British Citizenship

What is British citizenship

British citizenship is one of the forms of British nationality. It gives the holder the right to live in the United Kingdom (the right of abode) not conditional on their residence or absences, the right to hold a British passport and receive consular assistance overseas, the right to work in the UK, and the right to vote in general and local elections and referendums.

Types of British citizenship

British citizenship can be “by descent” and “otherwise than by descent”.

British citizenship by descent is held by people born outside the UK to British citizen parents. Its only difference to British citizenship “otherwise than by descent” is that it cannot be passed to the next generation born outside the UK unless the person with citizenship by descent had lived for at least three consecutive years in the UK before the birth of the child. British citizens by descent may be entitled to register their children as British citizens.

Children born in the UK to British citizens are British citizens by birth otherwise than by descent.

If you become a British citizen by naturalisation, you are citizen “other than by descent”. That means that your children born after you naturalised will be British whether they are born in the UK or abroad. The difference will be that children born in the UK will be British “other than by descent” and those born abroad will be British “by descent”. They will not need to be registered as British citizens but their children (your grandchildren) may have to be registered to become British.

How to become a British citizen

There are two ways of applying for British citizenship – by naturalisation or by registration.

Naturalisation is for persons over 18 years old who hold indefinite leave to remain and have lived in the UK for a requisite period (usually for five years, but three years if you are married to a British citizen).

For children under 18 applications for British citizenship are in the form of applications for registration.

Adults may also be eligible for registration where they have some form of entitlement to British citizenship either through British ancestry or through having been born in the UK.

The qualifying territories are:

Great Britain

Norther Ireland

Isle of Man

Channel Islands

Further qualifying territories include British Overseas Territories: 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.

Marriage to a British citizen does not make you British but you can apply for a visa to join your British partner in the UK. After you have lived in the UK for five years holding this partner visa, you may qualify to apply for indefinite leave to remain and then British citizenship.

You may also qualify for indefinite leave to remain on completing the required period of residence in another immigration route. For example, as a Global talent visa holder you may be entitled to indefinite leave to remain after three years. Once you hold indefinite leave to remain, whatever type of visa you had before then, you are entitled to apply for naturalisation as the spouse of a British person.

You do not become a British citizen if your child is British but you may apply for permission to come to the UK with your British child or stay in the UK as a parent of a British child.

Yes, UK allows dual and multiple citizenship and will not ask you to renounce your other citizenships.

However, you may automatically lose your first citizenship if the country of your nationality does not allow dual citizenship. In some cases, there are procedural requirements you need to follow in order to retain your first nationality. For example, Austria requires an application to retain Austrian citizenship before you apply for naturalisation in another country, and the same applies in South Africa.

Some other countries may not allow dual citizenship under any circumstances.

We recommend that you check the laws of the other countries where you hold citizenship.

There is no formal requirement to have a passport, but in practice it will be difficult to do without it. A British passport is likely to be your only ID document proving your right to live and work in the UK. You will not have a BRP card or any other document proving your legal status. You can rely on a driving licence and a naturalisation certificate in combination, but it is much easier if you have a passport.

You will need a passport to travel abroad.

If you are a British citizen traveling on a non-British passport, you can leave the UK but you will have to apply for a British passport abroad to return to the UK.

Yes, if you are a British citizen you can apply for your first British passport outside the UK. These applications usually take longer than applications made within the UK and we are happy to help with the application.

British citizenship gives you the right to hold a British passport. With indefinite leave to remain you hold the passport of your country of nationality and residence right in the UK.

British citizenship is not lost through prolonged absences. Indefinite leave to remain is automatically cancelled if you spend two continuous years outside the UK. If your indefinite leave to remain is granted under the EU settlement scheme, you can be absent for up to five years without losing your right of residence.

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.

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.


Last updated on 22 December, 2022

We aim to answer all enquiries within three business hours

Your message has been sent, thank you for getting in touch!

We aim to answer all enquiries within three business hours.