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British Citizenship by Descent

British citizenship by descent means that a person born outside the UK has the right to British Citizenship because they have a British parent.

Contact our immigration lawyers on 020 3744 2797 for a free telephone consultation or complete our enquiry form to discuss your British citizenship by descent application.

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What is British citizenship by descent?

British citizenship by descent means that a person born outside the UK has the right to British citizenship because they have a British parent. 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 otherwise than by descent’. Those who have British citizenship otherwise than by descent are able to pass on their citizenship to a child born overseas. A person who is a British citizen by descent is typically unable to pass on their citizenship to their children born outside the UK.

The exception being if they were born to a parent in a crown designated or EU service. A British citizen other than by descent would have acquired their citizenship by being born, adopted, naturalised or, in most cases, registered in the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory.

Who is eligible to apply for British citizenship by descent?

According to the British Nationality Act 1981, the eligibility criteria to a British citizen by descent depends on the date you were born outside of the UK, specifically:

  • If you were born on or after 1st July 2006, or
  • If you were born between 1983 and June 2006, or
  • If you were born before 1983

If you were born on or after 1st July 2006

Automatic British citizenship by descent

A person will typically gain automatic British citizenship if they were born overseas on or after 1st July 2006, but only if:

  • Either parent was a British citizen at the time of their birth
  • The British parent was able to pass on citizenship to them

Register for British citizenship by descent

For those who are not automatically British by descent, it is possible to apply for citizenship. This requires that the applicant must have either:

  • resided in the UK with their parents, in which case the following requirements apply:
    • the applicant must be under 18 years
    • either parent was a British citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth
    • the applicant must have lived with their parents for at least 3 years immediately before applying
    • the applicant and their parents must not have been absent from the UK for more than 270 days in the 3 years.
  • a British parent who lived in the UK prior to their birth, in which case the following requirements apply:
    • the applicant must be under 18 years
    • either parent must have been a British citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth
    • the applicant’s parents must have resided in the UK for a minimum of 3 years prior to their birth and must have been absent from the country for more than 270 days in that time.
    • the applicant’s British parent must have themselves had a parent with British citizenship who could pass their citizenship on. This means they must have been adopted in the UK, acquired citizenship in their own right, or worked as a Crown servant.
  • they were adopted outside the UK.

If you were born between 1983 and June 2006

Automatic British citizenship by descent

A person is automatically considered a British citizen where they were born overseas between 1983 and June 2006, but only if they had:

  • one parent who was classed as a British citizen when the applicant was born. The rules advise that they must have been married where it was the father who held British citizenship, but the mother did not, and
  • The British parent was able to pass on citizenship to them

Register for British citizenship by descent

Even though you may not automatically be British 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
  • applied for and received citizenship, or
  • worked as a Crown servant at the time of your birth

If you were born before 1983

Automatic British citizenship by descent

A person may be classed as a British citizen automatically if they were born overseas before 1983, but only if:

  • They were born outside the UK
  • Their father is British
  • At the time of their birth, their father must have been:
    • a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies
    • married to the applicant’s mother
    • able to pass on citizenship to them

Register for British citizenship by descent

A person may be able to apply for citizenship by descent, but only if:

  • the applicant’s parents were not married when they were born, or;
  • their mother was British, but their father was not
  • their mother or father was a citizen of the UK and Colonies when they were born, and they were:
    • born or adopted in the UK, or
    • applied for and received citizenship, or
    • working as a Crown servant at the time of their birth

If you are unsure if you meet all of the requirements for British citizenship by descent speak to one of our helpful immigration solicitors. Call us on 020 3744 2797 for advice on applying for British citizenship.

Apply for British citizenship by descent

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 can apply for British citizenship by descent. You will need to complete the appropriate application form based on the date you were born, as follows:

  • Form MN1 if you were born on or after 1st July 2006 1
  • Form UKF if you were born between 1983 and June 2006 2
  • Form UKF if you were born before 1983 and your father is British 3
  • Form UKM if you were born before 1983 and your mother is British 4

Once you have completed the online application form, you will need to:

  • Pay the application fee of £1,012 if required.
  • Pay the citizenship ceremony fee of £80 if required
  • Pay the biometric fee of £19.20
  • Make an appointment with a UKVCAS centre to provide your biometrics
  • Upload your supporting documents or have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment

Please note not everyone needs to pay all of the fees listed above as this will depend on when you were born.

What is British citizenship by double descent?

British citizenship by double descent means a person may be eligible for British citizenship through a grandparent.

Whether you are eligible for British citizenship by double descent through your grandparent will depend on when you were born (as the rules have changed over time), as follows:

If you were born after 1st January 1983

You may be able to apply for British citizenship by double descent if:

  • you had a grandfather who was born in the UK and who was in the Crown Service when your parents were born, or
  • if you or one of your parents were born in a former British colony, or
  • one of your parents had a mother born in the UK, but not a British father and they were registered as a British citizen between 2nd February and 31st December 1982.

If you were before 1st January 1983

You may be able to apply for British citizenship by double descent if:

  • You or one of your parents were born in a former British territory, or
  • You or one of your parents were registered as a British citizen, or
  • One of your parents was in Crown service at the time of your birth, or
  • Your parents married prior to 1949 (In this case, your father’s father must have been born in the UK),

If you were born before 1949

You may be able to apply for British citizenship by double descent if:

  • You and one of your parents were not in a Commonwealth country, and you were born before 1915, or
  • You or one of your parents were born in a former British territory, or
  • You had a grandmother or mother who was married to a British man before 1949.

Another route to British citizenship: UK ancestry visa

Another route to British citizenship is through the UK Ancestry visa. To gain an Ancestry visa, you must have a grandparent who was either born:

  • in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, or
  • prior to 31st March 1922 in Ireland, or
  • on a ship or aircraft registered in the UK or that was owned by the British government

The Home Office guidance states that you can apply for an Ancestry visa even if you or your parent were adopted or if your parents or grandparents were not married. It is not possible to apply through step-parents, however.

With an Ancestry visa, you can stay in the UK for 5 years, at which point you can extend your visa or apply for settlement (ILR). Once you have held ILR for one year, you can apply for UK citizenship.

What happens after you get British citizenship by descent

Once you have British citizenship by descent, you will then have the right to remain indefinitely in the UK and have the same rights and privileges a person born in the UK. Importantly you can apply for a British passport by descent, which will allow you to travel to other countries as a British citizen and return to the UK without any restriction. You will be able to live, work, study, access public funds (e.g. benefits), and use the NHS at no cost.

As a British citizen, you will have the right of abode, which means you will not need a visa to come to the UK, and there is no set limit on the length of time you can spend here. You can use your passport to show you have the right of abode in the UK, or you can apply for a Certificate of Entitlement. This is an official document showing your permanent right of abode in the UK.

References:

1 GOV.UK: British citizenship as a child under 18

2 GOV.UK: Form UKF

3 GOV.UK: Form UKF

4 GOV.UK: Form UKM

5 GOV.UK: Information on British Citizenship

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