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British Citizenship for Child Born Abroad

If your child was born outside the UK and you or the other parent is a British citizen, your child may be eligible to obtain British citizenship though they were born abroad. This page contains more information.

For help and assistance with acquiring British citizenship for children born abroad, contact our team of immigration lawyers. Call 0333 305 9375 or contact us online.

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What is British Citizenship for child born abroad?

British citizenship for child born abroad is for children born outside the UK to British parents. However, this citizenship is not automatically acquired because the child’s parent or parents are British nationals.

If your child doesn’t automatically become a citizen, you must register them as a British citizen before they are 18 years old.

Once you have registered your child, they can apply for a British passport and enjoy the freedoms and rights that other British citizens enjoy without being subject to immigration controls in the United Kingdom.

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Who can apply for British citizenship if born abroad?

A child with a British parent may be eligible, depending on where and when they were born and their parent’s circumstances.

Children born outside the UK may automatically become British citizens if at least one parent is a British citizen at the time of birth. Also, that parent must be British otherwise than by descent.

However, in some cases, a child may not be eligible even if the parents are British citizens that acquired citizenship otherwise than descent. For example, if the child was born before 1 July 2006 and their parents weren’t married.

Also, British nationality is not passed down more than one generation if the child and grandchild of a British national are born abroad. That means you may become a citizen automatically if you were born abroad, but your children will not automatically be citizens if they were born abroad.

Nevertheless, if your child was born outside of the UK, you may be able to register your child as a British citizen on the basis of the parent’s citizenship before the child turns 18, depending on when your child was born.

Eligibility requirements

You can apply if your child is under 18 and:

  • At Least one of the parents is a British citizen as at the time of birth
  • The British parent lived in the UK for 3 years or more before the child’s birth
  • The British parent did not stay outside the UK for more than 270 days in those 3 years
  • The British parent acquired their citizenship in ways otherwise than by descent
  • The child must be of good character, if over the age of 10

Suppose the parent who is a British citizen did not acquire citizenship in ways otherwise than by descent. In that case, they were born abroad and acquired their citizenship on the basis of their parent’s or grandparent’s British nationality.

As such, they cannot pass it to their child except if the parent who was born abroad to crown servants (such as diplomats or a member of the armed forces) while in active service abroad.

How do I apply for citizenship for my child born abroad?

Suppose your child is automatically a British citizen. In that case, you can apply for a letter to confirm your child’s immigration status and a child’s passport (if under 16) or an adult passport (if over 16).

If your child is not automatically a citizen, you can register them as one if you meet the eligibility requirements.

To apply, you must complete Form MN1 and submit it along with the required documents. Once that is submitted, you must pay the application fee. If you are applying for more than one child at the same time, you are to pay £50 for each additional child.

If you are applying from South Africa, you must send the application to the British High Commission in Pretoria first who will then forward it to the Home Office in the UK.

Once you have submitted your application, expect a decision within six months though it may be longer.

To find out more about British citizenship for child born abroad, please do not hesitate to get in touch Contact Us

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Documents needed to register a child as a British citizen

To register your child for British citizenship, the child’s information is required. They include:

  • Biometric information (fingerprints and photograph)
  • Passport (original copy)
  • Birth certificate (original copy)
  • Full immigration history

In addition, you must provide your reasons for applying to register your child as a British citizen. Please note that the Home Office may request additional documents or paperwork before registering your child as a British citizen.

If you don’t have a required document or you need assistance or advice concerning the documents, application, or your child’s eligibility, reach out to Immigration Advice Service by calling 0333 305 9375.

What to expect after a successful British citizenship application

You will get a decision concerning your British citizenship application within six months (in most cases). If you need to provide more information or some other reason for a delay, expect some additional time.

If your situation changes, for example, you move from South Africa during the wait time, contact UK Visas and Immigration to let them know.

When your child has been approved for British citizenship, you will receive a certificate of registration and can then apply for a British passport for the child. To do that, you must provide the following documents:

  • Evidence of one of the parent’s immigration status
  • The child’s birth certificate
  • The certificate of registration

Once your child gets a British passport, they must use it instead of their South African passport when travelling to the UK.

How can Immigration Advice Service help?

If your child is eligible to apply for British citizenship by descent, IAS can help you. If your child was born abroad, we can help give them the best chance of a successful application. What we can do for a child born abroad include:

  • Assess the child’s eligibility to identify the best route to be a British citizen
  • Check the documents to ascertain that they are sufficient
  • Complete and file the application on your behalf
  • Provide a letter of representation
  • Liaise with the Home Office on your behalf

For more information on how we can help your child to be a British citizen, contact us online or by calling 0333 363 8577 today.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers for assistance with the citizenship application Contact us

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Frequently Asked Questions

You can pass down British citizenship to your child if you acquired your citizenship in other ways than by descent. In some cases, your child may be able to acquire citizenship if their grandparent was a UK citizen (double descent) at the time of birth.

British citizenship by descent is one of the routes to acquiring British citizenship. You are a British citizen by descent if you:

  • Were born outside the UK to a parent who was a British citizen at the time of your birth
  • Have lived in the UK as a citizen for five years at any time before 1 January 1983
  • Are a citizen of the UK by connection with the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Were a citizen of the United Kingdom through your birth, your parents or grandparent’s birth, adoption, naturalisation, or registration on December 31st, 1982

If your child was born in South Africa and cannot become a British citizen by descent, you may still apply for citizenship successfully. For example, if you are a British citizen and caring for a child in your family whose parents are dead, the Home Office might grant that child British nationality.

They may also obtain British nationality if they represent the UK in the armed forces or sport. Alternatively, they may apply through the other immigration routes, such as getting an eligible UK visa, then Indefinite Leave to Remain, and then citizenship.

Also, they can obtain British nationality by birth. That applies to those born in the UK to a citizen or someone with indefinite leave to remain. Find out more about the rules here.