In this article we provide guidance on when an individual may have an automatic claim to British citizenship.
What is British Citizenship by Automatic Acquisition?
Many people acquire British citizenship without having to make any sort of formal application. This is known as British Citizenship by Automatic Acquisition. If you have British Citizenship then you can enter and reside in the United Kingdom free from immigration restrictions. If you are applying for a British passport, you will need to prove that you qualify for British citizenship.
Who Qualifies for British Citizenship by Acquisition?
Section 1(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 sets out when a person will qualify for British Citizenship by Acquisition. A person born in the UK between 1 January 1983 and 30 June 2006 (inclusive) is a British citizen if, at the time of their birth one or more of the following applies:
- their parents are married and either parent is a British citizen
- their parents are married and either parent is settled in the UK
- their parents are unmarried and their mother is a British citizen
- their parents are unmarried and their mother is settled in the UK
Please note you may still be able to register as British if you were born before 2006, your parents are unmarried and your father is British or settled. You can read more about registration here.
A person born in the UK on or after 1 July 2006 is a British citizen if, at the time of their birth, one or more of the following applies:
- either parent is a British citizen
- either parent is settled in the UK
- either parent is a member of the armed forces and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010
If a child is born after 2010, they will be eligible for British citizenship if:
- their parents are married and either parent is a member of the armed forces and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010
- their mother is a member of the armed forces and the person was born on or after 13 January 2010.
Under The British Nationality Act 1981 (Immigration Rules Appendix EU) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, a person born in the UK from 1 July 2021 onward, who is otherwise not a British citizen, will become one automatically where:
- their parent is successful in being granted Indefinite leave to Remain under the EUSSafter the child's birth; and
- the application was submitted by 30 June 2021, by a parent who did hold permanent residence, but had not been resolved at the point the child is born.
- the application is submitted after 30 June 2021 and is resolved favourably after the child's birth, and the parent can demonstrate both reasonable grounds for a late applicationand that they could have met the requirements for EUSS ILR on 30 June 2021 had an application been submitted.
In these instances, the child will become British automatically from the date on which the parent is granted ILR under the EUSS. There will be no need for a separate application or fee. Usually, when a parent becomes settled after a child's birth, a separate application is required.
If you are unsure whether you are automatically a British citizen, more information can be found here.
What if I Am Born Outside of the UK?
Under section 2(1)(a) of the British Nationality Act 1981, a person born outside of the UK on or after 1 January 1983 is a British citizen at birth, if at the time of birth, either parent is a British citizen 'otherwise than by descent'. This will normally be the case if the parent obtained British citizenship through birth in the UK or naturalisation.
Who Is Responsible for Proving That an Applicant Has a Claim to Citizenship?
If you do not already have your British citizenship recognised and seek to establish a claim, then the burden of proving that you have automatically acquired British citizenship is on you. Section 3(8) of the Immigration Act 1971 reads as follows:
"When any question arises under this Act whether or not a person is a British citizen [or otherwise has the right of abode].it shall lie on the person asserting it to prove that he is."
This means that any person seeking to prove that they have automatically acquired British citizenship must find and provide the necessary documentation themselves. The standard of proof is the "balance of probabilities"; an applicant will have to prove that it is more likely than not that they have British citizenship based on the evidence that they provide.
How Would I Show That I Am a British Citizen by Acquisition?
Usually people use their passports and/or birth certificates for this purpose. The same applies to their parents' passports and birth certificates. Other examples include certificates of naturalisation or evidence of indefinite leave to remain in the form of a passport stamp or BRP. The evidence required for each application will be fact specific as it will depend on the exact circumstances in which you acquired British citizenship.
Am I Eligible for British Citizenship by Acquisition if I Am Adopted?
Section 1(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981 explains which children adopted on or after 1 January 1983 acquired British citizenship automatically because of their adoption.
Under section 1(5), a child who is not already a British citizen becomes a British citizen from the date of an adoption order if:
- The adopter, or one of the adopters, is a British citizen on the date of the adoption order and either the adoption is authorised by a court in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 or the adoption is authorised by order of a court in a qualifying territory on or after 21 May 2002.
Adopted children also become British citizens if the following are met:
- It is a convention adoption under the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry adoptions
- The adoption is affected on or after 1 June 2003
- The adopter or both of the adopters are resident in the UK.
You can read more about adoption and British Citizenship here.
What About Children Subject to Parental Orders?
From 6 April 2010, a child who is the subject of a parental order made in a UK court, following a surrogacy arrangement, becomes a British citizen from the date of the order, if either of the persons making the order is a British citizen. The provision for this can be found in 1(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981. British citizenship acquired this way is not lost if the parental order ceases unless the order is set aside by a higher court on appeal, in which case the child would no longer be a British Citizen.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.