British Citizenship by Birth (Automatic Acquisition): There are three ways of becoming a British citizen:
- By birth (automatic acquisition)
- By registration (when automatic acquisition route is not available)
- By naturalisation (the procedure of acquiring British citizenship by a citizen of another country)
In this article, I’ll explain rules for automatics acquisition of British citizenship.
It Is All Very Simple
British nationality law is considered to be one of the most complex laws in the world. There are over 15 Acts, which are responsible for its historical development. However, in essence, this is all very simple.
Three Questions to Ask
You need to answer three questions in order to establish if a person automatically acquired British citizenship:
- When was this person born?
- Where his/her parents married when the child was born?
Time of Birth
There are three periods, which are of particular importance in the context of automatic acquisition of British citizenship:
- Born in the UK before 1983
Anyone who is born before 1 January 1983 in the UK is a British citizen by birth.
- Born in the UK between 1 January 1983 and 1 July 2006
Anyone born in the UK during this period of time will be a British citizen if the child’s mother was a British citizen or present and settled in the UK. The term ‘present and settled in the UK’ means either Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence. Permanent Residence is the equivalent of Indefinite Leave to Remain. The online difference is in the fact that Permanent residence is granted under the EU law. Consequently, only EU citizens and/or their family members could have Permanent residence. After Brexit, EU nationals and their family members can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain under provisions of UK domestic law.
If the child’s mother is not a British citizen, but the child’s father is, the child will only get his British citizenship through the father. This is provided the child’s parents were married at the time of the child’s birth. If they married after the child’s birth, the child may still acquire British citizenship automatically if his/her parents’ marriage legitimised the child.
If the child’s parents are not married, the father of the child cannot transfer his British citizenship to the child.
- Born in the UK after 1 July 2006
What happened after 1 July 2006? After this date, parents do not need to be marred in order for the child to acquire his British citizenship through the father. The child will be a British citizen automatically if s/he was born in the UK and one of his parents was a British citizen or present and settled in the UK.
Place of Birth
Place of birth is important for several reasons. First of all, any child who was born outside the UK to British citizen parents will be a British citizen by descent, provided they meet the rules, of course. ‘British citizen by descent’ is a legal term which means that a British Citizen was born outside the UK.
British citizenship by descent is almost the same as British citizenship otherwise than by descent. The only difference is in the fact that British citizens by descent cannot pass on their British citizenship to their children if these children are born outside the UK.
- Born outside the UK before 1983
The child will be a British citizen by descent in this case if the father is a British citizen and parents are married.
Rather astonishingly, the child’s British citizen mother could not pass on her British citizenship to the child if s/he born outside the UK. The UK Government has subsequently changed the law allowing people in this situation to register.
- Born outside the UK between 1 January 1983 and 1 July 2006
The same rules apply as with those who are born in the UK during this period of time. There is only one difference. Children could only get British citizenship if their parents were British citizens themselves. In other words, parents with settled status (Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence) could not pass on British citizenship to their children if they were born outside.
- Born outside the UK after 1 July 2006
After 1 July 2006 fathers with British citizenships could pass on their citizenship to their children even if they were not married to the children’s mothers at the time of children’s birth. Children will also be British citizens by descent if their mothers are British citizens otherwise than by descent. However, as I explained above, children born outside the UK to parents with settled status will not be a British citizen by descent. Only British citizens can pass on their British citizenship their children.
What About the Rest?
What about children born outside the UK to mothers with British citizenship but where the father of a child is not a British citizen?
Children born in the UK or outside between 1 January 1983 and 1 July 2006 where children’s father is a British citizen but parents were not married at the time of children’s birth are also not British citizens? What about them?
What about children who were born in the UK to parents who have no leave to enter or remain (visa). In other words, when they remain in the UK illegally?
What about children of parents who eventually became settled in the UK, after the child’s birth in the UK?
Potentially, all these categories of children can register under provisions of the British Nationality Act 1981. I’ve created a separate article to explain their rights to register as British citizens.