If you were born outside the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory
This page explains the circumstances in which someone who was born outside the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory may be a British citizen. The qualifiying territories are all the British overseas territories except for the Sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (in Cryprus).
If you were born outside the United Kingdom before 1 January 1983
If you were born outside the United Kingdom before 1 January 1983, you became a British citizen if, immediately before that date, you were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and had the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
You may have had citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by descent from a father who had that citizenship, or because you were registered or naturalised as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
If you have a passport issued before 1 January 1983 that describes you as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies on page 1, you will almost certainly have become a British citizen on 1 January 1983 as long as page 5 says 'Holder has the right of abode in the United Kingdom'.
However, if you had the right of abode because you were registered under the British Nationality (No2) Act 1964, you will not normally have become a British citizen on 1 January 1983 unless your mother became a British citizen then.
You may have had right of abode if:
- you were adopted, naturalised or registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies in the United Kingdom (except in certain circumstances);
- you had been legally settled in the United Kingdom and ordinarily resident there for five years; or
- when you were born, you had a parent who was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies because he/she was born, adopted, naturalised or registered in the United Kingdom (except in certain circumstances), or because one of your grandparents was.
If you were born outside the United Kingdom on or after 1 January 1983
This section also applies to you if you were born outside a qualifying territory on or after 21 May 2002 and had a parent who was a British citizen.
Whether or not you are a British citizen depends on the type of citizenship your parents had. This may be British citizenship by descent or otherwise than by descent.
British citizenship may descend to one generation born abroad. So if you were born outside the United Kingdom or qualifying territory and one of your parents was a British citizen otherwise than by descent, you are a British citizen by descent. If you were born before 1 July 2006 you may not qualify if your parents were not married at the time of your birth.
However, you are a British citizen otherwise than by descent if at the time of your birth one of your parents was a British citizen in Crown service, designated service, or service of a European Community institution and he/she was recruited to that service:
- in the United Kingdom;
- in the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory (if you were born on or after 21 May 2002); or
- in the European Community (for service with a European Community institution).
If you were born outside the United Kingdom or qualifying territory and your parents were British citizens by descent, you are not a British citizen. However, you may be able to apply to register as a British citizen (see registration of a child).
British citizenship gained through your parents. This type of citizenship cannot normally be passed on to your own children. (See also Otherwise than by descent.)
Working in the direct employment by the United Kingdom Government, the Northern Ireland Government, the Scottish Administration, the Welsh Assembly Government (from 6 November 2009) or, on or after 21 May 2002, the governments of the qualifying territories. (See Qualifying territory.) This does not include someone who is subcontracted on government projects or in the service of Crown servants, such as Royal Navy laundrymen or teachers working in schools on British bases.
Types of employment with specific employers which the Home Secretary has agreed may be treated the same as Crown service for the purpose of British nationality law. See Chapter 4 of the Nationality Instructions, under Law and policy.
Living in the United Kingdom with permission to stay here permanently (this includes indefinite leave to remain).
Proven close link with a country that shows that country is where you are settled and normally live. Proof of ordinary residence would be the length of time you have spent in the country, the continuity and general nature of the residence, which must be voluntary and legal.
British citizenship gained in your own right (not by descent through your parents or grandparents). This type of citizenship can be passed on to your own children. (See also Descent.)
Qualifying territories are the British overseas territories that qualify under certain sections of the nationality rules. They are all of the British overseas territories except for the sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
The right to live and work in the United Kingdom.
A parent's service under a European Community institution may be considered when deciding whether or not a child born outside the United Kingdom qualifies for British citizenship. The list may change from time to time but currently includes the Commission of the European Communities (European Commission), European Parliament, Council of Ministers, European Court of Justice, European Investment Bank, Court of Auditors, Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions.