Automatic Acquisition of British Citizenship

by | Nov 22, 2022 | British Citizenship, UK Immigration

An individual can be eligible for automatic acquisition of British citizenship due to their circumstances at birth, whether they are born in the UK or overseas. In this post, we explore the possibility that an individual may be a British citizen by automatic acquisition.  

Many individuals become British Citizens if not automatically eligible by applying for Registration or Naturalisation

What is British Citizenship by Automatic Acquisition? 

If you have British Citizenship, you can enter and reside in the United Kingdom free from immigration restrictions. A person may be entitled to British Citizenship depending on their circumstances at birth. For example, where a child is born in the UK to parents who are non-British nationals but are settled in the UK. 

Individuals who automatically acquire British citizenship can apply directly for a British passport. Such applications can be made from within the UK or abroad. Further, an application for a British passport will need to be supported by documentary evidence proving automatic eligibility for British citizenship.  

Born in the UK

Under the British Nationality Act 1981, a person born in the UK between 1 January 1983 and 30 June 2006 will automatically be a British citizen if, at the time of their birth, at least one of the following applies:

  • Their parents are married, and either parent is a British citizen
  • Their parents are married, and either parent is settled in the UK, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • Their mother is a British citizen
  • Their mother is settled in the UK

A person born in the UK on or after 1 July 2006 is a British citizen if, at the time of their birth, one or more of the following applies: 

  • either parent is a British citizen 
  • either parent is settled in the UK 
  • either parent is a member of the armed forces, and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010

If a child is born after 2010, they will be eligible for British citizenship if:

  • their parents are married, either parent is a member of the armed forces, and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010 
  • their mother is a member of the armed forces, and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010. 

Please note you may still be able to register as British if you were born before 2006, your parents are unmarried, and your father is British or settled.

Born outside of the UK

Under section 2(1)(a) of the British Nationality Act 1981, a person born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 will automatically be a British citizen at the time of their birth if either parent was a British citizen ‘otherwise than by descent’. British citizenship is usually automatically passed down one generation to children born outside the UK. Your British parent could pass on their citizenship to you if they were 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 (for example, in the diplomatic service, overseas civil service or armed forces)

Furthermore, individuals who acquire British citizenship under Section 2(1)(a) of the British Nationality Act will be considered ‘British by descent’ and would only be able to pass on their British citizenship to any children born in the UK.

If the applicant is automatically a citizen, they can apply for a child’s passport if they are under 16, an adult passport if they are over 16, or a letter confirming their citizenship.

Proving automatic acquisition of British citizenship

When applying for a British passport, the applicant and their parent(s) must prove their identity, place of birth, and relationship. Usually, they can prove their automatic acquisition of British citizenship by evidencing passports and birth certificates. Other evidence may include certificates of naturalization or Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK as a BRP or a passport vignette. The specific evidence required in the application will depend on their circumstances. 

Evidence of the parent’s status includes:

  • Passports describing the holder as a British citizen or as a citizen of the UK and Colonies, issued before 1 January 1983, with an endorsement saying the holder has a right of abode in the UK
  • Birth certificate showing their parents’ details and the country in which the individual was born, such as the UK, Falkland Islands or qualifying territory
  • A passport describing the holder as a British overseas territories citizen (BOTC) and information showing that the holder has that citizenship by connection with a qualifying territory
  • A certificate of naturalisation issued in the UK describing the holder as either a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies
  • A certificate of naturalisation issued in a qualifying territory describing the holder as either a British citizen, a British dependent territories citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies
  • The relevant documents related to their parents’, grandparents’, spouse’s birth, adoption, marriage, death, registration, or naturalisation

Evidence of a parent’s indefinite leave-to-remain status may include:

  • An immigration officer’s stamp in a passport showing the holder has been given leave to enter for an indefinite period
  • A Home Office stamp in a passport showing the holder has indefinite leave to remain in the UK or that there is no time limit on their stay here
  • A Home Office letter confirming that the named individual has been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • A biometric residence permit confirming that the individual has indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • An EUSS record confirming settled status

How can we help

We are experienced in advising individuals in this area and assisting with naturalization or registration applications. Should you wish to discuss your application, contact our friendly team of professionals at 02087575751 or use our contact form.

Frequently asked questions 

Can a child get a British passport if both parents are not British?

If a child is born in the UK, but their parents do not have British nationality, the child will still be British if the parents are settled in the UK. 

What is the British citizenship by registration process?

If a child is not automatically British by birth, they may still be able to apply for Registration as a British Citizen. 

Can I apply for British citizenship for my child if I get permission to live in the UK permanently after my child is born?

You could register your child for citizenship if you or their other parent became ‘settled in the UK’ after they were born, for example, if you: have British citizenship, have indefinite leave to remain (or enter), got permanent residence, have settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme. 

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