British Citizenship

British citizenship is an ultimate form of belonging to British society. It gives you entitlement to vote and the right to hold a British passport.

British citizenship is granted for life and is not lost as a result of absence from the UK for any length of time. It may be revoked if obtained by deception or following a serious conviction.

Before 1983, any person born in the UK was born a British citizen. A birth certificate showing the place and date of birth is an acceptable proof of nationality.

Nationality of the person born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 depends on the immigration status of the parents.

Before 1 July 2006, fathers could not pass British citizenship to illegitimate children. If citizenship is not passed through the mother’s line, the child becomes British if and when the parents get married.

From 1 July 2006 a child born in the UK is British by birth if at the time of birth at least one of the parents is a British citizen or has indefinite leave in the UK, independently on whether the parents of the child are married.

Otherwise, there are legal provisions for registration of persons born before July 2006 in the UK to a British father not married to the mother. There is no time limit on this latter provision.

A child born in the UK to a member of the British armed forces is a British citizen by birth independently of the nationality of the parents.

For the purposes of the British Nationality Act, United Kingdom means Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (Guernsey or Jersey). This may be confusing as neither Isle of Man nor Guernsey and Jersey are part of the United Kingdom except for the purposes of nationality law.

Further qualifying territories include Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Virgin Islands.

There is no automatic entitlement to British citizenship by marriage.

The spouse of a British citizen can apply for naturalisation after three years of residence in the UK.

Because of the requirement to have ILR at the date of the application, most people would apply only after five years of residence – as five years is the requisite period before you can apply for ILR as the spouse of a Brit. Yet, a person who became settled through one of the accelerated routes (as investors, entrepreneurs or innovators) and is married to a British citizen, can apply for naturalisation after just three years of residence.

For spouses of British citizens, restrictions on the absences from the UK are the same as for other applicants for naturalisation. There are exceptions for those who are married to a British citizen in the Diplomatic Service, or in Crown or Designated service.

Children born outside the UK to a British citizen parent are born British by descent – except if born to a British by descent parent.

British citizens by descent cannot automatically pass British citizenship to their children born outside the UK. In some circumstances, if they retain connection with the UK, children of British citizens by descent may be registered as British citizens.

In more limited circumstances, registration for British citizenship is open to adults. This is available to correct historic discrimination where women could not pass citizenship by descent to their children.

The short answer is no. There are no privileges for parents of British citizen children except that they may seek permission to stay in the UK as the carer of a British child when it is unreasonable to expect the child to leave.

Official views as to when it is unreasonable to expect a British child to leave the UK change with political environment.

There is no formal requirement to hold a passport, but it is likely to be the only ID document proving your right to live and work in the UK.

You are required to return your BRP card to the Home Office as soon as you naturalise as a British citizen.

If you travel abroad you will be unable to return to the UK without a British passport or emergency travel document. You would not normally be allowed to enter the UK on a foreign passport even if you hold dual nationality and you are a non-visa national.

It is not advisable to leave the UK without a British passport if you are a British citizen. However, you may apply for a passport or an emergency travel document from outside the UK.

Britain allows dual or multiple nationality and does not require you to renounce other citizenships before applying to become a British citizen.

However, other countries may have restrictions on dual citizenship. We recommend that you check the laws of the other countries where you hold nationality. Some countries have procedural requirements which have to be met in order to retain the existing citizenship when applying for citizenship of another country.

Unlike citizenship, indefinite leave to remain in the UK is lost after two years of absence from the UK in most circumstances or after five years of absence if you hold settled status as an EU national or a family member of an EU national.

Children born outside the UK to holders of indefinite leave to remain are not British by birth, whereas children born to British citizens outside the UK are born British by descent.

Only British citizens are entitled to have a British passport.

If you have indefinite leave to remain and would like to have a British passport, you have to naturalise and become a British citizen and then apply for a passport.

British by descent women may now pass British citizenship to their children if they are born outside the Commonwealth before 1983. This scenario is sometimes referred to as double descent. Where this rule applies, British citizenship is available by registration.

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Last updated on April 22, 2021