How to get British citizenship for child born abroad
British citizenship is normally passed down by one generation to children born outside of the UK, however this depends on where the child was born and their parents circumstances at their time of birth.
If British citizens living outside the UK have children out-of-country, the children will not always automatically receive British Citizenship by descent.
If a child born to British parents outside the UK does not qualify for automatic citizenship then they may still be able to become a British national by registering for British citizenship. Parents can register a child as a British citizen through a simple process using the application form MN1.
A child must be registered as a British citizen before they can apply for a British passport. They must also be registered before they can enter the country. Registering as a British Citizen for a child born abroad can be done at any time before the child turns 18.
Is my child automatically a British Citizen?
Usually, automatic citizenship is passed down by one generation to children born outside the UK. Generally, children who are born outside the UK will acquire British citizenship by descent if they have at least one parent who has British citizen other than by descent.
However, this is not always the case and if your child was born outside of the UK, they may not automatically have received British Citizenship.
Children born abroad could be automatic citizens depending on their parents status and when they were born. Children born:
- On or after 30 April 2006 will be British citizens if at least one parent was a British citizen at the time of their birth and could pass their citizenship onto the child.
- From 1 January 1983 to 30th June 2006 will be British citizens if their mother or father was a British citizen when they were born, however, the parents must have been married if the father had British citizenship but the mother did not.
- Before 1st January 1983 will automatically be a British citizen if their father was a citizen of the United Kingdom of colonies at the time of their birth, was married to their mother and was eligible to pass citizenship on.
How do I register my child as a British citizen?
If a child born overseas does not qualify for automatic citizenship but they do have a British parent then they may still be eligible to become a British national by registering for citizenship.
While different to Naturalisation, the application to register your child as a British citizen is still long and complex.
Your child will not need to fulfil most of the requirements of British Citizenship through naturalisation. They will not need to provide proof of English Language ability or pass a Life in the UK test.
You will, however, still need to provide:
- an extensive immigration history;
- reasons for wanting to apply;
- original documents, such as birth certificates and current passports; and
- biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph), this costs less than £20.
To ensure that your application is completed smoothly and within a reasonable timeframe, get in touch with the expert lawyers at IAS.
Can I apply for a British passport for my child born abroad?
If your child is an automatic British citizen or if you have successfully registered them as a British citizen then they will be eligible for a British passport.
Someone who has parental responsibility must make a passport application on behalf of the child. Their are two ways to apply for a child’s passport, you can either apply by post or you can apply online.
As of February 2023, it costs £53.50 to apply for a child’s passport online and £64 to apply by post. The type of documents that you will need to provide vary depending on the method you choose to apply.
It generally takes around 5 weeks for a child’s first passport application to be processed.
Do children need to meet the good character requirement?
If your child is over 10 then they are required by the Home Office to meet the good character requirement. This means they must not have any severe criminal convictions committed in the UK or overseas. All children aged under 10 are exempt from the good character requirement.
Which form is used to register a British Citizen born abroad?
In order to register your child for British citizenship by descent when they are born abroad you will need to complete the application form MN1. The form is relatively straightforward but you are advised to seek legal advice if you are unclear otherwise you could face lengthy and costly delays.
When submitting the MN1 form you will need to ensure you have the following to hand:
- Personal information- you must detail both yours and your child’s personal details
- Residence- you must provide information pertaining to your child’s UK residence history
- Parent’s residence- you must provide information pertaining to your own residence history
- Good character- this is relevant to children aged 10 and over, and relates to personal history
- Reference- you must include two references. Both must know the child. One must be a professional
- Biometric information- the child’s fingerprints and digital photographs must be submitted
- Consent- both of the child’s parents must sign their consent in this section
- Declaration- you must declare that all the information given is honest and correct
British Citizenship and Parental Orders
Children who are subject to a parental order made in a UK court can become British citizens if the person making the order is UK national.
Will my child automatically become British?
In order to acquire citizenship for a child that was born abroad, there are a number of eligibility requirements that must first be satisfied.
- Have been born outside the UK
- Have had at least one British parent at the time of birth
- If aged over 10, the child must be of good character
- The child’s mother and father must have lived in the UK for the three years that precede the application being submitted
However, the process is not automatic, and registration needs to be completed in order for the young person to be able to apply for a British passport.
Parents are able to register the child for citizenship using application form MN1. Registering will enable them to enter the country and registering for citizenship for a child British by descent must be done before they turn 18.
British Citizenship by descent
British citizenship by descent is when a person born abroad is able to acquire citizenship through the immigration status of one or both parents.
For your child to be considered a British citizen by descent, they will need to have been born outside of the UK. In addition to this, at least one of their parents must have been a British national at the time of their birth.
Children whose circumstances this applies to do not automatically become British citizens. However, if your son/daughter was born abroad to a British citizen, it is possible to register them for nationality – and British citizenship by descent.
British Citizenship by automatic acquisition
Immigration law means that many people are able to automatically acquire British citizenship. British citizenship by automatic acquisition means you have the right to live in the UK without any restrictions.
In order to qualify you must meet the following:
- Been born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time of your birth either your mother or your father was a British citizen or settled in the UK
- To have been born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time of your birth either your mother or your father was a British citizen otherwise than by descent; or
- To have been born before 1 January 1983 and immediately before that date to have been a Citizen of the UK and Colonies with a right to live in the UK.
Overseas adoption and British Citizenship
According to the 1981 British Nationality Act, as amended by the 2002 Adoption and Children Act, children adopted on or after 1st January 1983 acquire British citizenship automatically if one of the adopters is a UK national.
However, adopted children overseas and gaining British citizenship can be a very complicated matter and you are advised to seek legal advice if you are unclear. In some cases, adopted children are British citizens following the date of their adoption, but this does depend on the situation of their adoptee parents.
On a case-by-case basis, there is some leeway for the Home Office to register them as British citizens but equally adopted children who are not British automatically may have to apply for leave to enter and remain in the UK.
Register child as British Citizen under section 3(2)
Section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act, a child, under the age of 18 on the date of application, can apply to register as a British citizen, providing that the following requirements are met:
- they were born outside of the UK
- the mother or father of the parent in question (ie the child’s grandparent) became or but for their death would have become, a British citizen otherwise than by descent either on 1 January 1983 or at the time of the parent’s birth;
- the parent who is British by descent must have lived in the UK for a continuous period of three years at any time prior to the child’s birth – this does not need to be the three years directly proceeding the application.
- during this three-year period, the parent must not have been away from the UK for more than 270 days
- if aged ten years or older, the child is of good character
Register child as British Citizen under section 3(5)
A child may have an entitlement to register as a British citizenship under section 3(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981.
It is possible for a child under the age of 18 to register as a British citizen on the basis of section 3(5) of the Act is the following requirements are met:
- They were born outside of the UK
- At the time of their birth they had a parent who was a British citizen by descent
- The child’s mother and father must have both lived in the UK for at least a three-year period ending on the date that the application is received by the Home Office
- The child must also have lived in the UK for the same three-year period
- The child and their parents must not have been absent from the UK for more than 270 days during the three-year residence period
- The consent of both parents is given to the application
- If aged ten years or older, the child is of good character
How can IAS help you get British citizenship for your child?
Our expert lawyers will use their wealth of experience to identify the correct route for your family. Registering your child as a British citizen can be a very complex process. Our services mean that your lawyer will completely manage your application and ensure that your child has the best chance of success.
We have offices located across the UK, including in London, Manchester, or Birmingham. You can also use the office finder to find the closest branch to you. Call 0333 363 8577 or contact us using our online enquiry form to begin your application for British Citizenship for your child born abroad.
Last modified on July 16th, 2023 at 9:21 pm
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Children born outside of the UK are only British Citizens by descent if one or both parents have British Citizenship at the time of birth. This means that your child will be eligible to register as a British Citizen but will not automatically be recognised as a citizen.
You will only be able to apply for a British passport for your child once they have been registered as a British citizen. Once you have received their certificate of registration, you will be able to apply for a British passport. This process will be the same as for other British citizens. It will include providing endorsed photographs, previous passports and a range of other documents.
For more information on how to apply for a British passport.
If your child has British Citizenship by descent, we are available to apply for registration as a British citizen. We offer a high-quality, comprehensive service that will give you the best chance for a successful result.
Our services include:
- Assessment of eligibility. We will identify the best route to getting your child registered as a British citizen.
- Full document check. We will ensure that your documents are sufficient before your application is submitted.
- Completion of all application forms. Your lawyer will complete all application forms to a professional standard.
- Letter of Representation. Your lawyer will submit this document with your application, referring to the merits of your case and relevant case law.
- Liaising with the Home Office. Your lawyer will maintain contact with the Home Office until a decision is reached.
For more information, or to start applying for British Citizenship for your child born abroad, contact us online or by calling 0333 363 8577 today.
The processing time for a child’s registration application can vary but generally you can expect to wait between two to four months for a decision.
If you do not include the correct documents or information in the application then this is likely to delay the process.
It costs £1012 to register a child as a British citizen. If your child turns 18 during the registration process then you will also need to pay an £80 citizenship ceremony fee.
If you child is born overseas but they would qualify for British nationality under the descent criteria, then they are able to be registered as a British citizen. You will need to complete a MN1 form before they turn 18 and you will need to pay an application fee.
If your child is born overseas and they are considered a British citizen by descent you still need to ensure you register them so that can be eligible for a passport etc.
You will need to complete application form MN1 and this must be done before they are 18 otherwise, they may be ineligible for citizenship by descent.
Yes – in most cases, children who are born outside the UK will acquire British citizenship by descent if they have at least one parent who has British citizen other than by descent.
Immigration rules mean that most children who are born outside the UK will acquire British citizenship by descent if they have at least one parent, whether mother or father – who is a British citizen other than by descent.
A British citizen otherwise than by descent is someone who can pass their citizenship onto a child born overseas. This means someone who is a British citizen otherwise than by descent is a British citizen was born, adopted, naturalised or registered in the UK or a qualifying territory.