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Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 19 Jan 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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My daughter has a British passport by descent and worked in UK for 15 years. She now lives in South Africa and is about to give birth to a baby boy. What will the status of the boy be regarding British citizenship.
Decuman - 19-Jan-17 @ 8:12 PM
Val69 - Your Question:
I am a British Citizen (born in the UK) and now live in Italy. My child was born in Italy. I understand she is British by descent but do I have to register her ? She is 8, I'm abit confused.

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which should help you further.
AboutImmigration - 17-Jan-17 @ 3:08 PM
I am a British Citizen (born in the UK) and now live in Italy. My child was born in Italy. I understand she is British by descent but do I have to register her ?She is 8, I'm abit confused.
Val69 - 17-Jan-17 @ 12:34 PM
hi i have leave to remain for 9 months now and i have 2 son one 3 years old and 1 years old and they have the same me and i need to know if i can apply now for them british passport and how much it cost thanks
simoya - 15-Jan-17 @ 11:43 PM
Hello .. i am writing to you about my kids matter 17& 15 years old..they have only residence permiti have a british citizen as my youngest son has a british passport too.Itravelled with my kids to lebanon for holiday after the school termsin 2012 i had received a phone call from my husband explaining his harsh time difficulties he is facing up in uk . In 2014 my kids had to travel by themselves before my expected date and expired date of their residence they were on their way home uk unfortunately under unknown circumstances they have been refused the entrance to uk without further explaination and now i want to go back home uk but without my kids i can't go anywhere they don't have any visa so what can i do with this situation???Can i apply for them for a visa so they can see their father or can i apply for a citizen??? Plz replyy... plzzzz helpppp....
mira - 12-Jan-17 @ 10:04 PM
my concern is about my son's right. I am a Filipino by birth, and ex-partner is a British citizen and now in England. OUR son is born in Philippines and now still living in the Philippines with me. his father and I are now end our relationship. but his father already singed on his birth certificate as a to recognize that he is the biological father. he was signed the birth certificate In London consol last 2015, after sending it to him via express way. I want to ask support from his father legally. my son now is getting 2 years old next month and his father stopped supporting him. we are not married. what shall I do to get support for him from his father? and is there any chances for my son to apply a British passport, even without the approval from his father? Please I really need your help and advice since his father is just laughing at me and assured to me already that he won't give even penny to my son. i'll be waiting for your response God bless
cresty - 7-Jan-17 @ 4:36 PM
My partner and myself are both British and My son was born in 2013 in South Africa as we were visiting and he was premature, he has a SA birth certificate but a British passport should I get him registered here in the U.K. As we moved back when he was 4 months old
Pinkshell - 6-Jan-17 @ 9:05 PM
My father is British by naturisation, I was born in Nigeria in 1981, can my father transfer his citizenship to me
ken - 6-Jan-17 @ 4:11 PM
I have just had my British Citizenship, Can my 7 year old daughter who was born outside the UK qualify to become British as well
Kamjoe - 31-Dec-16 @ 2:56 PM
I have always been a uk citizen. I married an Indonesian and we have a daughter. Can we apply for a uk passport for our daughter to visit the uk? Should I register her in U.K on a birth certificate as well as her Indonesian one?
Gary Poole - 26-Dec-16 @ 8:31 PM
Hello please just got my indefinite leave can I applyBritish passport for my 5 kids?we all got 3years for 2 times beforewe all got the indefinite now
Tee - 24-Dec-16 @ 6:53 AM
I am a naturalised British citizen... my son is not because he is over the age before i became a citizen. Can his children become UK citizen
Bob - 23-Dec-16 @ 7:30 AM
I am a Nigerian married to EU national without a child,I am pregnant for a British citizen and my baby is due by Feb 2017. Can my child be registered by the British father and get a British passport??
Tee - 22-Dec-16 @ 7:55 PM
Tom - Your Question:
Hello, just a quick question. My wife is Thai and our two children (12 and 5) have Thai nationality. We have lived in Thailand for the last 15 years. We want to move to the UK next year. Would be apply for UK citizenship before or after we settle in the UK for our children. For the time being funds are somewhat limited. Any suggestions. Thanks.

Our Response:
You can only apply for your wife and children to come to the UK to 'settle' if you are already residing in the UK, as you have to qualify the eligibility requirements. Please see gov.uk link here .
AboutImmigration - 19-Dec-16 @ 10:35 AM
Hello, just a quick question. My wife is Thai and our two children (12 and 5) have Thai nationality. We have lived in Thailand for the last 15 years. We want to move to the UK next year. Would be apply for UK citizenship before or after we settle in the UK for our children. For the time being funds are somewhat limited. Any suggestions. Thanks.
Tom - 16-Dec-16 @ 10:04 AM
RitP - Your Question:
Hi, My daughter was born in Germany (May 1992) to a British National (Father) who was in the forces at the time. However, we were not married until two months later in July of '92. She has been living and working in the UK since 2009 and we would like to know how she can obtain a British Passport?

Our Response:
If your daughter is over 18, she can apply independently if she has been working in the UK for over five years, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 14-Dec-16 @ 2:28 PM
Hi there my wife and i both have British passports (we got them from our parents who were born in the UK,we were born here in South Africa) we have a son here in South Africa with us ( he was born in South Africa),we want to immigrate to the UK,what kind of visa do we need to get for him? what are the steps we need to take? Thanks in Advance Mitch
Mitch - 11-Dec-16 @ 6:10 PM
Hi, My daughter was born in Germany (May 1992) to a British National (Father) who was in the forces at the time. However, we were not married until two months later in July of '92. She has been living and working in the UK since 2009 and we would like to know how she can obtain a British Passport?
RitP - 9-Dec-16 @ 6:33 PM
I would like to ask the forum about an application for my daughter registration as a bc. I am a british citizen naturalized in 2011 and i gave birth to my daughter in 2008 in Ghana and her mother is a Ghanaian as well we all living in Ghana nw. Am considering moving my family to the UK dis yr and i want to consider applying for my daughter registration.Please can someone advice on which section am qualify to register her and what are the documents i need to put in the application.I would appreciate ur responses.many thx
ezekay2001 - 3-Dec-16 @ 10:42 PM
Hello,I am a British citizen by Naturalised in 2007, got married this year to non British with spouse visa now, he has a daughter from a different mother (non British ) would the daughter be eligible for British citizenship, to come and live with us? Thanks
Din - 3-Dec-16 @ 8:34 AM
Eds - Your Question:
My son was born in Same. He is now a uk citizen for 19 years.his father and I live in SA and are divorced. Will I beable to live in UK with my son orb come s uk citizen.

Our Response:
If you are not a British citizen yourself, then you, you would have to apply for a visa to join your son as a family member, please see gov.uk link here.
AboutImmigration - 30-Nov-16 @ 10:16 AM
Hi, My husband and my self came from sri lanka. I am 12 yearsand he is 9 years living in the uk. both of us and our elder son who is 8, have the settlement (indefinite leave to remain) status in the uk. my younger son born in the uk 19-07-2014 (after we gained settlement visa in the uk.) and lived with us in the uk up to 22-07-2016.as we wanted go to srilanka for holiday I made a srilankan passport for him and took him for holiday for 4 weeks. I forgot to apply his visa to enter the uk before I go. I've applied his first british passport from out side of the uk. will he eligible for that?how long is for the overseas check ?Could you please give me any advice regards to this. many thanks.
MALI - 30-Nov-16 @ 1:20 AM
My son was born in Same. He is now a uk citizen for 19 years .his father and I live in SA and are divorced. Will I beable to live in UK with my son orb come s uk citizen.
Eds - 29-Nov-16 @ 2:58 PM
My husband and I are planning to return to the UK after being back in South Africa for 5 years.I have a British passport through descent and lived in the UK for 12 years previously, my husband has a Portuguese passport and lived in the UK for 8 years previously. Our son was born in June 2014 and I have been informed he qualifies for British Citizenship.Would we need to acquire this before returning, or could we return and do the application once we are there?
Jody - 21-Nov-16 @ 10:51 AM
Hello, I'm a British citizen by descent who is living in HK with my family now. My family & I are planning to move to the UK permanently. What visa should I apply for my 5-yr old son to stay in the UK for 3 years in order to get his citizenship? and does it need to be done before his 18 years old? Thanks.
MZ - 21-Nov-16 @ 4:46 AM
Hi My kids are French were born in the U.K. In 2001 and 2005 I am also French citizen we have been living here a very long time are kids eligible for British citizenship?
Tarekou - 20-Nov-16 @ 4:28 PM
Pod - Your Question:
Hello. I am a British Citizen and I was born in 1980 and brought up in the UK, 5 years ago I came to Dubai to live/work, I married in 2014 and my wife is expected our first child in May 2017. My wife is of Indian nationality and will be giving birth in India. Can I apply for a British passport for my son/daughter rather than getting an Indian passport?

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here , which should help.
AboutImmigration - 17-Nov-16 @ 11:51 AM
Hello. I am a British Citizen and I was born in 1980 and brought up in the UK, 5 years ago I came to Dubai to live/work, I married in 2014 and my wife is expected our first child in May 2017. My wife is of Indian nationality and will be giving birth in India. Can I apply for a British passport for my son/daughter rather than getting an Indian passport?
Pod - 16-Nov-16 @ 3:32 PM
i am a british ciitizen by decent.Both my parents are british citizens by birth.I have lived in South Africa since i was a kid.My sons father is a south african citizen. Can i apply for british citizenship formy son who is 16 who was born in South Africa.i am wanting to return to the UK and obviously would like to take my son as some point. Thanks very much
Ant - 16-Nov-16 @ 6:32 AM
Hello, I need your advice in the following matter, I’m a British citizen, naturalized in June 2010 My wife is a British citizen, naturalized in May 2012, Our younger daughter is a British citizen, born in USA in 2013 We have a very confusing situation regarding our older daughter, she was born in USA in 2008, I was at that time UK resident based on EU spouse status, my wife was at that time EEA,EU- UK resident. After giving a birth to our older daughter in USA June 2008 we moved back to UK in Sep 2008 where we all (including our daughter) held Indefinite Leave to Remain, we stayed in UK till Dec 2011, then we moved permanently to USA. Until now we don’t know how to register our older daughter (now age 8) as a British citizen! The British Consulate here in Washington D.C & after many phone calls and meetings they were & still really not helpful at all and only advised us to submit a British Passport application!!! So we followed the UK Consular instructions and submitted the passport application, but after few weeks we received a letter from “ Her Majesty’s Passport Office” refusing to issue a passport saying that our daughter is not registered as a British Citizen, advised us to contact Department 1 UK Visas and Immigration to get an advice on this matter!, we sent them a letter last but got no response yet..can you advice please if our daughter is eligible for a British citizenship?, if yes, what application & documents to send? Thank you very much
FabioUK16 - 14-Nov-16 @ 6:20 AM
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