The most common way for adults to acquire British citizenship is naturalisation. Registration is largely reserved for children under 18. However, in some limited circumstances persons over 18 can register as British citizens. Some forms of registration are by entitlement, others involve discretion of the Secretary of State.
Persons born in the UK who have lived in the UK for the first ten years of life
This registration is under s.1(4) of the British Nationality Act 1981. The application is made online or on Form T. The application can be made in the UK or abroad.
What you will need to demonstrate:
- You were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983;
- You didn’t acquire British citizenship at birth – you will need evidence of nationality and immigration status of your parents;
- You were not out of the country for more than 90 days in each of the first 10 years of your life;
- You are of good character.
Evidence in support of the application:
- Birth certificate showing the names of both parents;
- Documents showing immigration status of the parents or allowing the Home Office to make the necessary checks;
- Evidence of residence – passport or travel document if available showing entry and exit stamps, medical records, child’s red book (personal health record), doctors’ letters, nursery letters; letters from school confirming years of attendance.
Discretion to disregard excessive absences
Under s. 1(7) of the same statute, The Secretary of State has discretionary power to disregard excessive absences. Details are given in the policy guidance document: the decision-maker is expected to waive excess absences if the number of days absent from the UK in any one of the 10 years does not exceed 180 days and the total number of days over the 10 year period does not exceed 990 days. Beyond this, discretion is exercised if absences were due to serious illness or circumstances beyond the family’s control.
Persons who would have been British by birth if women could pass citizenship by descent to their children before 1983
Before the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force, British women who gave birth to their children overseas could not pass British citizenship to them in the same way as men. The BNA came into force on 1 January 1983 and provided for British citizenship to be passed by men and women alike.
The legal deficiency which existed prior to 1983 was corrected with a retrospective effect in 2003 by the introduction of s. 4C to the British Nationality Act 1981. This section provides for registration of persons born to British mothers outside the UK before 1 January 1983.
Further clarification on the law governing transmission of British citizenship by descent through the female line comes from the Supreme Court in the case of Romein. The court considered whether a woman who was a British citizen by descent, i.e. born outside the UK to a British-born father, could pass British citizenship to her children born outside the UK.
The Supreme Court confirmed that registration under s.4C should be allowed in this scenario because pre-1983 nationality law allowed a male British citizen by descent to pass his British citizenship to a male child by registering this child at a British consulate within one year of birth. Since girls could not be registered as British citizens within one year of birth simply because the law only allowed for registration of boys, the Supreme Court found that the retrospective amendments of the legislation under the British Nationality Act 1981 should be extended to persons born to British-by-descent mothers waiving the requirement to have registered the child with the British consulate within one year of birth.
As a result, women born abroad to British citizens by descent are in a somewhat better position then men. But that’s what we call positive discrimination.
The rule can be summarised as follows:
- The Applicant has to have been born before 1 January 1983 outside the Commonwealth;
- The Applicant’s mother should have been Citizen of UK and Colonies (by birth or by descent);
- Either the applicant’s mother or the applicant’s maternal grandfather should have been born, adopted, naturalised or registered in the UK or the applicant has to be a Commonwealth national woman married to a person with the right of abode before 1983.
Application for registration under this provision can be made from the UK or from abroad. There is no residence requirement and since 25 July 2019 good character requirement does not apply.
Applicants for registration under this section are granted citizenship by descent.
Registration of children born to unmarried fathers
Another scenario permitting registration of adult persons as British citizens is where the person was born to a British father but did not take British nationality from the father because the parents were not married. This historic discrimination against illegitimate children was mitigated by s. 4G of the British Nationality Act.
What you will need to demonstrate:
- Evidence of relationship – a birth certificate issued within the first year of birth showing the names of both parents. If this is not available, other evidence proving paternity, such as DNA test results from an approved DNA test provider, a court order, or other evidence to prove you are related as claimed.
- Evidence of your father’s British citizenship – this can be a full birth certificate, certificate of naturalisation, passport, or evidence that he was settled in the UK at the time of your birth if you were born in the UK after 1 January 1983.
Good character requirement does not apply from 25 July 2019.
You can apply for registration from the UK or from abroad. The type of citizenship you will be granted will depend on whether you were born in the UK or abroad. It will be citizenship other than by descent if you were born in the UK or citizenship by descent if your were born outside the UK.