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Claim British citizenship by descent or birth

Being born in the UK and by descent from a British parent are the most common ways to qualify for British nationality. There are three common situations that give rise to applications in this area. If you’re not sure if you qualify after reading through the information below do not hesitate to contact us with any queries you may have.

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If you were not born in the UK and you have a claim to British nationality, then this is a claim based on descent. For those individuals born in the UK they will generally have a stronger claim to British citizenship, although being born in the UK is absolutely not a guarantee that you will be eligible for nationality.

Claims to nationality are seldom straight forward. The colonial and imperial legacy that the British Empire left behind has resulted in a myriad of immigration and nationality laws over hundreds of territories across the world. Even if you’ve always assumed you don’t have a claim to British nationality, our team can help. With in-depth investigations and drawing on our two decades of experience we can help you and your children apply for British citizenship.

 

British citizenship by birth

Birth in the UK does not always automatically result in British citizenship. It often depends on the date of your birth and the status of your parents at the time of your birth.

Unborn child

Depending on where a birth happens, different rights to British nationality can arise. A child has an automatic right to British nationality at birth in the UK if a parent has settled status.

A British citizen who was born outside the UK cannot normally pass British nationality to their child born abroad (outside of the UK). One obvious solution is to move to the UK and have the child there. The child will have an immediate claim to British nationality at birth because the British parent would be treated as settled.

A further advantage of giving birth in the UK is that the child becomes British otherwise than by descent and can pass British nationality to their own children (i.e. the grandchildren of the parent in question), irrespective of where those children are born.

Born after 1 January 1983

A person born in the UK after 1 January 1983 only qualifies for British nationality based on the status of their parents and can claim British nationality in one of two cases:

  • A parent was settled in the UK at the time of the child’s birth
  • The person spent the first 10 years of their life in the UK

Children under 18

A further provision is available for a child under 18 born in the UK after 1 January 1983 where a parent acquires settled status in the UK before the child turns 18.

Born before 1 January 1983

A person born in the UK before 1 January 1983 qualifies for British nationality in several ways.

A person born in the UK before 1 January 1983 will normally have become British at birth by operation of law. That is, they are already British (whether they know it or not) and can apply for a British passport immediately. Such a person is classified as British otherwise than by descent* and can pass British nationality to their children, irrespective of where they are born.

A notable exception is where the parents were resident in the UK at the time due to diplomatic service on behalf of a foreign** government.

* The position is complicated if they renounce British nationality before their children’s birth.

** A foreign government does not include any of the governing institutions of the former British territories.

Settled status

Settled status is most commonly held by:

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British citizenship through a UK-born father

British nationality rights can be passed down to children of a father born in the UK. It depends when the child was born, when the father was born and whether the parents were married at the time of the child’s birth.

Rights to British nationality for a child born outside of the UK fall into two categories:

  • Where the father was born in the UK before 1 January 1983
  • Where the father was born in the UK after 1 January 1983

Exceptions apply if your parents were not married at the time of your birth. Please see below.

Father born in the UK before 1 January 1983

If you were born to a father who was born in the UK before 1 January 1983, you are a British citizen at birth and by operation of law (that is, without any need to apply).

In such situations, the relevant father is considered as being British other than by descent and passes British nationality to his children. You can apply for your British passport.

Father born in the UK after 1 January 1983

Father was British at time of your birth

If your father was born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and was British at the time of your birth, then you are a British citizen at birth and by operation of law (that is, without any need to apply). In such situations, the relevant father is considered as being British other than by descent and passes British citizenship to his children. You can apply for your British passport on this basis.

Father was not British at time of your birth

If your father was born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and was not British at the time of your birth, then your rights to British nationality depend on your age (whether you are under 18 or not) and the status of your parents at your birth and their status now.

If you are under 18, you can read more about children under 18. It can be important to take action before a child turns 18. After they turn 18, several rights to British nationality fall away and can be lost forever.

Parents not married at time of birth

Historically, a person did not become British – or have a claim to British nationality – based on a UK-born father if the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth. Recent legislation has now been passed to allow a route to nationality for those who were disadvantaged from older legislation.

You were born after 1 July 2006

If you were born after 1 July 2006, the fact that your parents were not married is irrelevant and you should assess your rights to British nationality set out above.

You were born before 1 July 2006

If you were born before 1 July 2006, then a separate application must be made to claim British nationality. However, as always, there are catches. We can deem some illegitimate children to be British by operation of law using the domicile laws of other countries. If someone is already a British citizen by operation of law, it would be wholly inappropriate to register that person as a British citizen because it would have one of two effects:

  1. Potentially remove rights from any children already born to that person
  2. Remove citizenship of another country because the subject has made a voluntary application to acquire citizenship

It therefore follows that anyone who might have a valid claim under these new proposals should always consider the potential negative implications. For this reason, this route to British nationality is considered complex and will require a Status Trace to be conducted first before an application for British nationality is made.

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British citizenship through a UK-born mother

Do you qualify to claim British citizenship through your mother? Get the details to find out if you are eligible to claim British citizenship. Rights to British citizenship for a child born abroad (outside of the UK) fall into two categories:

  • Where the mother was born in the UK after 1 January 1983
  • Where the mother was born in the UK before 1 January 1983

The question of illegitimacy is not relevant in the case of unmarried woman, in contrast to those for unmarried fathers.

Mother born in the UK after 1 January 1983

Mother was British at time of your birth

If your mother was born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and was British at the time of your birth, then you are a British citizen at birth and by operation of law (that is, without any need to apply).

In such situations, the relevant mother is considered as being British other than by descent and passes British citizenship to her children. You can apply for your British passport on this basis.

Mother was not British at time of your birth

If your mother was born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and was not British at the time of your birth, then your rights to British nationality depend on your age (whether you are under 18 or not) and the status of your parents at your birth and their status now.

If you are under 18, then click here for more information about children under 18.

It can be important to take action before a child turns 18. After they turn 18, several rights to British nationality fall away and can be lost forever.

Mother born in the UK before 1 January 1983

You are born after 1 January 1983

You are a British citizen at birth and by operation of law (that is, without any need to apply for British nationality) if you were born after 1 January 1983 to a mother who was born in the UK before 1 January 1983.

In such situations, the relevant mother is considered as being British other than by descent and passes British citizenship to her children. You can apply for your British passport.

You are born before 1 January 1983

An application for British nationality can be made if you were born before 1 January 1983 to a mother who was born in the UK.

In such situations, the relevant mother is considered as being British other than by descent and passes British citizenship to her children. You can apply for your British passport.

British citizenship through parent born outside of the UK

It is possible to claim British nationality where a person is born outside of the UK to a British parent who was also born outside of the UK. The rules are complex and often need further research.

Children under 18

There are provisions in British nationality law for children under 18. It can be important to take action before a child turns 18. After they turn 18, several rights to British nationality fall away and can be lost forever.

Adult children of British-born parents

You can claim British nationality if your parent is classified as British otherwise than by descent, giving them the ability to pass British nationality to their children. To determine this, an analysis of how your parent became British must be done.

This area of British nationality law is too complex to document. Without undertaking a Status Trace, we cannot say definitively whether you have a claim.

If any of these factors apply to you, you should explore your rights further:

Dual citizenship and the UK

Dual citizenship gives you the right to become a citizen of another country and to hold second (or multiple) passports. Most countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, and Portugal, allow dual citizenship. It gets more complicated with countries such as South Africa and the UK.

It’s important to be aware that obtaining a second nationality can mean the automatic loss of your existing nationality. You should always seek professional advice when applying for dual citizenship.

UK passport

Free British citizenship assessment

 

Discover if you qualify for British citizenship through your heritage. Our online assessment uses your personal circumstances, and those of your parents and grandparents, to let you know your chances of attaining a British passport.

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Sable International is a trading name of 1st Contact Money Limited (company number 07070528), registered in England and Wales. We are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK (FCA no. 517570), the Financial Services Conduct Authority in South Africa (1st Contact Money [PTY] Ltd - FSP no. 41900) and hold an Australian Financial Services License issued by ASIC to deal in foreign exchange (1st Contact Group - AFS License number 335 126).

Please note: Sable International is a trading name of Philip Gamble and Co. Ltd. Philip Gamble and Co. Ltd is registered in the UK with the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC) under no. F2001-00004. Our staff based outside of the UK are not regulated by the OISC and may be involved in some client casework. However, they work to the same high standards as our UK staff and clients receive the same service regardless of which office they engage with.

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