Home > Citizenship > Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 19 Apr 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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Hi. Im British by descent living outside uk. I recently lost my husband and wish to move to uk with my 8 months old daughter. What is the procedure?
Anon - 19-Apr-17 @ 10:59 PM
Honey - Your Question:
I am a British citizen by decent married to a non British national resident outside the UK. How do I bring him to live with me in the UK? Secondly, can I register his 3 kids in the UK? Thirdly, since I am married to their father, do I need to adopt the kids as mine before registering them? Thanks.

Our Response:
Your husband and you (as his sponsor) would have to apply via the family visa link here. The same terms apply for step-children as biological children.
AboutImmigration - 19-Apr-17 @ 2:01 PM
I am a British citizen by decent married to a non British national resident outside the UK. How do I bring him to live with me in the UK? Secondly, can I register his 3 kids in the UK? Thirdly, since I am married to their father, do i need to adopt the kids as mine before registering them? Thanks.
Honey - 19-Apr-17 @ 11:49 AM
@Grandma if your son was registered as a British Citizen then he is still a British citizen unless this was revoked in writing by the Home Secretary. Germany has strict laws on dual citizenship however the country does recognize the dual nationality of german nationals who are also nationals of any EU country. You may have to review this position after Brexit is concluded.
TJ. - 18-Apr-17 @ 2:09 PM
My son born in Germany 19.07.1982 was registered as a britsh citizen in January 1985 by me hos mother.I am a british born citizen.is he still a british citizen now?he has only a german passport.can he apply for a british passport ans still Keep the german One?
Grandma - 18-Apr-17 @ 11:59 AM
Mariesha - Your Question:
I had my son in UK before I naturalise. He was gven indefinite stay as me. I took him to live with my mum in West Africa because I am a single mum. I want to bring him back to UK but don't know if I can apply for a British passport where he lives or use the indefinite to return to UK. He has stayed more than 6 years outside UK. Thanks

Our Response:
In addition to TJ's answer, you will need a returning resident visa to come back to live in the UK if you were previously settled (given ‘indefinite leave to enter or remain’) and you have been away for more than two years, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 18-Apr-17 @ 10:34 AM
@AmandaVS if you were born in the UK, naturalized or registered as a British citizen then your children are likely to be British Citizens and do not require visas to come to the UK. If you are a British citizen by the virtue of your parents you may be able to register your children as British citizens if you lived in the UK for at least 3 years before they were born. Otherwise you can apply for a "Family of a settled" person visa immediately you arrive in the UK.
TJ. - 18-Apr-17 @ 9:49 AM
@ViciG a child born to a British citizen parent who was born in the UK is most likely automatically a British citizen regardless of where the child is born. The child may apply for a British passport directly and does not need to register first as a British Citizen.
TJ. - 18-Apr-17 @ 9:09 AM
@Phillip180479 if your adoption is recognized under UK adoption law then you will be able to register the child as a British Citizen.
TJ. - 18-Apr-17 @ 9:04 AM
@Mariesha Indefinitel Leave to Remain in the UK is no longer valid if one stays outside the UK for more than 2 years without a good reason. However if you have naturalized as a British citizen you may be able to apply for your child to register as a British citizen on this basis.
TJ. - 18-Apr-17 @ 9:02 AM
I had my son in UK before i naturalise. He was gven indefinite stay as me. I took him to live with my mum in West Africa because I am a single mum. I want to bring him back to UK but don't know if I can apply for a British passport where he lives or use the indefinite to return to UK. He has stayed more than 6 years outside UK. Thanks
Mariesha - 17-Apr-17 @ 7:21 AM
Hi. I am a british citizen born in the UK but now currently living in Malaysia. Myself and my wife who is ( malaysian ) have adopted a little girl from here. My question is would i be able to register the little one as a british citizen? Thanks
Phillip180479 - 16-Apr-17 @ 11:43 AM
ViciG - Your Question:
I was born in he U.K. and I am a permanent resident alien in the US. I lived in England till I was 9 and have now lived in the US for the past 30 years. Can I register my children as British? They were both born in the US and are ages 8 and 7. Their father is American.

Our Response:
If your children were born outside the UK, to you as a British parent, you may be able to register your children as British by descent - please see gov.uk link here.
AboutImmigration - 12-Apr-17 @ 10:34 AM
I was born in he U.K. andI am a permanentresident alien in the US.. I lived in England till I was 9 and have now lived in the US for the past 30 years. Can I register my children as British? They were both born in the US and are ages 8 and 7. Their father is American.
ViciG - 11-Apr-17 @ 11:30 AM
marey - Your Question:
I married man from uk and the things after year not going wills because hard situition of visa!and we divorce now!and I have son from him and I read the son can have british nationale directly!is that correct!did I can make my son have his british national without help of his dad!and what if my son cqn move there!did I have right as a mum to move with my son there??

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here which should answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 10-Apr-17 @ 10:21 AM
i married man from uk and the things after year not going wills because hard situition of visa!and we divorce now!and i have son from him and i read the son can have british nationale directly!is that correct!did i can make my son have his british national without help of his dad!and what if my son cqn move there!did i have right as a mum to move with my son there??
marey - 9-Apr-17 @ 1:27 AM
Hi, I hold a British passport and will be moving to the UK shortly with my 2 children, what type of visa if any do I need for them? We are currently in SA
AmandaVS - 8-Apr-17 @ 9:13 AM
eddiepunch - Your Question:
My post from a few weeks ago seems to have vanished without reply. Can you help ?

Our Response:
It is rare that a post vanishes. You may have posted it on another site and have forgotten which one. You can repost your question here and we'll try to answer it if we can.
AboutImmigration - 5-Apr-17 @ 2:19 PM
My post from a few weeks ago seems to have vanished without reply. Can you help ?
eddiepunch - 5-Apr-17 @ 9:21 AM
hi I am British national working full time 7 months before my wife and daughter came to uk from Pakistan my wife got spouse visa and my daughter got dependent leave to entrevisa I would like to know can I apply for my daughter British passport now as my daughter is 2 years old .or do I have to wait kindly could you please help me with this query as I want to apply for my daughter British passport. thanks very much .
wfasial - 1-Apr-17 @ 11:08 AM
I'm posting on behalf of an: 18 year old woman, born in Germany to a German mother with a dual Nationality German-UK Father (German born in the UK), all living in Germany wishes to obtain her UK passport. - HM Pasport Office say that she must apply to become a British Citizen first because her parents were not married. I'm amased that "in this day and age" that would be a hindrance. What kind of process in terms of time and cost can she expect ? Where does she apply ? What does she need to prove ? thanks, Eddie Punch
eddiepunch - 30-Mar-17 @ 9:55 AM
Burty - Your Question:
I am a British citizen with British parents, grandparents, etc. etc. I am married to a Canadian woman who's grandparents are/were British citizens and emigrated to Canada; I have permanent resident status in Canada. Our first child is due to be born very soon in Canada. My Question is, will s/he have dual nationality automatically?

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here, which should answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 28-Mar-17 @ 2:12 PM
I am a British citizen with British parents, grandparents, etc. etc. I am married to a Canadian woman who's grandparents are/were British citizens and emigrated to Canada; I have permanent resident status in Canada. Our first child is due to be born very soon in Canada. My Question is, will s/he have dual nationality automatically?
Burty - 27-Mar-17 @ 10:47 PM
I'm a British national born in the middle East to british national parents and im married to a Bahraini national and passport holder Would our children (future) be entitled to British passports if they were born overseas in the middle East or would they need to be born in the UK due to myself having been born overseas? We are planning on starting a family and want them to have British passports(dual with bahraini passports) but am concerned that we would have to uproot ourselves just for the birth to ensure their rights to British passports Advice would be much appreciated!
Claudiashajaie - 26-Mar-17 @ 4:10 PM
Hi, I have a question. I live with my mum who moved to the UK in 2008 from Latvia. Me and my mum both hold a Latvian citizen passport. I came to the UK, live here and attend full time education since 2009. I am currently 16 (turning 17 in August 2017) and attend college. And my mum is applying for British residency in May this year. I would like to know if I could be applicable for a British citizenship and/or passport? Thank you.
val07 - 25-Mar-17 @ 6:21 PM
Hi, I am a British Citizen via naturalisation and I am married to a Ukrainian wife. Can our child (born in Ukraine) obtain a British Citizenship via the farther, who is a naturalised British Citizen? Do both parents have to live in the UK for a certain period before such application can even begin? Thank you.
Alex - 24-Mar-17 @ 2:38 PM
Matt - Your Question:
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.

Our Response:
Your child would come as a dependent on the family visa, link here. The information contained, will answer your additional questions.
AboutImmigration - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:48 AM
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
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the AboutImmigration website. Please read our Disclaimer.