British Citizenship by Birth or Descent

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Introduction to British Citizenship by Birth or Descent

British nationality law is complex, due mainly to the UK’s colonial legacy. There are even types of British citizenship that do not permit the holder to live permanently in the UK. So who does qualify for full British citizenship through birth or descent?

To speak to one of our solicitors about how to make an application for British Citizenship by Birth or Descent. Call us today on 0300 131 6767 or complete our enquiry form and we will get straight back to you.

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What is British citizenship by birth?

The first thing to note is that not everyone born in the UK since January 1983 will automatically acquire British citizenship. At the time of the birth, at least one parent must be either settled here (hold indefinite leave to remain or settled status under EU rules) or must themselves be a British national for their British-born child to be British.

A child born in the UK whose parents are not settled, but whose parents subsequently acquired permanent residence, will in most instances be entitled to register as British; a fee is payable.

A child whose parents are not settled at the time of the birth, and has lived in the UK continuously for the first 10 years of their life, will also be entitled to register as a British citizen, regardless of the status of their parents.

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What is British citizenship by descent?

British citizenship by descent is held by children of parents who were - at the time of the child’s birth abroad - British by birth, registration or naturalisation. Broadly speaking, British citizenship is only passed on to one generation, meaning citizens by descent cannot pass on their British citizenship to their children who were born outside of the UK. If the child is a citizen of a Commonwealth country, they may be entitled to residence under UK ancestry rules, but only once they turn 17 years old.

Those with British citizenship by descent are not subject to immigration restrictions and have the same rights as any other British citizens, including the right to a UK passport and to vote in elections.

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Who is eligible to become a British citizen by descent?

British citizenship by descent is usually automatically passed down by one generation to children born outside the UK. A parent can automatically pass on their citizenship in the following circumstances:

  • if they were born or adopted in the UK
  • if they obtained citizenship through registration or naturalisation in the UK
  • if they were working as a Crown servant at the time of birth

Complex British citizenship application

"Many thanks to the amazing Latitude Law team, especially Gary McIndoe and Anna Sullivan, for expertly handling my passport application. Mine was a very complicated and multi-faceted case, but thanks to the wonderful Latitude Law, I succeeded in getting my passport in a timely manner and would definitely recommend Latitude Law for any immigration or citizenship matters. When working with them, you can rest assured that you are in good hands."

Ms BFebruary 1, 2024
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How to apply for British citizenship by descent

If you do not have automatic citizenship by descent, and you are eligible to register for it, you can do so by completing an online application form. The form you will need to complete will vary depending on when you were born and the way in which you qualify. You are able to apply by post; however, the processing time for postal applications is significantly longer than applying online.

In addition to completing the application form, you will normally be required to attend an appointment at UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) to have your biometric information taken - this is your photograph and fingerprints.

When making an application for British citizenship by descent, you will need to submit a number of supporting documents to prove that you meet all relevant requirements. Supporting documents can be submitted by either uploading copies of the documents via the online service or by having them scanned during your UKVCAS appointment.

Applicants over the age of 18 will also be required to attend a British citizenship ceremony once an application has been completed successfully, there is an additional fee for this.

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How to prove automatic British citizenship

If you have automatically acquired British citizenship, you can prove this by either applying for a British passport or by applying for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode. Those under the age of 16 will need to apply for a child’s passport, while those over 16 will require an adult passport. Applications can be made online or by post.

If you do not wish to apply for a passport, a certificate of entitlement can be placed in your overseas passport to prove you are not subject to UK immigration control.

"Gary McIndoe leads from the front and has unparalleled experience and knowledge. Gary provides no nonsense advice which cuts to the heart of the matter."

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Why choose Latitude Law?

We understand how challenging it can be to navigate the process of obtaining British citizenship by birth or descent. That is why our team of experienced solicitors, who have many years of experience in immigration law, will do everything they can to help your citizenship application be successful.

We are pleased to be recognised as a leading law firm by the following independent bodies: The Times Best Law Firms 2024, Chambers & Partners 2024, Legal 500 2024 and Who'sWhoLegal 2024. These endorsements from the international legal directories demonstrate our integrity and success in dealing with difficult cases. We are also proud of our 5-star Google reviews from over 150 satisfied clients.

Call us today on 0300 131 6767 or fill out our enquiry form and we will get straight back to you. Let our legal experts take the uncertainty out of your British citizenship by birth or descent application so you can start your successful journey to the UK today.

British citizenship by birth or descent FAQs

What are the costs of obtaining British citizenship?

See the Home Office guide for the latest costs

Do you have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) once you have gained British citizenship?

No - as a British citizen, you are not liable for the IHS.

What is British citizenship by double descent?

British citizenship by double descent is when a person is eligible for British citizenship based on having a British grandparent. Eligibility for citizenship by double descent depends on several factors, including when you were born.

Those born after 1st January 1983 could be eligible for citizenship by double descent if either:

  • You had a UK-born grandfather who was in the Crown Service at the time of a parent’s birth
  • You or a parent were born abroad but in a former British colony
  • Your parents had a UK-born mother and father who was not British-born but was registered as a citizen between 2nd February and 31st December 1982

If you were born before 1st January 1983, you may be eligible to claim British citizenship under the following circumstances:

  • You/your parent was born in a form British territory
  • You/your parent was registered as a British citizen
  • One of your parents was in Crown Service when you were born

Our nationality solicitors specialise in citizenship tracing cases, and can review your family history in order to provide a report on your potential eligibility - either to automatic citizenship, or entitlement to register as a British citizen.

Content correct as of 21st June 2024

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Contact us

As the requirements for obtaining British citizenship by birth or descent are complex, to ensure success, you should seek specialist advice from an immigration solicitor before you proceed with an application. Latitude Law’s specialist lawyers can advise you about your individual requirements and ensure that your supporting documentation is compliant with the very latest immigration rules.

Get in touch with our legal team today on 0300 131 6767 or fill out our enquiry form and we will get straight back to you. Face your future knowing you have the dedicated support of one of our expert lawyers.

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British Citizenship by Marriage

If your partner is a British citizen and you see your future in the UK, you may be considering gaining British citizenship through marriage. This type of naturalisation application is dependent on satisfying a number of requirements, so it’s smart to seek legal help when you begin your application. Latitude Law has helped a wealth of people successfully gain citizenship through marriage, and will be happy to assist you through the process.

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Settlement Application

Settlement – also known as indefinite leave to remain – can only be applied for once a person qualifies, usually after a set period of residence in a visa category that leads to settlement. In most instances, settlement is obtained once a person has resided in the UK for five years. It remains valid unless you leave the UK for a continuous two-year period; even if you do so, it may still be possible to apply for a ‘returning resident’ visa. 

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Join Family in the UK

The UK government believes that family should stay together wherever possible, which is why they offer visas for family members of British citizens or migrants who are settled in the UK. The immigration solicitors at Latitude Law can guide you through the application process and provide legal advice on complex matters, such as past refusals and appeals.

For a FREE initial consultation, call us now on 0300 131 6767

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