The British citizenship rules
Every single person born in the UK is either a British Citizen by birth or a British citizen by descent.
To understand what British Citizenship by descent is and therefore to claim British citizenship status, it is important to recognise the other types of nationality status. It is important to identify this difference as the requirements and application process for someone who is identified as British by birth is different from those who have a claim to British citizenship by descent.
There are numerous ways an individual can become registered as a British Citizen in the UK – whether through birth, heritage (descent), registration, adoption or naturalisation.
As a result, UK nationality law categorises British citizenship as:
- British citizenship by descent or:
- British citizenship otherwise than by descent
It is important to identify the different rules, requirements and eligibility regarding these two different types of citizenship as depending on which type you are, you may not be able to pass British citizenship onto your children.
British citizenship ‘otherwise than by descent’
You are able to secure British citizenship otherwise than by descent if you can satisfy one of the following circumstances:
- If you were born/adopted in the UK before 1 January 1983
- If you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to a mother with British citizenship or settled status in the UK
- If you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to parents where both the mother and father were married at the time and both are either British ctizens or settled in the UK
- If you were born in the UK on or after 1 July 2006 where either parent is a British citizen or settled person in the UK
You can also become a British citizen if you were not born in the UK or if your parents were not citizens at the time of your birth. For instance, you may be able to register as a British citizen in the event that you have lived in the United Kingdom for a certain amount of time. This is known as Naturalising as a British citizen.
You can also secure your status ‘otherwise than by descent’ by:
Speak to our client care team today on 0161 826 9783 to hear more about the different types of citizenships outlined in the UK immigration rules. If you don’t quite meet the requirements for British citizenship by descent, you may be able to register or naturalise as a British citizen instead.
British citizenship by descent rules
In order to qualify for British citizenship by descent, normally you would have been born overseas (outside the UK) but have British parents. In some cases, you may be able to acquire British citizenship by descent if your grandparents were British nationals but you were not born in the United Kingdom.
You will automatically be considered for British citizenship by descent if you were born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 – but only if one or both of your parents were a British citizen ‘otherwise than by descent’ at the time of your birth. Generally speaking, your parents must have been born in the UK and be registered British citizens or settled people in order to pass this status onto you.
There are other ways you can become registered as a British national. You can also register your right as a British citizen by descent if on 31 December 1982 you were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies through birth, parent or grandparent’s birth, legal adoption, naturalisation or registration.
You can also be eligible for British citizenship by descent if:
- You lived in the UK while a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies for five years at any time before 1 January 1983 and were not subject to restrictions under the immigration laws at the end of that five-year period
- You are a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by connection with the Falkland Islands and Dependencies (such as South Georgie and the South Sandwich Islands)
The key difference to identify with British citizenship by descent is that you cannot automatically pass on your citizenship to any of your children who are born abroad.
The eligibility criteria
Generally speaking, British citizenship by descent allows individuals who were not born in the country to register as a British citizen.
However, since it is not your birth right (I.e. citizenship was not awarded to you automatically as you were not born in the country), you must satisfy the eligibility criteria to ensure you are able to register.
You may be eligible for British citizenship by descent providing you:
- Were born outside of the UK to a parent who was a ‘British citizen otherwise than by descent’
- Were born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to a mother who was a British citizen or settled person in the UK
- Were born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to parents who were married and where the father was already a British national or settled person
- Were born outside the UK on or after 1 July 2006 and either of your birth parents were a British citizen or settled person
If you are unsure whether you meet the eligibility requirements, enquire with our client care team today. Our expert advisors can put you in contact with one of our immigration lawyers in Manchester. You can choose whether to speak to your Manchester lawyer on the phone, via Skype or face-to-face.
How to claim British citizenship by descent status
To establish your claim to British citizenship by descent, you must prepare and submit a portfolio of supporting evidence. Here, you must prove that you meet the eligibility criteria.
One way in which you can prove this is by providing proof of your parents’ or grandparents’ nationality as British citizens. This can be achieved by:
- Providing the passport(s) of your parent/grandparent that describes them as British citizens or British Overseas Territories citizens
- Providing a birth certificate
- Providing the certificate of naturalisation that has been issued in the UK or a qualifying territory
- Providing evidence of a biometric residence permit which details the holder has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status in the UK
- Providing evidence of a parent’s employment from a government department/designed EU institution in the UK
- Providing evidence of marriage and registration as citizens of the UK and Colonies of British citizenship (such as previous immigration history/statuses)
You can also submit any other supporting evidence that may help you claim British status that outlines your parents’ or grandparents’ citizenship status.
If you don’t have any of the above evidence, you may request documents from the Home Office.
Passing citizenship onto children
British citizens otherwise than by descent can usually pass their British citizenship onto one generation (their children) if they have been born abroad. However, this child will be unable to pass their citizenship onto subsequent generations if these children are born overseas too.
By contrast, citizens who have gained British citizenship by descent are not able to transmit their citizenship onto children born outside the UK. Only in some exceptional and specific circumstances is this possible.
What is automatic acquisition?
Automatic acquisition of British citizenship applies where you naturally acquire citizenship without needing to register your right.
However, even if you are automatically recognised as a British citizen, you will most likely need to register as a British citizen in order to gain a British passport.
At Manchester Immigration Lawyers, we can help you secure your British citizenship status, including helping you with passing the Life in the UK Test if necessary, and also help you to apply for a British passport afterwards.
Obtaining a British passport
Once you have successfully claimed your citizenship by descent, you can then apply for a British passport.
However, if you don’t wish to apply for a passport but still require confirmation of your British nationality, you can apply for other documents that prove your status.
This can be done by applying for:
- A Certificate of Entitlement
- A letter of status
To gain a certificate, you must fill out and submit Form ROA. Once you have this certificate, you can then prove your right to work, live and remain in the UK as a British citizen.
To gain a formal letter from the Home Office, you must fill out and submit Form NS.
However, you must take note that although a Letter and Certificate do indicate your right to British citizenship, it is not the same as a formal document such as a passport. It merely puts you on record as someone who possesses a type of British nationality.
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The Home Office reviews all British Citizenship applications and delivers a verdict on a case-by-case basis.
At Manchester Immigration Lawyers, our OISC-certified immigration professionals are well versed in British nationality law and can assist you in filing your application to the highest standard. Your personal lawyer will guide you through each step of your British citizenship by descent application. We can even help you secure a passport if you were born British but are missing crucial documents.
Once you have successfully registered, you are free from all immigration restrictions. This means you can work in the UK, live freely, rent, buy property and enjoy all the same freedoms as a citizen who was born in the country.
Speak to our client care team today on 0161 826 9783 to hear more about our unique services.
Only in some certain circumstances can an applicant successfully apply for British Citizenship by descent without meeting the eligibility criteria.
Normally, a child born outside the UK will not be considered a British national if neither of his/her parents is a British citizen otherwise than by descent. This is because the parent cannot pass their citizenship status onto their children.
However, an exception can be made if the parent was in a certain type of service. This service can be:
- Crown service
- Specially designated service
- European Community institution service
The parent must be working outside the UK in one of these types of services and must have been recruited to that service in the UK.
In addition, the child could have been born on or after 21 May 2002 in a qualifying territory.
Sometimes, applicants can obtain British Citizenship by ‘double descent’. This means that at least one of your grandparents was British or born in the UK.
However, this can be difficult to prove and obtain. Each application made is put to the discretion of the Home Office, meaning you will need to supply plenty of evidence and supporting documents to support your claim.