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British citizenship by birth

Birth in the UK does not always automatically result in British nationality. 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 children born outside of the UK. So 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.

A person born in the UK after 1 January 1983 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.

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.

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:

Contact our citizenship team

Phone us (SA): +27 (0) 21 657 2139

Phone us (UK): +44 (0) 20 7759 7581

South Africa

Regent Square
Doncaster Road
Kenilworth 7708
Cape Town
t: +27 (0) 21 657 2120

United Kingdom

Castlewood House
77/91 New Oxford Street
t: +44 (0) 20 7759 7514


Suite 8.06
9 Yarra Street
South Yarra
Melbourne VIC 3141
t: +613 (0) 86 514 500

Hong Kong

Level 1102
The Lee Gardens
33 Hysan Avenue
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
t: +852 3959 8681

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