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British Citizenship by Descent

To find out more about how to register for British citizenship by descent, speak to our expert lawyers today.

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What is British citizenship by descent?

British citizenship by descent is a British nationality route that allows individuals to become British citizens on the basis of a parent’s or grandparent’s British nationality status.

Anyone who is born in the UK falls under one of two categories: British citizen by birth or British citizen by descent.

In order to claim UK citizenship via the British citizenship by descent route, it’s important to understand the other types of British nationality status. The reason this is so crucial is because both the application process and the requirements are different for someone who identifies as a British citizen by descent, as opposed to someone who identifies as a British citizen by birth.

There are a number of ways a person can become registered as a British citizen. These include through birth, heritage, registration, adoption or naturalisation.

As a result, the law divides these up into two categories:

  • British citizen by descent or;
  • British citizenship other than by descent

When looking to register your child as a British citizen, it’s important to know the rules, requirements and eligibility for both, as depending on your circumstances you may or may not be able to pass citizenship onto your children.

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Eligibility criteria for this UK citizenship route

British citizenship by descent allows those not born in the United Kingdom to register as a UK national.

Since the citizenship is not your birth right, meaning you didn’t become a British citizen automatically as a result of being born in the country, then there are some eligibility criteria you must satisfy before you can register as a British citizen. These are:

  • You were born outside the United Kingdom to a parent who was a British citizen otherwise than by descent.
  • You were born outside the United Kingdom on or after January 1st 1983 to a mother who was a British citizen/settled person.
  • You were born outside the United Kingdom on or after January 1st 1983 to parents who were married and your father was a British national/settled person.
  • You were born outside the United Kingdom on or after July 1st 2006 and either of your parents was a British citizen

This area can be tricky to understand, so if you’re unsure whether you meet the eligibility criteria then speak to our client care team today. A member of our team will put you in contact with a case worker who specialises in this area of law, and you’ll be able to speak to your Newcastle immigration lawyer face-to-face, over the phone or via Skype.

UK nationality rules for British citizenship by descent

In order for the Home Office to recognise you as a British citizen by descent, usually, you would have to have been born overseas to at least one British parent. In some cases, it’s possible to acquire British citizenship by descent if you were not born in the United Kingdom and your grandparents were British citizens.

Those born outside of the United Kingdom on or after January 1st 1983 to UK nationals who were citizens ‘otherwise than by descent’ at the time of birth will automatically acquire British citizenship. In order to pass citizenship status on to you, your parents must be registered citizens or settled and have been born in the United Kingdom.

If you don’t qualify via this route, there are a number of other ways you can register as a British citizen. You are eligible to register your right to British citizenship by descent if you were a citizen of the United Kingdom through birth, birth of parent of grandparent, legal adoption, registration or naturalisation on or before December 31st 1982.

You may also be eligible if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You lived in the United Kingdom and colonies at any time for a continuous five years before January 1st 1983, providing you weren’t subject to any immigration restrictions following the five-year period.
  • A connection with the Falkland Islands and Dependencies means that you are a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies

Please note that you are unable to automatically pass on your citizenship to your children if they are born abroad.

How to claim British citizenship by descent

When making your claim for British citizenship by descent, you’ll need to prepare and submit a portfolio of evidence to support your application.

This evidence will be used to prove you meet the eligibility criteria, and one way to do this is to submit proof of your parents’ or grandparents’ British citizenship. You can do this by:

  • Providing passports of any parent/grandparent
  • Providing birth certificates
  • Providing the naturalisation certificate provided in the United Kingdom or British territory
  • Providing biometric residence permit detailing holder has IDL status
  • Providing evidence of marriage and registration

You’re also free to submit any other evidence pertaining to your parents’ or grandparents’ citizenship that you believe will support your application.

If you are unable to obtain any of the mentioned forms of evidence, then you can contact the Home Office who may be able to assist you with them.

Who is eligible to claim british citizenship?

If you meet any of the following requirements, you may be eligible for British citizenship by descent:

  • Born outside the UK to a parent who is a British citizen other than by descent (if that parent was a UK national by descent than you won’t be eligible)
  • Adopted in the United Kingdom before January 1st 1983
  • Born in the United Kingdom to a mother (or father if parents were married) who was already a British citizen or settled person at the time of birth
  • Born in the United Kingdom on or after July 1st 2006 to at least one parent who was a British citizen or settled person

How do I acquire British citizenship other than by descent?

It is possible to become a UK national even when you were not born in the United Kingdom or your parents are British citizens. Ways to become a British citizen otherwise than by descent are the following:

Obtaining a British passport

After you are granted British citizenship by descent, you are then free to apply for a British passport.

If you don’t wish to apply for a passport but you would still require some official documentation confirming your British nationality, then you should apply for other documents instead. These are:

  • Certificate of Entitlement
  • A letter of Status

If you wish to apply for a certificate, you need to fill out and submit the Form ROA. Once you have this certificate, it can be used to prove your right to work, live and remain the country as a British citizen.

If you would like a formal letter from the Home Office then you will need to fill out and submit the Form NS.

Please note that although these indicate your right as a British national, they are not the same as formal documentation such as a passport. It’s just a way of putting you on record as a person who holds a form of citizenship.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, individuals can become British citizens by descent if they were born outside the UK to a parent who is of UK nationality that did not acquire that citizenship by descent.

A child born overseas does not automatically acquire british citizenship even if their parents are British citizens. So, along with the above, there are other criteria covered in the British nationality law, which are:

  • You were born outside the UK on or after January 1st 1983 to a mother of British nationality or a settled person.
  • You were born outside the UK on or after January 1st 1983 to parents who were married and your father was a British national/settled person
  • You were born outside the UK on or after July 1st 2006 and one or both parents have acquired British nationality

Yes, you can claim citizenship by descent from your grandparent if you meet the eligibility requirements covered in the British nationality act. This citizenship route is also called British citizenship by descent grandparent or citizenship by double descent.

Yes, you can claim British citizenship through your mother if your mother acquired British nationality in ways other than by descent. However, there are other criteria for British nationality for a person born abroad. It’s best you reach out to UK immigration experts to assess your eligibility and provide help with your application.

British citizenship by double descent is the same as British citizenship by descent grandparent. That means you acquire British nationality by virtue of your grand parent’s immigration status.

You may be eligible to claim British nationality through this route if one of your grandparents is a citizen, but it’s judged on a case-by-case basis. If you wish to explore this route, it’s best you speak with a British nationality lawyer for guidance and support.

It depends. You cannot pass British citizenship automatically to your child born overseas if you became a British citizen by descent. However, if your child is born in the UK, your child can claim British citizenship through other immigration routes.