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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:

South Africa

Cape Town

Regent Square
Doncaster Road
Kenilworth 7708 +27 (0) 21 657 2120


201 The Annex
Ridgeside Office Park
Umhlanga +27 (0) 31 536 8843

United Kingdom


Castlewood House
77/91 New Oxford Street
WC1A 1DG +44 (0) 20 7759 7514


5-7 Selsdon Road
South Croydon
CR2 6PU +44 (0) 20 7759 7581



9 Yarra Street
South Yarra
VIC 3141 +613 (0) 8651 4500

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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