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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 14 Feb 2018 | 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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Scotty - Your Question:
Hi would like a bit of guidance,my two grandchildren who were born in Greece aged 9 and 11 and lived in U.K for 7 years would they qualify for U.K passport ?? No contact with father.

Our Response:
The children would only qualify if either one of the parents are British citizens, please see link here . Please read the guidance section to see if your granchildren are eligible before any application is made.
AboutImmigration - 15-Feb-18 @ 11:50 AM
Hi would like a bit of guidance,my two grandchildren who were born in Greece aged 9 and 11 and lived in U.K for 7 years would they qualify for U.K passport ??. No contact with father .
Scotty - 14-Feb-18 @ 4:06 PM
@Melina - Your daughter born outside the UK is already a British citizen by descent so she does not need to apply for citizenship. You can apply for her British passport using the forms on the govuk website and through the embassy in the US.
TJ. - 12-Feb-18 @ 7:53 PM
Hello- I am a naturalised British citizen that still carries a British passport. I have not lived in the UK since 2001 though. My child is 8 years old and a US citizen. Can I issue a British passport for her? Is she qualified to become a British citizen? What is the process in both of the above? Thanks!
melina - 12-Feb-18 @ 12:02 PM
@farah - at your daughters age she can only naturalize as a British citizen after living in the UK legally and after having ILR.
TJ. - 11-Feb-18 @ 9:00 AM
My daughter is pakistani 33 yrs old,I am a natuaralized citizen( british ) her mother living on benefits could she apply for british citizenship and if so what documents will we need. thanks for any advice much appreciated.
farah - 10-Feb-18 @ 5:19 PM
@Ati - If you are a naturalized British citizen or if you were born in the UK then you should apply for a British passport for your child before she can come to the UK with you.
TJ. - 4-Feb-18 @ 8:57 PM
Hi I am British citizen but I live pakistan with my husband and I have a daughter who born in Pakistan. Let me know if I came uk for 1 or 2 months to meet my parents(who permanently live uk) what is the process that my 8 months old daughter easily came with me. Which type of documents andvisa and application needed. Thanks
Ati - 4-Feb-18 @ 5:55 PM
A2 - If your husband became a British citizen before your child was born or if he was born in the UK, then your child is a British citizen and can apply for a British passport which will allow her to live in the UK whenever she chooses. Since you have left the UK you will be unable apply for leave to remain based on domestic abuse reported in India.
TJ. - 4-Feb-18 @ 11:06 AM
@LR - If you are able to prove paternity and no other man is listed as the father on the birth certificate then you can apply for a British passport for her that will allow her to live in the UK. If you marry her mother she can come to the UK on a family spouse visa.
TJ. - 4-Feb-18 @ 10:58 AM
I am in India, my child's father is a British Citizen. I was on my permanent Resident Permit when I give birth to my child in India. after my child's birth my husband has abandoned me and my child. I had been a victim of Domestic Violence during the span of 2010 to 2014 during my stay in UK and Police Petition has been filed against my husband in India. My husband is currently working in London and a British Citizen.we have not got legally divorced. In this Scenario can I apply for British citizenship for my child. Can you kindly advise me on proceedings and possibilities.
A2 - 2-Feb-18 @ 3:37 PM
I am from India, My husband is a British Citizen and I was on Resident Permit valid from 2013 to 2015. I had delivered my baby in India when I was holding Permanent Resident Permit. My husband has abandoned me and me child and done domestic violence during my stay in UK since 2010 to 2014 and a police complaint has been filed against him in India. Is it possible for me to apply for citizenship for the baby as her father is a British Citizen and currently living and working in UK and I was also working in UK under resident permit and paying National Insurance. Can you advice me on the same of the possibility and proceedings
A2 - 2-Feb-18 @ 3:25 PM
Hi. I am a British citizen, born in the UK to British parents and have lived here my whole life. My daughter is five years old and born in Mexico to a Mexican woman. My name is not currently on her birth certificate. I am not currently in a relationship with the mother. I guess I will need to do a DNA test or something to evidence that I am her father. Will she then be eligible for a British passport. And does anyone know the likelihood of both her and her mother getting a visa to live and work here in the UK? Thanks L x
LR - 1-Feb-18 @ 6:09 PM
@Namor - Your daughter is not eligible for British citizenship because she was not born in the UK. When you apply for British citizenship you should include her in your application for her to become a British citizen.
TJ. - 30-Jan-18 @ 5:56 PM
Hi all, I am a UK permanent resident but my daughter is born in Czech Republic. Can I request the citizenship for her? In case that is not possible, if I get the citizenship, can I pass it to her as well? Thanks a lot
Namor - 30-Jan-18 @ 1:03 PM
@Jo - Unless you are a single parent it is unlikely that the Home Secretary will approve an application to register your child as a British citizen if your spouse is not a British citizen or a Permanent resident. Your child will qualify for permanent residency/settled status after 5 years of living in the UK.
TJ. - 29-Jan-18 @ 4:33 PM
Thank You TJ, so..if my husband is not a British citizen nor have a permanent residency I can not register my son at all? there is not any other way? how long my little boy have to live in the UK for permanent residency? and after that can I apply for citizenship? Hi, I've recently received British citizenship, and I am from Poland. My son was born 15months ago also in Poland (he rushed too early). Will he get British citizenship automatically or do I have to register him?Thank you. jo - 24-Jan-18 @ 9:46 PM
Jo - 28-Jan-18 @ 9:40 PM
@Carmen - Your child born in Italy will be a British citizen by descent and will be able to apply for a British passport. However you should note that your child will not be able to pass British citizenship to their children unless they are born in the UK.
TJ. - 28-Jan-18 @ 1:11 AM
Hi, I am a British citizen born in the UK to Italian parents before 1983.I have lived in Italy for the past 5 years and I’m expecting a child with my Italian partner. The child will be born in Italy. Will he be entitled to British citizenship? Thank you.
Carmen - 27-Jan-18 @ 2:16 PM
@Cocolina - If you are a single parent and you have permanent residence in the UK you can register your son born abroad as a British citizen before he turns 18. After registration he can apply for a British passport afterwards.
TJ. - 25-Jan-18 @ 7:38 PM
Hi my sin is 15 and have been in UK since age of 4. My girl was born here before i was settled and she had to be here for 5 years to receive British passport. Now my question is can my 15 year old get British passport ( he always had polish n now run out) or can he be naturalized? I can't extend his polish passport as his father disappears 9 years ago, and i would need his premission.
Cocolina - 25-Jan-18 @ 6:02 PM
Thank You TJ, so..if my husband is not a British citizen nor have a permanent residency I can not register my son at all? there is not any other way? how long my little boy have to live in the UK for permanent residency? and after that can I apply for citizenship?
jo - 25-Jan-18 @ 5:20 PM
@Bis - If your husband does not have permanent residence in the UK then your child has no entitlement to British nationality.
TJ. - 25-Jan-18 @ 1:26 PM
@Jo - If the child was born before you became a British citizen then he is not a British citizen automatically. You can only register him as a British citizen if the other parent is also a British citizen or has permanent residency in the UK because he was not born in the UK.
TJ. - 25-Jan-18 @ 1:25 PM
My husband have spainsh nationality and i have visa.I have pakistani passport.my daughter born in uk can she apply for uk nationality..?I am living in uk 1 year.
Bis - 25-Jan-18 @ 11:25 AM
Hi, I've recently received British citizenship, and I am from Poland. My son was born 15months ago also in Poland (he rushed too early). Will he get British citizenship automatically or do I have to register him?Thank you.
jo - 24-Jan-18 @ 9:46 PM
We (I and my spouse)are adopting child from India , as per the due process . We are both naturalised british citizens. What are the documents required to get the child to UK , especially for the certificate of entitlement to the right of abode for the child. We will need to apply for it from India ,I understand it is an online application , but the online portal is not easily accessible.Moreover , will the child require an Indian Passport before the adoption order for the certificate as otherwise it will be a british citizen one the adoption is over.Please guide.
PS - 20-Jan-18 @ 8:50 AM
@Fairy - your children born in Pakistan will only be British citizens if your spouse was born in the UK or naturalized as a British citizen before they were born. Your grand children will not be British citizens if they are born outside the UK.
TJ. - 19-Jan-18 @ 8:45 PM
I'm married to a british citizen and currently living in London with a 3 year spouse visa.Will my children be british national if they are born in Pakistan? I will appreciate your advice
Fairy - 19-Jan-18 @ 2:24 PM
@JDB - If you are a woman then your children can only apply for British passports if they were born after 1983. If you are a man then your children can only qualify for British passports if you were married to their mother or if they were born after July 2006. British passports will give them right of abode in the UK but any of their children born outside the UK will not automatically be British citizens.
TJ. - 18-Jan-18 @ 7:47 PM
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