- It depends on where the child was born and whether the parents were UK citizens or “settled” in the UK at the time of the child’s birth.
- Settled means the parent either has Right of Abode (can live and work in the UK) or Indefinite Leave to Remain (similar to permanent residence).
- The rules have changed a number of times: in 1983, 2000, 2002, and 2006. So, the date the child was born will also determine whether they are a UK citizen.
If you are a British citizen, your children are also British if:
- You became a British citizen by birth in the United Kingdom (or certain UK territories) or
- You became a British citizen by naturalization.
If you received your British citizenship by descent (i.e. through your parents) because you were not born in the UK, your own children are not UK citizens if they were born outside the United Kingdom and territories.
Child Born in the UK
Since 1983, British citizenship has not been granted automatically to those born in the UK. Instead, at least one parent must be a citizen or “settled “for the child to be British.
“Settled” means that the parent either has the “Right of Abode” or “Indefinite Leave to Remain.”
However, there are all sorts of exceptions and qualifiers.
Right of Abode
The “Right of Abode” is essentially the UK version of permanent residence, but it is a wider category including both UK and Irish citizens and some non-citizens.
If you are not a British citizen, you need a “certificate of entitlement” to prove your Right of Abode.
If one parent has the Right of Abode at the time of birth, the child born in the UK is a British citizen.
Indefinite Leave to Remain
“Indefinite Leave to Remain” is not quite the “Right of Abode.” Think of it as temporary residence with no time limit specified. It can be lost if the holder spends more than 2 years outside of the UK
If one parent has “Indefinite Leave to Remain” at the time of birth, a child born in the UK is a British citizen.
Exceptions to “Settled Requirement”
If neither parent has either The Right of Abode or Indefinite Leave to Remain, a child born in the UK or its overseas territories is a British citizen if one parent is a member of the British Armed Forces.
EU Citizen Parents
If one parent was an EU citizen, it depends when the child was born:
- Before October 2, 2000: the child is a British Citizen
- Between October 2, 2000 and April 29, 2006: the child is not a British citizen unless one parent was otherwise “settled”
- April 30, 2006 to the present: the child is a British citizen, though this law will change with the conclusion of Brexit
Qualifier if Parents Unmarried at Time of Birth
For children born before July 1, 2006 to unmarried parents, the mother must be settled in order for the child to be a British citizen.
Naturalizing Children in the UK
If you’ve read through this and your child born in the UK is not British, there are two ways the minor child can naturalize:
- Once one parent acquires “settled” status or becomes a British citizen OR
- If the child lives in the UK until the age of 10, they become British.
Child Born outside the UK
If your child was born after May 21, 2002 in a British Overseas Territory, excepting Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and one parent meets the above conditions, your child is a British citizen, instead of a British Overseas Territories Citizen. (Note that most people working in Akrotiri and Dhekelia work for the British Armed Forces, meaning that most people living in Akrotiri and Dhekelia would also have children who are British citizens.
For, anywhere else in the world, one parent must have been born or naturalized in the UK in order for the child to acquire British citizenship. Additional qualifications apply depending upon the date of your child’s birth:
Born Prior to 1983
Obviously we’re not talking about kids here. Those born to British parents prior to 1983 acquired UK citizenship directly through a British father, but must apply to Register as a British Citizen if they are applying through the mother.
Born Between 1983 and July 1, 2006
Children born between these years to at least one British parent are automatically British, unless the parents were unmarried at the time.
If the parents were unmarried, and the father is the British citizen, normally the child must Register as a British citizen first.
There is an exception to this rule, if the country the child was born in considered the children of unmarried parents to be legitimate at the time of the child’s birth, the child may not need to Register as a British citizen.
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Born Since July 1, 2006
Children born to at least one British citizen parent are automatically British citizens provided the parent got their British citizenship through birth in the UK or through naturalization.