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British Citizenship by Birth

If you’d like to discuss how to register for British Citizenship by birth, our Newcastle immigration lawyers are here to help.

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What is British citizenship by birth?

British citizenship is linked to both the place of birth and immigration status of a person’s parents – it is not automatically acquired by simply being born on UK soil.

A child will automatically acquire citizenship if at the time of birth they are born to at least one parent who was a British citizen, person with Indefinite Leave to Remain or member of the armed forces.

If a child does not meet the criteria, there are still ways they can become a British citizen. This is done through the process of registration. For example, a child may be born in the UK to parents who are not British citizens. This child will have an ‘entitlement to register’ for British citizenship as soon as at least one parent obtains Indefinite Leave to Remain, EU Settled Status or EEA Permanent Residence. Please note, however, that this can only be done before the child turns 18.

It is also possible for a child to become a registered citizen if they have lived in the United Kingdom for the first 10 years of their life. When acquiring British citizenship via this route, the British nationality status of the child’s parents has no bearing, although this route is only open to those born after 1st January 1983.

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Who automatically acquires British citizenship?

When a child is born, their nationality depends on both the place of birth and the immigration status of their parents at the time. The rules can also differ depending on what year the child was born.

Born before 1st January 1983

If you were born in the UK before this date, you automatically become a British citizen by birth – unless your father worked for a non-UK country as a diplomat or you were born in the Channel Islands during WW2.

Born on or after 1st January 1983

If you were born on or after this date, you automatically become a British citizen provided at least one of your parents is a UK national, has settled status or is a member of the armed forces at the time of birth.

UK citizenship is also automatically acquired by children who are adopted by a British national.

Is it possible to register for British citizenship by birth?

For those who were born in the United Kingdom but didn’t automatically obtain citizenship by birth, it’s possible to apply to ‘register’ as a British citizen. This will depend on both where you were born and the circumstances of your parents.

Provided you were born in the UK on or after 1st January 1983, you may be eligible if either:

  • You’re under the age of 18 and one of your parents has naturalised/acquired settled status since your birth
  • You lived in the UK continually until you were 10 or older

If you were born in the UK before 1st January 1983 you will have already acquired citizenship, therefore there’s no need to register as a British citizen.

As mentioned, for those born in the UK to non-British parents who hold settled status, there’s no need to register as they will acquire British nationality by birth as a result of their parent’s immigration status.

Which application form do you use to apply for British citizenship by birth?

To make an application for British citizenship by birth for a child, you’ll need to use the Form MN1. The form is used specifically for the process of registering a child as a UK national in accordance with the eligibility criteria.

Please note this is a different form than the one used to naturalise as a British citizen, which is the Form AN.

Form MN1 can be submitted by anyone who is currently living in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or a British territory overseas.

When filling out the form, you’ll need to provide information pertaining to the child’s birth, nationality, parentage and criminal/immigration history. Section Five requires you to provide two referees to support the child’s application.

Both of the referees must be of a professional standing, and neither can be related in any way to the applicant. Both of the referees should state that they know the applicant personally, as well as stating why they believe the applicant should be granted citizenship.

Anyone looking to register as a British citizen who was born before 1983 will need to use the Form UKM instead.

What are the rules on British nationality for children born overseas?

It’s important to know that the British nationality law on British citizenship concerning children born outside the UK are notably different.

A child who is born abroad to at least one British parent will automatically acquire British citizenship.

This citizenship will be acquired via ‘British citizenship by descent’. This will mean the holder is offered all the same rights as a person born on in the UK to British parents, although they won’t automatically pass citizenship onto their children.

Considering this, a child born overseas to parents who are British citizens by descent will not acquire or hold British citizenship automatically. However, it is possible for children in this situation to ‘register’ to become a UK national.

You can make an application to register, providing the following:

  • Both the child and the parent have been living continually in the UK for three years when the application is made
  • The child and both parents haven’t been absent from the country for more than 270 days within that 3-year time period
  • Both the applicants’ parents consent
  • Children over the age of 10 are of ‘good character’

How do you apply for a British passport for a child?

There are various documents you must provide if you wish to apply for a British passport for your child. Bear in mind the Home Office will only accept original copies of any documentation you provide. Photocopies are not accepted and failure to send original documents could jeopardise your entire application.

As well as the British passport application form, you must also provide the following:

  • The child’s full birth or adoption certificate. If the name on the passport doesn’t match the name on your passport then you’re required to provide a signed letter confirming the name change, from any person with parental responsibility for the child.
  • Any previous passports belonging to your child issued in a foreign country
  • Evidence of the Child’s British nationality

Please not that if the documents aren’t in either English or Welsh, you’ll be required to provide official translations.

What are the rules on surrogacy and British citizenship?

The immigration laws on this are notoriously complex. There is no single process pertaining to how a surrogate child can receive British citizenship. Therefore, the best route to take depends entirely on you and your child’s individual circumstances.

As with other children, the nationality of a surrogate child will depend on the nationality of their legal parents. With regards to nationality, the following applies:

  • The surrogate mother is always classed as the mother
  • If the surrogate mother is married, the husband of the mother is always the child’s father
  • If the mother is not married, proof of paternity may be required

With all that taken into account, automatic citizenship is given to a child born in the UK to a British surrogate mother.

Additionally, if a child is born in the UK to a surrogate mother who is not a British citizen but is married to a UK national, then this will be the child’s legal father. This would mean the child is automatically granted British citizenship.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, adult children of British nationals can acquire British citizenship automatically if the parent(s) is classified as a citizen otherwise than by descent. Other people born in the UK can apply for British citizenship by birth.

Those born in the UK after 1 January 1983 will be eligible for UK nationality if they have lived in the UK until they were 10 years old and have not spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in every 12-month period within those ten years.

Those born prior to 1 January 1983 became British citizens automatically if they were born in the UK before 1983. However, if their father was a diplomat working for a non-UK country, or they were born in the Channel Islands during World War 2, they don’t acquire British Citizenship by birth.

If none of the above applies to the adult, they are not eligible for this route. They can go for naturalisation.

Beware that if the applicant’s current citizenship does not allow dual citizenship, becoming a British citizen will lead to the forfeiture of the previous nationality.

It costs £1,012 to register your child as a British citizen.

In addition, there is the British citizenship ceremony, which costs £80 to book, should you wish for your child to attend.

The Form MN1 is the form set by the Home Office for registering a child under 18 as a citizen. Applicants over 18 will need to complete form UKM rather than MN1.

You will need to complete the necessary form and submit it to the Home Office. Also, two referees of professional standing that are not related to the child must be included in the application.

The Form MN1 can be completed by applicants living in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or British Overseas Territories.

According to the Adoption and Children Act 2002, any child adopted by order of a court in the UK or British overseas territories and has at least one parent with British nationality will automatically become a British citizen.

The adopted person can also become a UK citizen by applying for UK citizenship by birth if one or both of the adoptive parents are habitually resident in the UK.

In other circumstances, the eligibility for citizenship will vary, according to the provisions of UK nationality law and Adoption Orders.