if he naturalised as a British citizen before they were born. You can use the Govuk website to check on the application process.
TJ. - 30-Oct-18 @ 10:20 AM
I came tothis country with my daughter at the age of 3 she is now 17l am thinking of applying for naturalisation for her is it possible
Sara - 29-Oct-18 @ 9:02 PM
I am Greek and my husband is British and we live in the UK. However our 9 year old daughters where born in Greece and have Greek passport. Can they get a British passport too? Greek law allows for dual passport. If so,what is the procedure? Thanks
LilB - 29-Oct-18 @ 12:09 PM
Hi In relation to my comment below, the entire family has been in the U.K. since 2004
AR - 22-Oct-18 @ 9:57 AM
Hi, I have limited leave to remain however my son has been granted ILR LR. He is 17. Can he apply for British citizenship before he’s 18. Both parents are not British citizens and have limited leave to remain. He was born out side the U.K. Thanks
AR - 22-Oct-18 @ 9:56 AM
@Jon - Your child can apply for a British passport and your wife can apply for a family visa as a spouse.
TJ. - 16-Oct-18 @ 2:45 PM
Hello I am birtish citizen.. I am married to afhippno woman. We got 11 months old baby.. They want come live UK with me..what can we do from here.. easy way.. type visa... for us..
Jon - 15-Oct-18 @ 11:14 PM
@Rav - You made a mistake having the child in India. Children born outside the UK to foreign parents are not entitled to British citizenship even if the parents have ILR. Your child will only be able to apply to register as a British citizen once BOTH parents are British citizens or if one parent is a British citizen and the other has ILR.
TJ. - 8-Oct-18 @ 1:30 PM
Hi I'm on ILR in the Uk since May 2016 and got married in Dec 2016, my wife came to the Uk and dependent and stayed here for 7 months then moved to India for delivery. We have a baby girl in Jan 2018. Can my baby girl get the British passport as I'm on ILR but she is born in India? I'm yet to apply for my British passport. Please advice
Rav - 8-Oct-18 @ 2:28 AM
@la guerrera - Your child can apply for settled status from March 2019 which will grant Permanent Residency in the UK
TJ. - 29-Sep-18 @ 3:07 PM
I want to know if i have 2 brithish children 14yrs old ,from my previous relationship from a british man,they have a british passport, and i want to know if they can give any rights to there brother or to.I came to this country with a six month visa,i overstayed here for 2 yrs before i put my application futher.During that time I got pregnant from my second relationship and my child was born before home office made there decision ,they gave me a two yrs and a halflive to remain in 2012.My childs father is european and my son has a european passport but because of brexit ,i want t know which type of document i can apply for my child,after the two years and a half ,they gave me the five yrs live to remain on the basis of member of a europan family,but me and my childs father are not married, Thank You
la guerrera - 28-Sep-18 @ 9:35 PM
@toddc - You were born outside the UK so you are a British citizen by descent. That means that your child is not eligible for British citizenship because he was also born outside the UK. Your son can however apply for an Ancestry visa
TJ. - 21-Sep-18 @ 6:46 PM
My British Mother naturalized me when i was about 13 years old and living in South Africa. My son was born in South Africa in 2000 and i was not married to his Mom. What claim does he have to British citizenship??? Is being naturalized by your British Mother viewed as British by descent??? toddc
toddc - 20-Sep-18 @ 6:53 PM
@Adilia Lourenci - If you became a permanent resident after your daughter was born you will need to apply to register her as a British citizen before your can apply for her British passport. You can apply to register her as a British citizen using the MN1 form
TJ. - 17-Sep-18 @ 9:41 AM
Hii I have a daughter she born uk she have 6 years old I am brasilian I have resident permanent uk and her I want aplication bristish passaport for her ,, I am confusion what aplication I do , child just born Uk , and aplication passaport please
Adilia Lourenci - 16-Sep-18 @ 2:39 PM
@Costa - If your wife has been living in the UK for at least 5 continuous years she will have to apply for a PR document and thereafter apply to naturalize as a British citizen. Once your wife receives her PR document, your daughter will be entitled to apply to register as a British citizen using the MN1 form under section 3(1)
TJ. - 13-Sep-18 @ 10:01 AM
Hi I am a former EEA national who has just obtained UK citizenship. My wife is an EEA national. My 6 year old daughter was born overseas but has been living in the UK since her first month of life (with a few gaps of 2-3 months each). How can they obtain British Citizenship please? Kind regards
Costa - 13-Sep-18 @ 12:19 AM
@Jona - If your daughter's father was a British citizen before she was born you can apply for her British passport
TJ. - 12-Sep-18 @ 5:20 AM
Hi i would like to have and advice for my daughter she had a british father ,my daughter born in philippiness on august 25 2008,my husband live in uk my daughter and i never lived in uk,my concern is can i apply my daughter as british citizen,thank you
Jona - 12-Sep-18 @ 3:12 AM
@SiSi - If you are a single parent then as long as you have lived with your son in the UK for at least three years at any time you can apply to register him as a British citizen using the MN1 form under section 3(5). If not he can apply for ILR using SET (O)
TJ. - 11-Sep-18 @ 8:22 PM
Hi .. it’s me again .. but I never lived in Uk in the past .. and I’m divorced ..and my ex husband is algérien nationality and never lived in Uk ..so what can I do for my son ..??
SiSi - 11-Sep-18 @ 6:21 PM
@Bits - Your children can only apply to register as British citizens once you have all spent at least 3 continuous years in the UK as a family unit. They will able to apply using the MN1 form under section 3(5)
TJ. - 10-Sep-18 @ 1:25 PM
My husband was born in the UK, and I was registered in the UK.My mom and dad are from Scotland and Ihave a British passportwill my adopted son aged 9 ,beabl to get a Britsh passport
Tracy - 10-Sep-18 @ 1:21 PM
@Sheetal - If you were born in the UK before 1983 then in most cases you are a British citizen and all you have to do is apply for a British passport. However if at the time of your birth any of your parents were working in the UK as a diplomat for a foreign country then you are not eligible for British citizenship.
TJ. - 10-Sep-18 @ 1:20 PM
Hi My husband was born to two British parents based in South Africa in 1979. He was registered as a British citizen at birth at the consulate there. Are my two South African born children (2010 and 2013) eligible for British citizenship if we have now relocated to the U.K.? We are on a spousal sponsored settlement visa with residents permits.
Bits - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:57 AM
[Add a Comment] Dear Concern I have the citizenship documents of uk, camden. I was born there on 15 august 1982. My parents were unaware about the process of applying citizenship. We stayed in uk for3 years. My father was a govt official and was deployed there for a limited time. Please help me regarding this issue.
sheetal - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:36 AM
SiSi - You can only apply to register your son as a British citizen if you have lived in the UK with him and with his other parent for at least 3 continuous years or if his other parent has ILR or British citizenship.
TJ. - 9-Sep-18 @ 10:05 AM
Hello .. I would like to have adice..I’m British by descent born in 1976 to a britannique mother out side Uk.. I had my certificate of registration as British citizen section 4C in 2011 .. after that I moved in Uk and I live now since 2013 . i have two kids who where born out sid Uk and they live in Algeria my son 15 and my daughter 20 .i would like to know if I can register my young son for British citizen.. but I had my British after he was born and i never lived in Uk in the past .. just since 2013 till today .. if any one can help..????
SiSi - 8-Sep-18 @ 6:22 PM
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