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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 22 Jun 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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[Add a Comment]
@Dan if your son was born before you naturalized as a British citizen then you will have to register him as a British citizen first before applying for a passport. If he was born after you naturalized as a British citizen you may apply for a British passport without going through registration.
TJ. - 22-Jun-17 @ 6:31 AM
@Akassah you will be able to apply for a British passport for your child straight away after birth.
TJ. - 22-Jun-17 @ 6:27 AM
@Sam your childrens' status will depend on what type of UK residency you hold. If you are not a British citizen you will have to apply for a dependant visa for your child born in Nigeria to come with you to the UK.
TJ. - 22-Jun-17 @ 6:24 AM
I am a naturalised british citizen my wife and son are in Nigeria do I need to register my son as a british citizen befor requesting for a british passport for him. Thank you
dan - 21-Jun-17 @ 10:18 PM
I am a naturalised British Citizen in 2012. I am marry to a lady in Sierra Leone and we are expecting our first child. Will this child be able to get British Passport straight away in Sierra Leone?
akassah - 21-Jun-17 @ 9:05 PM
Please I have a UK residency and have two kids. I am married to a Nigerian and my first kid was born in the UK. My second kid was born in Nigeria. I am currently in Nigeria and want to travel with my kids. How do I get a resident permit for my kid born in Nigeria. Thanks
Sam - 21-Jun-17 @ 1:46 PM
@TimBob if the British mother was born in the UK or naturalized in the UK before the child was born you can apply for a British passport online at govuk.
TJ. - 18-Jun-17 @ 4:40 PM
I'll write as clinical as possible to hopefully make clear sense. Daughter, 9, born in Portugal to British Mother and Portuguese Father. Now living in UK with mother. What rights does the daughter have? Who do we see about getting a UK passport? How do I (mothers new partner) go about adopting and giving daughter my last name?
TimBob - 16-Jun-17 @ 12:01 PM
Raman - Your Question:
Am from India I have Indian nationality but my daughter born in uk in 2012 can she apply for British citizenship. She had a Indian passport is well.

Our Response:
Only if you or the other parent has British citizenship or ILR would you be able to apply.
AboutImmigration - 16-Jun-17 @ 9:51 AM
@Raman your child will only be eligible to register as a British citizen once either parent becomes permanently settled in the UK i.e. either parent obtains ILR or PR status in the UK.
TJ. - 16-Jun-17 @ 6:11 AM
@Siham your daughter will only qualify for a British passport if either of her parents were permanently settled in the UK at the time of her birth. If not she must be registered as a British citizen before being eligible for a British passport.
TJ. - 16-Jun-17 @ 6:08 AM
@Estelle you may be able to register your daughter as a British citizen based on her naturalized father but she will only be eligible until she is 18 years old.
TJ. - 16-Jun-17 @ 6:04 AM
@Sam your children born in Kenya will be automatic British citizens if your girlfriend was born in the UK. There will be no need to register them as British citizens. If your girlfriend was not born in the UK then your children born in Kenya will not be automatic British citizens but you may be able to register them as British citizens if certain conditions are met.
TJ. - 16-Jun-17 @ 5:59 AM
Sam - Your Question:
I am of Kenyan citizenship and my girlfriend is a UK resident (citizen). I would like to know if we do decide to settle in Kenya after marriage, does our child (born in Kenya) be eligible for UK citizenship and also will he/she be able to study in the UK (high school or University) as a British resident therefore paying the tuition fees applicable to British residents.

Our Response:
Yes, you would be eligible to register your child as a UK citizen, please see link here . Yes, your child would be eligible to live and study in the UK.
AboutImmigration - 15-Jun-17 @ 1:54 PM
Fabs - Your Question:
Hi There,I'm British citizen otherwise than by descent. My daughter was born abroad so I understand that I can apply straight away for her British passport. My question is related to my grandchildren (thinking about the future ahead). Is there any chance for them to become bristish citzens if they born abroad or they need to be born in the UK?

Our Response:
If your children are born outside the UK, then you would not be ble to register them as British citizens if your daughter is classed as being British by descent.
AboutImmigration - 15-Jun-17 @ 12:43 PM
Am from India I have Indian nationality but my daughter born in uk in 2012 can she apply for British citizenship. She had a Indian passport is well.
Raman - 15-Jun-17 @ 10:50 AM
My daughter was born in uk she is 10 years old. Can she apply for a british passport without being registed as a citizen
Siham - 14-Jun-17 @ 2:19 PM
My daughter was born in Zimbabwe in 2001. Her father moved to the UK in the same year through ancestry (grandfather) he settled in the UK and is now a British citizen. What rights if any does my daughter have. Thank you.
Estelle - 14-Jun-17 @ 11:08 AM
I am of Kenyan citizenship and my girlfriend is a UK resident (citizen). I would like to know if we do decide to settle in Kenya after marriage, does our child (born in Kenya) be eligible for UK citizenship and also will he/she be able to study in the UK (high school or University) as a British resident therefore paying the tuition fees applicable to British residents..
Sam - 14-Jun-17 @ 7:41 AM
@Fabs your grandchildren will not be automatic British citizens if they are born outside the UK.
TJ. - 14-Jun-17 @ 7:24 AM
Hi There, I'm British citizen otherwise than by descent. My daughter was born abroad so I understand that I can apply straight away for her British passport. My question is related to my grandchildren (thinking about the future ahead). Is there any chance for them to become bristish citzens if they born abroad or they need to be born in the UK?
Fabs - 13-Jun-17 @ 9:11 PM
@Matt if you are a British citizen born in the UK there is no requirement to register your children born in the USA as British citizens. They are already automatic British citizens regardless of where they were born. You can apply for British passports for them directly through govuk website and the consulate in the USA.
TJ. - 13-Jun-17 @ 6:49 AM
@Jay if you are a British citizen born in the UK your daughter is an automatic British citizen and you can apply directly for a British passport for her through the nearest British High Commission/Embassy.
TJ. - 13-Jun-17 @ 6:43 AM
@Annec because your daughter is a British citizen by descent and your grandchildren were born outside the UK your grandchildren will need to register as British citizens using form MN1 before they can apply for a British passport. They will be eligible to register if their mother spent at least three years in the UK prior to their birth, they are still under 18 years of age and at least one grandparent was born in the UK.
TJ. - 13-Jun-17 @ 6:37 AM
@Jasmine your grandchild will automatically be a British citizen regardless of where the child is born and can apply directly for a British passport. The child will not need to register as a British citizen first because they have at least one parent who is a British citizen born in the UK.
TJ. - 13-Jun-17 @ 6:30 AM
@lee if you are a British citizen born in the UK then your son is a British citizen and can apply for a British passport. If you are a British citizen born outside the UK and you never lived in the UK for more than 3 continuous years before your son was born then you will have to apply for a "family of a settled person visa" for your son to join you in the UK.
TJ. - 13-Jun-17 @ 6:26 AM
I have two kids who were both born in the US. I was born in England and lived there for 30 years before getting married and moving to the US 5 years ago. My wife is American and we were married when both kids were born. I am trying to apply for British citizenship for both of my kids but am confused about how to apply. I printed off the form MN1. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks
Matt - 13-Jun-17 @ 12:37 AM
Hi I was born in the United Kingdom in 1977 an I have a daughter who was born in morocco. She is 2 years old an I will like to apply for her birthing passport. My parents both were uk passport holders when I wa born. What would you advise for my daughter. Thank you
Jay - 12-Jun-17 @ 3:33 PM
My daughter is British by descent.She was born in 1980 in the Netherlands but spent 3 years in the UK from 1983 - 1987. She is now married to an American and lives in the USA.She has 3 children aged 6, 6 and 4. She would like them to have British passports - is this possible and if so how?
Annec - 12-Jun-17 @ 3:14 PM
Jasmine- Your Question:
Hi. I am British having been born in the UK to British parents in 1943. My son was born in the UK so he is also British. However he and his wife (also British) are currently living in Thailand and his wife will shortly be giving birth. Will their child automatically have British nationality even though born in Thailand?

Our Response:
You may be able to apply for your child (under 18 years of age) to be registered as a British citizen, for example if you’re a British citizen but your child was born outside the UK, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 12-Jun-17 @ 12:50 PM
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