Obtaining British Citizenship: Is Your Child A British Citizen And You Do Not Know?

5 min


British Passport

Citizenship and by a stretch of it, the passport you hold in this world does not just make travelling from one country to another easy or difficult, it also determines your entitlements in whichever country you reside.

Citizenship is mostly acquired through our parents and in the United Kingdom, this is the case for many people. Others, acquire it through meeting certain residency requirements.

Unlike the United States of America, a child born in the United Kingdom to parents who are not British Citizens or Settled in the UK does not automatically become British at birth. However, the child may become entitled to be registered as a British Citizen.

Citizenship in the UK is a complex conversation, currently shaped or guided by the British Nationality Act 1981.

Several parents wrongly assume that because their child was born in the UK and the said child has a British birth certificate, the child is British. Others do not also know that even children born outside the UK with birth certificates of other countries can be British.

Per the current laws, there are two ways a person can become a British citizen. These are; by ‘descent’ and ‘otherwise than by descent’.

The difference between British Citizenship by ‘descent’ and ‘otherwise than by descent’ is important because the type of citizenship a person holds determines whether the person can pass on his or her British Citizenship on to his/her children who are born outside the United Kingdom.

Automatic Acquisition of British Citizenship

If a child was born in the United Kingdom and at the time of birth a parent or both are British Citizens or any of them holds a settled status in the UK (has Permanent Residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain), the child automatically becomes British and there is no need to apply to register such a child as British.

If a child is born outside the United Kingdom and at the time of birth a parent or both parents are British Citizens (their British Citizenship originated from having been born in the UK, through registration or naturalisation—British Citizenship otherwise than by descent) the child automatically becomes British by descent and there is no need to apply to register such a child as British.

British Citizenship Otherwise Than By Descent

Anyone who is a British Citizen otherwise than by descent can automatically pass on British Citizenship to a child born outside the UK. You can be a British Citizen otherwise than by descent by:

  • Birth
  • Naturalisation
  • Registration
  • Adoption

British Citizenship By Descent

A person who was born outside the United Kingdom to British parents or had one of his or her parents being British at the time of birth outside the UK acquired his or her Citizenship by Descent.

Such a person cannot automatically pass his or her British Citizenship (obtained by Descent) to any child born outside the UK.

Registering A Child As A British Citizen After 10 Years of UK Residence

A person who does not automatically becomes a British Citizen by any of the above means can become a Citizen through Registration (for minors) or Naturalization (for most adults).

Per Section 1(4) of the British Nationality Act 1981 a child born in the UK whose parents are not British or settled in the UK shall have an entitlement to be registered as a British Citizen if in the first ten years of the child’s life, the number of days the child spent outside the UK does not exceed 90 days.

So if you are an illegal migrant living in the UK and your child who was born in the UK is 10 years or more old, and during the first 10 years of his or her life did not spend more than 90 days outside the UK, your child is entitled to be registered as a British Citizen.

It must be shown by evidence that the child;

  • have been born in the United Kingdom on or after 1 January 1983;
  • they are 10 years of age or over;
  • have spent no more than 90 days outside the United Kingdom in each of the first 10 years of your life; and
  • meet the good character requirements.

Of course, there are other ways by which a child can be registered as a British Citizen, subject to the applicable laws.

For instance, if a child is born to parents in the UK and later after birth, any of the child’s parents becomes a British Citizen or obtain a settled status in the UK, the said child qualifies to be registered as a British Citizen.

Per Section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act 1981:

‘A person born in the United Kingdom after commencement who is not a British citizen by virtue of subsection (1) or (2) shall be entitled to be registered as a British citizen if, while he is a minor’

(a) his father or mother becomes a British citizen or becomes settled in the United Kingdom; and

(b)an application is made for his registration as a British citizen.’

Here, the child must show by evidence that:

  • He/she was born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983; and
  • He/she was not British citizens at birth; and
  • While a minor, one of his/her parents becomes a British Citizen or becomes settled in the UK; and
  • He/she is a minor on the date of application.

If you think you or your child may be a British Citizen, we understand the complexities of such matters and entreat you to contact us as soon as possible to discuss this. You can contact Adukus Solicitors on +447837576037 (Direct and Whatsapp) or +442071831479. 

Alternatively, E-mail: [email protected] 

Adukus Solicitors is a law firm based in London specializing in Immigration & Nationality Law, Criminal Law, Housing Law, Family Law, Prison Law, and Personal Injury.

The firm is authorized and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.


Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, Founding Editor
Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri is the Founding Editor of GhanaCelebrities.Com , a Film Critic and a Human Rights Advocate; he holds 2 masters degrees in Law; International Human Rights Law (LL.M) and Legal Practice Course (LL.M) from University of Leicester and Nottingham Law School--and also a degree in Law (LL.B) from University of East London. He's a Professional Truth Sayer and he is the author of the popular eBook “Success is a Right, Not A Privilege.” He currently works at Adukus Solicitors in London--where he uses his legal brains to kick real ass, for the good of clients and humanity. Contact: [email protected]

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