Can you be a British citizen if you were born abroad?
It is possible for people who were born outside the UK to still be a British national. Under the British Nationality Act 1981, any child born outside the UK to at least one parent who is a British citizen “otherwise than by descent”, automatically acquires British citizenship.
However, when a child is born abroad to a British parent their birth must be registered according to the regulations in the country that they were born in. This means that they will receive a local birth certificate, rather than a British one.
This local birth certificate should be accepted in the UK and it can be used to apply for a British passport and many other reasons. It’s worth noting, however, that you may need it translated and certified if it is not in English. Not having a British birth certificate will not affect your citizenship status.
How to get a British birth certificate if I was born abroad
Although your local birth certificate should be accepted in the UK, you may still wish to acquire a British birth certificate. Whilst it’s not possible to obtain a regular British birth certificate, you can apply for a consular birth registration certificate.
To be able to apply for a consular birth certificate if born abroad the birth must also be registered at a UK Consulate, High Commission or with the Armed Forces. You can only do this if you were born on or after 1 January 1983.
It’s worth noting that if you already have automatic British nationality, registering your birth with UK authorities is optional. You can still apply for a UK passport even if your birth hasn’t been registered.
If you have not automatically acquired British citizenship, you may still be eligible to register as a British national by descent and will need to do this before you can apply for your first UK passport.
Documents required to apply
If you do wish to apply for a consular birth registration certificate then you can do so using the form available on the gov.uk website. When making your application, you will need to submit several supporting documents to prove that you are eligible.
The documents you will need include:
- Your full local birth certificate, this must have both of your parent’s names on
- The long version of your parent’s birth certificate that also shows your grandparents’ details (if your parents were born in the UK)
- Your parent’s naturalisation or registration certificate (for parents who weren’t born in the UK)
- Your parents’ marriage or civil partnership certificate (if applicable)
- Evidence that the parents’ previous marriages or civil partnerships have ended (eg divorce or death certificates if applicable)
- Change of name documents if either of your parents has ever changed their name
- A letter from your parent’s employer if they’re working abroad as a UK civil servant, EU civil servant, diplomat or member of HM Forces (for British parents)
- Written evidence if your parent was born overseas while one of their own parents was working abroad as a UK civil servant, EU civil servant, diplomat or member of HM Forces (for British parents)
As well as the above documents you will also be required to provide photocopies of the photo page of your British passport if you have one and the photo page or your parent’s current passport.
How can IAS help?
British nationality is a complex aspect of the UK immigration system as the laws surrounding UK nationality for those born outside the UK have changed several times. Luckily, our lawyers are experts when it comes to nationality issues.
If you’re unsure about whether you qualify for automatic citizenship, or whether you may be eligible to either register as a UK citizen or apply for citizenship, our lawyers can help. We offer legal immigration advice sessions in which a caseworker will speak to you about your circumstances, answer any immigration-related questions that you may have and can inform and advise you about the nationality options available to you.
If you would like to apply for a consular birth registration certificate, our lawyers can also assist you throughout the process. They can help you to fill in the application form and also help you to obtain the certificates and other documents that you may need to complete your application.
For more information, call our team today on 020 4502 8582.
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