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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:

a) Potentially remove rights from any children already born to that person

b) 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.

Click here to read more about illegitimacy.

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
London
WC1A 1DG
t: +44 (0) 20 7759 7514

Australia

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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