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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.
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 is most commonly held by:
- A British citizen
- An Irish citizen ordinarily resident in the UK
- A European Union (EU) national (or non-EU national family member) ordinarily resident in the UK holding a permanent residence card
- A non-EU national ordinarily resident in the UK holding indefinite leave to remain
- A person holding the right of abode
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 your father was born in the UK before 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.
British citizenship through a UK-born mother
Do you qualify to claim British citizenship through your mother? Rights to British citizenship for a child born abroad (outside of the UK) fall into two categories where your mother was born in the UK:
- You were born after 31 December 1982
- You were born 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 born in the UK before 1 January 1983
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:
- You parents were married before 1949
- You (or a parent) were born in a former British territory
- You (or a parent) were registered or naturalised as a British citizen
- You have/had a parent or grandfather in Crown service
- You were born in a country that is different to the country of birth of either parent or any grandparent
- You have a grandparent who was born in the UK
- Your maternal grandfather was born in the UK and you were born in a “foreign country” (including South Africa, the USA and most European countries)
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.
British Nationality Assessment
Discover if you qualify for British nationality 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.Get your free nationality report. Instant results!