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British Citizenship by Descent

Acquiring British citizenship is a dream for many migrants and their families who have made the UK their home. Those who have citizenship of the UK enjoy a number of benefits that do not apply to individuals with permanent residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). It provides the ‘right of abode’, which according to the Immigration Act 1971, confers the right to “live in, and to come and go into and from, the United Kingdom without let or hindrance”. British citizens also have the right to vote in public elections and stand for office. Perhaps one of the most desirable aspects of being a British citizen is the right to have a British passport, which according to the passport index, is the joint-second most powerful in the world, allowing visa-free entry into 82 countries.

In this article, we will discuss the specific eligibility requirements for British citizenship by descent.

What Is British Citizenship by Descent?

British citizenship by descent simply means that you have the right to British Citizenship because you have a British parent. Those who are deemed British citizens by descent cannot normally pass on citizenship to a child born overseas. A British citizen by descent would have acquired their citizenship in one of the following ways:

  • by birth outside the United Kingdom to a parent who was a British citizen
  • by registration

It is important to understand that British citizenship by descent is different from ‘British citizenship other than by descent’. Those who have British citizenship other than by descent are able to pass on their citizenship to a child born overseas. A British citizen by other than descent would have acquired their citizenship by being born, adopted, naturalised or, in most cases, registered in the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory.

What Are the Eligibility Rules for British Citizenship by Descent?

British citizenship is typically passed down automatically one generation to children born outside the UK. This means you are likely to automatically be deemed a UK citizen if you were born outside the UK to a British parent. This also means that your children will not automatically be entitled to citizenship status if they’re born outside the UK.

The eligibility criteria depend on the date you were born outside of the UK:

If you were born on or after 1 July 2006

Automatic citizenship

You will automatically be a British citizen if you were born overseas on or after 1 July 2006 if your:

  • mother or father was a British citizen when you were born
  • British parent could pass on their citizenship to you

If you are not automatically a citizen

If you are not automatically a British citizen by descent, you may be able to apply for citizenship if you’ve lived in the UK with your parents, or your British parent lived in the UK before you were born, or you were adopted outside the UK. There are additional criteria that apply for each of these non-automatic scenarios, which can be viewed on the UK Government website.

If you were born between 1983 and June 2006

Automatic citizenship

You will automatically be a British citizen if you were born overseas between 1983 and June 2006 if you’re:

  • mother or father was a British citizen when you were born (they must have been married if your father had British citizenship, but your mother did not), and;
  • British parent could pass on their citizenship to you.

If you are not automatically a citizen

Even though you may not automatically be a British citizen by descent because your British father was not married to your mother when you were born, you may be able to apply for citizenship if he was:

  • born or adopted in the UK, or;
  • given citizenship after applying for it in his own right (not based on having a British parent), or;
  • working as a Crown servant when you were born

If you were born before 1983

Automatic citizenship

You will automatically be a British citizen if you were born overseas before 1983 if:

  • you were born outside the UK
  • your father is British

In addition, when you were born, your father must have been all of the following:

  • a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies
  • married to your mother
  • able to pass on his citizenship to you

If you are not automatically a citizen

You may be eligible to apply for citizenship if either your:

  • parents were not married when you were born, or;
  • mother was British, not your father

Your mother or father must have been a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies when you were born, and one of the following:

  • born or adopted in the UK
  • given citizenship after applying for it in their own right (not based on having a British parent)
  • working as a Crown servant when you were born

If you are automatically classified as a British citizen by descent, there is nothing more you need to do, and if you wish you can apply for a British passport.

If you are not automatically classified as a British citizen by descent, you will need to complete the appropriate application form based on the date you were born.

Final Words

British citizenship law can be quite complex depending on your precise circumstances. If you are unsure if you have British citizenship by descent, or whether you can apply, it is advisable to speak to experienced immigration Solicitors who will listen to your history and help you to determine your status. If you do need to make an application, they can also assist you with completing the application form and collating the information you need to prove your right to British citizenship by descent.

Some of our Happy Client

Reiss Edwards Awards

ACQ5 Awards Award
Lexis Nexis
Three Best Rated
Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge
Lexology Legal Influencers
ACQ5 Awards Award ACQ5 Awards Award
Lexis Nexis Lexis Nexis
Three Best Rated Three Best Rated
Department For International Development Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge University Of Cambridge
Lexology Legal Influencers Lexology Legal Influencers

O.L

Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing.

As a lawyer myself I can categorically say that he knows his stuff, gentle, responsive, cares about you and not just about the money, very professional.
I mean I can go on and on!

Andy and the entire team at Reiss Edwards are amazing!

Thanks again Andy.

Kiran Sardar


I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this professional as there are lots of emotions always involved in each and every case.

The way they dealt with my case during COVID19 Situation is highly appreciable. I would definitely recommend Joe D. and Anna F. Anna is an amazing lady, her patience is beyond my words.

Her hard work and professionalism have no boundaries. She is the right person for all type of cases.

Thanks to Anna and Joe for all your support and guidance which helped me fulfill my dream.

I would say Reiss Edwards is lucky to have Joe D. and Anna F. Great job Reiss Edwards.

thanks once again. Anna you’re a Gem and a Star.

Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was outstanding. Handling the case with constant correspondence over a lengthy, lockdown delayed 7-month application process. Her expert advice guided us successfully through some difficult times as a result of COVID-19. Some of the best service I have received for any service ever! Often replying to emails late at night, offering to send additional correspondence to the home office and going above and beyond in handling our case! Well done and thank you Reiss Edwards and thank you Anna!!".

Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR application was successful 6 weeks after the submission amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I also think the portfolio put together by the team at Reiss Edwards has played a big part in the quick turnaround of my application".

Jesse Lee

"Reiss Edwards did a great job, and so much work, for their reasonable fixed fee. I would heartily recommend them to anyone looking to secure a Visa and /or Visa renewal. I will use them again when mine needs to renew. Great value".

Majlinda Berisha

"The help, the professionalism, the kindness from this team is phenomenal. A massive thank you to Anna Foley.

I have had a really tough time with getting my husband’s visa. My last immigration lawyer made many mistakes that caused stress, disappointments and sadness.

I was weary about getting another lawyer as I thought I was going to go through the same experience but no, it turned out better than what I had hoped or even imagined.

What I received was: constant emails and calls updating me and asking if anything else is needed. If I called and they missed my phone call I would get a call back within 10 minutes. All of my documents were carefully checked and I would get a reply the next day if anything was missing or not correct. There were times that I was impatient and asked to just send the visa off, but was reminded that everything had to be perfect and correct before submitting the application. I was told about every option I had and discussed what the best would be. I was always spoke in a nice, calm, polite manner.

The overall intelligence of this team, especially Anna Foley for me, is outstanding. I am speechless. Anna done such an amazing job on my husband’s application that although we couldn’t apply for the fast service and was told to wait for 12 weeks, we got a reply within 5 weeks.

That alone shows what an amazing and talented team Reiss Edwards are. Thank you".

Christine .C

"I wholeheartedly recommend Reiss Edwards to anyone who is in search of immigration advice. I had the pleasure of speaking with Amar who has been very thorough in finding a solution to my enquiry, and followed up with additional information even after the consultation. I normally don't leave reviews, and this firm already has enough good reviews for me to need to my own anyways! However, in this instance, I do hope that my review can let anyone who reads it be aware that RE is a great choice, these people care enough to help you the best they can".

Zohaib Butt

"I had the chance to use Reiss Edwards services for my Tier 2 extension. Marija dealt with my case and I found her very professional and experienced in dealing with my application. The care and attention to detail was exceptional. I would definitely recommend Reiss Edwards!".

Quintus Liu

"Knowledgeable, experienced, and relatable. Translated a complex process into steps that are easy to follow. Cruised to 3 successive wins on my Tier 1 graduate/entrepreneurship visa which allowed us to play our part in making the UK a better and healthier place!".

Khasan Vosijonov

"Thank you, Ms. Anna Foley! I am writing this with tears of joy.

As a family, we are all grateful to Anna Foley and her firm Reiss Edwards, for doing all the hard work and giving us the best support. Finally We found the best law firm".

Saira Lawson-Brown

"Highly professional organisation and really supportive solicitors. Ina Iteva the solicitor that was provided to us was a blessing in disguise, as our first solicitor was let go off due to pandemic. She was so supportive and understanding throughout the process, and my husband spouse visa was granted due to their effort and attention to detail. We constantly try to keep in touch with her and consider her as more of a friend now than a solicitor. Sure, to bother her and the firm more in the future".

Nora Nkechi

"My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recommend Reiss Edwards as an Immigration law firm in London. Thank you to the team".

Deepak Chartbhurjh

"This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listening to me, will be using them again. I used Reiss Edwards for my Tier 2 visa application and it was successful. The team was ever present and happy to answer my question. The caseworker that dealing with my case went on holiday yet by case did not suffer one bit. Another lawyer stepped and took over the case without any hassle".

Hakeem Salam

"I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter and that of my family. It was an EX1 application. They dealt with the matter properly and even when complications were coming up from the Home Office, they helped resolve the issue properly. They are very professional and are very popular in London. I am happy to have worked with them".

Top Notch Immigration Service

"Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled our documentation and also the list of documents they sent was efficient and top quality. They helped us professionally throughout the process. We are very happy with the immigration advice we received from the team. We highly recommend them".

Mo Hussein

"I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration application. Both for my initial application and extension. They are really affordable. The team of solicitors at this firm are probably one of the most efficient and economical in terms of cost. They offered free advice over the phone and spent good time with us before inviting us for consultation".

Gallagher Jones

"I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They acted with utmost professionalism throughout the entire application. I spoke with Joe Dinh, he is an immigration solicitor and he is one of the best solicitors out there. He ensured that there was little to no room for error. At some point I thought he was over cautious. He remained calmed and continued to assure us on our immigration matter. Most people in his position would have panicked but he was calmed and continued to assure us. We received out positive outcome very quickly".

Richard Stone

"I have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the application, I was not sure which law firm i should hire to facilitate the paperwork. After a few hours of research, i decided to go with Reiss Edwards and i must confess that I wasn't disappointed. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards handled my case well and they really knew what they were doing. They were fully aware of what documents I needed and it was easy for them to tell if my case was going to be easy or not. At the end of the day, I have not received my British citizenship within 3 months. If anyone is looking for a good immigration lawyer to handle their case, contact Reiss Edwards".

Fong Li

"Investing over 2 million pounds is definitely not a routine decision. We had to make sure that the Tier 1 investor immigration lawyers that we'd be picking has to be one of the best within the Tier 1 investor category. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they were able to get us not only the Tier 1 investor visa but also suggested profitable investment portfolios in addition to what we already had in mind".

Nancy Jacquard

"It's a shame that you don't have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my experience with Reiss Edwards is nothing short of an excellent rating. They handled my application for an Indefinite Leave to remain in April 2014 and did my husband's one very recently including my daughter. Every time i have approached them, they have continued to treat me with courtesy, respect and patience. Amar was indeed a very thorough and professional gentleman. He is very knowledgeable, corporative and engaging. He responded to my emails, calls and enquiries promptly. He was always reassuring. I could not have asked for a better Immigration service. I would recommend them over and over again for anyone looking for an immigration advice. They gave me a free immigration advice when i called them, and the quality of the advice was something other charge thousands for. If you need a particular, name, Amar would be it. He exemplifies, for me, the true, professional gentleman. He is a valuable asset to Reiss Edwards".

Florence Giwa

"I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a 20 minutes free immigration advice. I met with Amar to discuss my ILR refusal. He gave me a great deal of quality advice and decided to take on my messy case. I had doubts on the merits of my case by he was relatively convinced he could win it. That made me quite secure. To be honest, things did not start as quick as I would have wanted, but they kept on communicating the process and state of things to me.A big thank you to Verusha and Foram. They were also very helpful. Brilliant and informative. Their fee was fair and reasonable, especially if you compare them to other law firms and immigration law firms in London; some of whom even told me that i would not be able to get an indefinte leave to remain in this country. The process was long but was worth it. In the end, a big thank you to Reiss Edwards".

Salisu Ibrahim

"Fantastic Solicitors!!! My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused by the Home Office and they gave her 14 days to leave the country. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they said "OK don't worry we will sort this out". They put together the list of documents for me to obtain and they prepared a bundle which was as thick as the printer it came out from.We followed everything they asked us to do and in the end we won our appeal and got our spouse visa. We can't recommend them enough and we have promised ourselves never to make any more UK visa applications without them".

Amir Sandeep

"The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people. Their experience in and around UK immigration law is quite extensive; be sure that you application is in safe and competent hands. My immigration matter was an indefinite leave to remain application based on Tier 1 on a self-employment basis. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards made sure that the application was perfect and ready to be accepted. I got a positive decision and I recommend them highly for anyone who needs a UK immigration help".

Reiss Edwards Reviews

O.L

"Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing, as a lawyer myself I can categorically say tha...

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"I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this profes...

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Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

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"Reiss Edwards did a great job, and so much work, for their reasonable fixed fee...

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"Thank you, Ms. Anna Foley! I am writing this with tears of joy. As a family, we...

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"I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration...

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Gallagher Jones

"I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They ac...

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"I have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the a...

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Fong Li

"Investing over 2 million pounds is defintely not a routine decision. We had to ...

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"It's a shame that you don't have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my expe...

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