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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Dec 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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@Enyr - your son born last year after you became a British citizen can apply for a British passport on the govuk website. For your son born outside the UK before you became a British citizen you can apply to register him as a British citizen using the MN1 form on govuk website. His application will only be approved if the other parent is also a British citizen or has ILR. If the other parent does not meet the requirements he will have to apply for a family visa as a dependant to join you in the UK.
TJ. - 13-Dec-17 @ 12:44 AM
Am British citizen i have got son who was born last year in Africa....my question is title to have British passport if yes how the process and I hv got another son who was born Africa 2004 that time I wasn’t British apparently I want my son to join me in England but I don’t know the process and it’s possible?
Enyr - 12-Dec-17 @ 10:20 PM
@Vera if your husband had Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) on the date your daughter was born then you can apply for a British passport for her. Otherwise your daughter is not a British citizen and is not eligible for a British passport but she can be registered as a British citizen once either parent receives ILR/becomes a British citizen before she turns 18 or once she has lived in the UK for 10 years after birth.
TJ. - 12-Dec-17 @ 10:48 AM
I was not born here, my daughter she was born here in London year and half ago. I m living and working here for 4 and half years . Can I sppply for B passport for my child ? Her dad is not British, not European but he s living here for cca 10 years , he isn't b citizen
Vera - 12-Dec-17 @ 5:59 AM
me - Your Question:
Hello, My husband and I are married and I have delivered baby in October this year, we are foreigners. My husband lives in UK for more than 13 years, I live here for 2,5 years. Can our son get a british passport? WHat is the procedure? Is he now has British nationality as he was born here and we live here in UK? Thank you.

Our Response:
If your husband is a British citizen, then your child will automatically be a British citizen, please see link here .
AboutImmigration - 11-Dec-17 @ 3:06 PM
@Rippi- There are three scenarios based on where your daughter was born. 1. If your daughter was born in the UK and you were a British citizen or you had ILR when she was born you can apply for her British passport. 2. If your daughter was born outside the UK and you had already become a British citizen when she was born then you can apply for her British passport. 3. If your daughter was born outside the UK before you became a British citizen then you will first have to register her as a British citizen at the Home Secretary's discretion before she can get a British passport. The Home Secretary will only approve it if the other parent is a British citizen or has ILR.
TJ. - 8-Dec-17 @ 9:24 AM
I'm British citizen now my daughter is Canadian citizens she is only 3 month can I apply her British passport
Rippi - 7-Dec-17 @ 11:19 PM
@me - your child does not have British nationality unless your husband is from the EU/EEA and he has PR (Permanent Residency) in the UK or unless he is a foreign national with ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain).
TJ. - 6-Dec-17 @ 12:56 AM
Hello, My husband and I are married and I have delivered baby in October this year, we are foreigners. My husband lives in UK for more than 13 years, I live here for 2,5 years. Can our son get a british passport? WHat is the procedure? Is he now has British nationality as he was born here and we live here in UK? Thank you.
me - 5-Dec-17 @ 9:44 AM
@Spurs if the certificate of entitlement is within a valid China passport then he can travel to the UK to live, study or work without any restrictions. Once he applies for a British passport the certificate of entitlement will become void because they can't be held at the same time.
TJ. - 2-Dec-17 @ 6:45 PM
Hi My Son who is a British Citizen. However he's been working in China since November 2010. He has a son aged 5 who was born in China and has a Chinese passport. My son is coming back to live and work in the UK in 2 years time and bringing his son to live with him permanently. At the moment his son has a Certificate of entitlement,Right of Abode. Will he beable to apply for a UK passport for him once he arrives in the UK and will be beable to stay in.the UK forever with his father ? Thank you
Spurs - 2-Dec-17 @ 1:06 PM
@Sam if you are a British citizen born in the UK you can apply for British passports for your children born anywhere in the world.
TJ. - 2-Dec-17 @ 9:09 AM
hi i am a british national by birth nd i got marry in pakistan i have tree children 1,3,5 years old can i eligible to apply my children
sam - 2-Dec-17 @ 4:20 AM
@Papa C if the child is adopted in Thailand she will automatically become a British citizen if your wife is also resident in the UK. If the adoption is completed before your wife is resident in the UK you will have to apply for her to be registered as a British citizen and she will only be eligible if you as the father were born in the UK or if you are a naturalized British citizen and this will be granted at the Home Secretary's discretion.
TJ. - 30-Nov-17 @ 4:26 PM
My wife is Thai national ( no rights to stay UK ) If we adopt in Thailand Can our new Daughter become a UK citizen I am mostly resident in the UK My wife & daughter will be mostly resident in Thailand
Papa C - 30-Nov-17 @ 12:31 PM
@Christina if you were born outside the UK then your children who were also born outside the UK are not eligible for British citizenship because you have never lived in the UK. I'm assuming their father is not a British citizen.
TJ. - 30-Nov-17 @ 11:12 AM
I am British Citizen never lived in the UK. I have 3 kids born before 2006 (under 18) outside the UK. Can I apply for Citizenship for my kids?
Christina - 30-Nov-17 @ 8:39 AM
@Arsh you can register the first child as a British citizen using the MN1 Form on the govuk website. The second child is already a British citizen so you can just apply for his/her British passport using the govuk website. To register the first child will cost about £1,000 without legal fees and the British passport for the second child will cost about £80.
TJ. - 28-Nov-17 @ 8:48 PM
Hi I got two daughters one is six years old and born before my British nationality and the second one is two years old born after my British nationality both in uk and how can I apply for their nationality but we are living as a citizen partner unmarried couple
Arsh - 26-Nov-17 @ 9:56 PM
@Wayne if you are a British citizen born in England then your child is also a British citizen by descent. You will need to apply for a British passport for her before she can come to the UK.
TJ. - 25-Nov-17 @ 10:11 PM
@cc your child is not a British citizen and therefore cannot get a British passport because neither parent had permanent residency in the UK on the day the child was born. You can apply for British citizenship for the child once either of you obtain permanent residency in the UK. You can apply for a Portuguese passport for the child.
TJ. - 25-Nov-17 @ 10:07 PM
Hi I'm born in England but had a child in Jamaica in 2017 what do I do to get her to me here ? Does she have rights as a British as I'm born in England??
Wayne - 25-Nov-17 @ 7:23 PM
We are a Portuguese parents (not married) and my baby was born in London on the fifth of October 2017. We are living in the uk for tree years. We both have nacional insurance number, we both have worked, I’m not working at the moment but my baby’s father is working. Can my baby have the British passport? What’s my baby nationality? Thanks for your time
Cc - 25-Nov-17 @ 12:29 PM
good morning I'm indian citizens and my husband British.we want to deliver baby in uk is it possible and wants the processes ?Thank you
piu - 25-Nov-17 @ 8:46 AM
@DAP if you are the child's mother then the child born before 1983 to a British mother is entitled to register as a British citizen using form UKMon the govuk website. If you are the child's father then the child born before 2006 to an unmarried British father is entitled to register as a British citizen using form UKF on the govuk website.
TJ. - 21-Nov-17 @ 1:25 PM
@Dido your child will be a British citizen if born in the UK and can apply automatically for a British passport. If born outside the UK the child will only be able to register as a British citizen once either parent applies for British citizenship.
TJ. - 21-Nov-17 @ 1:16 PM
@Mama J being born in the UK does not automatically make one eligible for a British passport. It all depends on the immigration status of the parents in the UK on the date of the child's birth.
TJ. - 21-Nov-17 @ 1:12 PM
@Vanman if you are British otherwise than by descent then your children are British citizens regardless of where they are born.
TJ. - 21-Nov-17 @ 1:07 PM
PC - Your Question:
I intend to marry my Chinese girlfriend who is a Chinese national, in China. When we apply for a spousal visa for her to come to the UK will this visa automatically include her 9 year old son from her first marriage. Or do we apply for a separate visa for him?

Our Response:
You can apply for him as a dependent on the same form. The CAB link will explain more here .
AboutImmigration - 21-Nov-17 @ 11:14 AM
DAP - Your Question:
I was born in England in 1947 to British parents. I left UK at 21 and travelled ending up in Samoa where I had a daughter with a Samoan National in 1981 in a de facto relationship. Full custody was later given to me and I have raised he alone since. We now live in Australia and she and I want her to have British citizenship. I understand regulations have changed.Thank you

Our Response:
This guidance explains whether British citizens can claim British citizenship for their child born outside the United Kingdom, please see link here .
AboutImmigration - 21-Nov-17 @ 9:37 AM
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