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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 21 Jul 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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To apply for British passport from India which form do I need to use and what main documents? Please!
jay - 21-Jul-18 @ 11:02 PM
@Jay - Your child will be a British citizen automatically
TJ. - 21-Jul-18 @ 11:36 AM
Hi, After 6 months of getting my ILR I got married in India. When I came back I applied for British Citizenship and got British passport. My wife is pregnant if the child is born in India will he or she be British National automatically? Thanks jay
jay - 21-Jul-18 @ 1:00 AM
@Stuart Rea - Because your son is foreign born he can only register as a British citizen before he turns 18 if both parents have become British citizens
TJ. - 20-Jul-18 @ 10:25 PM
My son was born in Philippines, I was not married to his mother at the time. I am now though and they both reside here in the UK with ILR . How can I register my son for British passport/citizen? Please help.?
Stuart Rea - 20-Jul-18 @ 10:42 AM
@Fazeel - He will have to apply for a family visa as a child
TJ. - 13-Jul-18 @ 9:15 PM
Hi I have ILR leave to remain my son is under 18 who lives in Pakistan I want to sponcer him what procedure I adopt to sponcer him please
Fazeel - 13-Jul-18 @ 3:40 PM
@Sab - Children under the age of 18 cannot apply to naturalize as British citizens. If both parents are British citizens, the child can apply to register as a British citizen under the Home Secretary's discretion using the MN1 form.
TJ. - 13-Jul-18 @ 1:56 PM
Also for got to say they have a 5 year old who was born here
Tey - 13-Jul-18 @ 12:20 PM
Hi my friend and his family came to us in 2013 his wife came in 2012 with her 2 children she has a adopted father who lives in Scotland and two half sisters all British and he joined 2013 because she had her children taken off her by ss for not taking proper care of her children the husband had to come to U.K. to get his children out of care so the process lost his job in St Lucia . His visa ran out and he applied got one now he has been refused even had a appeal in court still appealed but refused what can they do please any help would be much appreciated
Tey - 13-Jul-18 @ 12:19 PM
Hi, All, My son who born abroad in Pakistan currently in Uk since October 2015 on settlement visa, At the time of his birth I had settled status( Indefinite leaves to remain visa) , his visa is over due for Extension. Can my son qualify for British Naturalision rather than I apply for his Extension, Waiting for reply Kind Regards Sab
Sab - 12-Jul-18 @ 8:14 PM
@TJ What do most people do in this situation? Do they go to the effort of a day trip?
Poss - 9-Jul-18 @ 4:50 PM
@Poss - The consequence of him overstaying on his Australian passport is more technical than practical. His passport will be flagged and you may be contacted to clarify his status. Currently a flight to Ireland is considered as domestic travel under the Common Travel Area so this will not count as having left the UK. France would be the best option.
TJ. - 9-Jul-18 @ 1:30 PM
@T.J My sons uk passport is arriving shortly so i don’t think certificate of entitlement is an option. Am I right in understanding my only option then is a day trip to ensure his Aus passport is ‘clean’? Is there any consequences to not doing the day trip and overstaying? Would immigration contact me and I would then explain he’s residing on his uk passport?
Poss - 8-Jul-18 @ 10:05 AM
@Poss - As long as your son's Australian passport has a UK Border stamp in it he will need to leave the country and return on his British passport to avoid being classed as an overstayer.If he does not yet have a British passport he can apply for a Certificate of entitlement on his Australian passport which will regularize his status. This however costs £372 and I suspect a day journey out of the country may be cheaper.
TJ. - 8-Jul-18 @ 9:36 AM
@TJ - surely he will be earmarked as over staying his visa? And then liable for whatever the potential consequences are? Is it not possible to contact immigration upfront to ask them to cancel the 6 month visa he is on and replaced with indefinite leave to remain based on his uk passport? I just want to ensure I’m not going to get into trouble with the authorities!
Poss - 7-Jul-18 @ 12:19 PM
@Poss - If you do not wish to travel he can simply stay on in the UK. If he ever decides to use his Australian passport again in the UK/EU and it is flagged he should just explain that he is also a British citizen.
TJ. - 7-Jul-18 @ 11:32 AM
Hi. I’m British and son was born in Australia and entered the Uk on his Aus passport. Currently In the process of getting his British passport. He is currently on a 6 month tourist visa due to entering on his Aus passport, is there a way of contacting immigration so he can stay longer (on his uk passport)? I understand if he exits the uk on his Aus passport and then re-enters on his Uk passport he can stay indefinitely but want to know if there’s another option to avoid the trip!
Poss - 6-Jul-18 @ 4:04 PM
@hatchsead - She cannot apply for British citizenship until she has been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR). She can be granted ILR if she has been living in the UK legally for at least 10 years.
TJ. - 6-Jul-18 @ 11:04 AM
I have a child that has just turned 15 years old in the last few days. She arrived in the UK when she was 16 months old and has lived all her life here since arriving. Herself and the rest of the family are presently residents on the 2.5 years visa on the ground of private family life. Is there any way she can apply for British Citizenship perhaps on discretionary grounds? Any suggestions or advice will be greatly appropriate
hatchsead - 6-Jul-18 @ 7:22 AM
@Anna - If your child is born in Australia he/she will automatically be a British citizen by descent. You can use the "check if you are a British citizen" section of the govuk website to confirm this. If you leave the UK for more than 90 days the time you spent in the UK would become null and void for citizenship purposes
TJ. - 5-Jul-18 @ 2:09 AM
Hello, I am Australian and my husband is British (born in UK). I am residing in the UK on a 2.5 year spousal visa which expires in August.I am 4 months pregnant and we have decided to return to Australia to have our baby and not extend the UK visa. Just wondering if our baby will automatically gain British citizenship (any links would be appreciated).Also wondering if this would have any effect on me gaining British citizenship or would I still need to pursue the 5 year leave to remain track. Thanks so much!
Anna - 4-Jul-18 @ 1:05 PM
@Daisy - You need to report the birth to the Philippines embassy. Documents requires will be the child's birth certificate and your passport and birth certificate.
TJ. - 4-Jul-18 @ 9:17 AM
I havea child half filipino half British with british italian father.I just want to ask if how to register her in Philippines embassy to get her a dual passport. I don't know what documents I have to prepare...she's 3 years old now.thank you for responds.
Daisy - 4-Jul-18 @ 2:36 AM
@RK - Your daughter can only apply to naturalize as a British citizen when she turns 18.
TJ. - 2-Jul-18 @ 11:26 PM
@Shan - If you were married to your son's mother then he can apply for a British passport. If not he will have to register as a British citizen first using the UKF form
TJ. - 2-Jul-18 @ 11:21 PM
Hi, We are from EU country and live in the UK for 8 years. My daughter have certificate of a permanent residence in UK, she's turning 16 in July and have sat her GCSEs this year. We, with wife, are not yet citizens (though will apply next January and have the same certificates already), can she apply before us for UK citizenship? Regards, RK
RK - 2-Jul-18 @ 8:42 PM
@TJ. update :My mother is British and my father is Turkish. i was born in UK in 1969. Since then I've been living in Turkey. I have dual passports. (British & Turkish) in which in my British Passport i'm registered as a "British Citizen". I'm a father and was married to a turkish women which i've divorced a few years ago. My son was born in 2004 in Turkey and now he is 14. Can i register him as a British Citizen? Or can he geta British Passport? Thank you.
Shan - 2-Jul-18 @ 2:36 PM
@Veronica2018 - The UK does not issue national ID cards. Only British citizens can apply for a British passport. You will first have to find if you are eligible to apply for British citizenship. Once you have British citizenship, you can apply for a British passport.
TJ. - 2-Jul-18 @ 10:20 AM
Hi, can i apply for British ID 16+ if i have been in the UK for more than 10 years with my parents but have been born somewhere else ( Czech Republic ). And also British Passport? Thank you.
Veronica2018 - 1-Jul-18 @ 7:57 PM
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