United Kingdom Dual Citizenship

British nationality law is complex because of the UK's history as an imperial power. There are 6 classes of British national, and each class is further explained below.

Generally, British citizenship is available through these methods:

  • birth in the UK to a parent who is a British citizen or who lives in the UK;
  • birth outside of the UK to a British citizen parent who is not a citizen by descent (thus, the parent has to be a citizen by birth, adoption, etc.);
  • naturalization;
  • registration;
  • adoption.

Citizens not by descent are the only citizens that can pass on citizenship automatically to their children born outside the UK. Citizens by descent can also pass on citizenship to their children, but these children must meet certain residence requirements in the UK and be registered before age 18.

Since the UK is a part of the European Union, a British citizen can travel and reside freely in any of the member states that are a part of the EU.

Since 1948, the UK has permitted dual citizenship.

Classes of British Nationality

There are 6 classes of British nationality:

1) British citizens - connection with the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Former citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who possessed the right of abode under the Immigration Act 1971 through a connection with the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man generally became citizens on January 1, 1983. British citizens are the only class of British nationality that permits a right of abode in the UK.

2) British Overseas Territories Citizens (BOTC), formerly British Dependent Territories Citizenship (BDTC) - connection with an existing overseas territory. Nearly all BOTCs are also British citizens as a result of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002.

3) British Overseas Citizens (BOC) - former Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who did not qualify for either British citizenship or British Dependent Territories citizenship. BOCs are derived from former colonies such as Malaysia and Kenya, and are fairly uncommon today.

4) British Subjects - British subjects who were not Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or citizens of any other Commonwealth country. Most of these derived their status from British India or the Republic of Ireland as they existed before 1949.

5) British Nationals (Overseas) (BNO) - created by the Hong Kong Act 1985 and the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Order 1986. BNOs are former Hong Kong BDTCs who applied for BNO status before Hong Kong was given to China. Hong Kong BDTCs who did not apply to become BNOs and who did not gain Chinese nationality became BOCs if they were stateless.

6) British Protected Persons (BPP) - derived from parts of the British Empire that were protectorates or protected states with nominally independent rulers under the protection of the British Crown, but not officially part of the Crown's dominions. BPPs are not citizens and were not traditionally considered nationals, but are not aliens.

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United Kingdom Dual Citizenship

How can you acquire British citizenship?

Citizenship By City-of-birth

CITIZENSHIP BY BIRTH

Those born in the UK to a parent who is a British citizen or a resident in the UK is automatically a British citizen.

For those born before July 1, 2006, if only the father meets the above requirement, the parents must be married. However, marriage after the birth is usually sufficient to confer British citizenship from the point of marriage. If the parents are not married, the Home Office will usually register the child as British upon application if the child is under age 18 and would have been British otherwise.

If a parent subsequently acquires British citizenship or resident status after the birth of a child, the child can be registered as British if he or she is still under age 18.

If a child is born in the UK and lives in the UK until age 10, there is a lifetime entitlement to register as a citizen, regardless of the parents' immigration status.

Before 1983, mere birth in the UK was sufficient to confer British nationality, irrespective of the parents' immigration status (except for children of diplomats and enemy aliens).

 
Citizenship By Descent

CITIZENSHIP BY DESCENT

Whether you are eligible for citizenship by descent depends on whether you were born before or after 1983.

From 1983

Those born outside the UK on or after January 1, 1983 automatically acquire British citizenship by descent if at least one parent is a British citizen other than by descent at the time of birth.

Generally, an unmarried father cannot pass on British citizenship automatically to children born before July 1, 2006. However, if the parents marry after the birth, the child normally becomes a citizen at that point if the father was eligible to pass on citizenship. Also, if the unmarried British father was domiciled in a country that treated a child born to unmarried parents in the same way as a child born to married parents, then the father automatically passed on British citizenship to the child, even though the child was born before July 1, 2006 to unmarried parents. Lastly, the child can be registered as British if he or she would have been British if the parents were married and application is made before the child is age 18.

If the parent is a British citizen by descent, there are additional requirements. Generally, the parent is expected to have lived in the UK for 3 consecutive years and apply to register the minor child as a citizen.

Before 1983

For those born before 1983, British nationality could only be transmitted through the father for one generation and the parents were required to be married.

Effective July 20, 2009, those born outside the UK to a British mother may register as a citizen by descent if born before January 1, 1983. Before July 20, 2009, only those born after February 7, 1961 and before January 1, 1983 were eligible. However, those with permanent resident status in the UK or who are entitled to the right of abode, may prefer naturalization which provides transferable citizenship otherwise than by descent. Registration requires the applicant to have been born before 1983 to a British mother, be of good character, and attend a citizenship ceremony.

 
Citizenship By Naturalization

CITIZENSHIP BY NATURALIZATION

For those married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, they can apply for naturalization if they meet the following requirements:

  • have the right of abode, Irish citizenship, or permanent residency as a citizen or family member of the EU or EEA;
  • have lived in the UK for 3 years;
  • be of good character;
  • show sufficient knowledge of life in the UK (by taking the Life in the United Kingdom test or by attending combined English language and citizenship classes) (those who are age 65 or older are exempt from this requirement);
  • meet specified English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic language competence standards (passage of the Life in the United Kingdom test is deemed to meet English language requirements).

For those not married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, the requirements are:

  • 5 years legal residence in the UK;
  • have the right of abode, Irish citizenship, or permanent residency as a citizen or family member of the EU or EEA for 12 months;
  • the applicant must intend to continue to live in the UK or work overseas for the UK government or a British corporation or association;
  • be of good character;
  • show sufficient knowledge of life in the UK (by taking the Life in the United Kingdom test or by attending combined English language and citizenship classes) (those who are age 65 or older are exempt from this requirement);
  • meet specified English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic language competence standards (passage of the Life in the United Kingdom test is deemed to meet English language requirements).

Those applying for naturalization in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man do not have to take the Life in the United Kingdom test. Rather, in the Isle of Man, there is a Life in the Isle of Man test.

Assistance with naturalization is available through our partners at http://www.immigrationdirect.co.uk/british-citizenship/british-citizen.jsp.

 
Citizenship By Adoption

CITIZENSHIP BY ADOPTION

Those adopted by at least one British citizen parent acquire British citizenship automatically if:

  • the adoption order is made by a court in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Falkland Islands on or after January 1, 1983 or in another British Overseas Territory on or after May 21, 2002, or
  • the adoption is a Convention adoption under the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption effected on or after June 1, 2003 and the adopters are resident in the UK on that date.

In all other cases, the adopted child can be registered as a British citizen before the child reaches age 18 if the child would have been a British citizen if he or she were the natural child of the adopters.

Interestingly, the cancellation or annulment of an adoption order does not result in a loss of British citizenship acquired by the adoption.

British children adopted by non-British nationals do not lose British nationality, even if a foreign nationality is acquired as a result of the adoption.

 
Citizenship By Registration

CITIZENSHIP BY REGISTRATION

Registration is a more simple way of acquiring citizenship than naturalization.

Those that are British nationals who have indefinite leave to remain in the UK or right of abode are eligible to register as citizens after 5 years' residence.

The following categories of persons may also register as British citizens:

  • children born in the UK where a parent obtains British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain after the child is born;
  • children born in the UK who live in the UK until age 10;
  • children born to a British father who is not married to the mother;
  • British Overseas citizens, British subjects and British protected persons who have no other nationality;
  • certain British nationals from Hong Kong who meet the requirements of the Hong Kong (War Wives and Widows) Act 1996 or the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997;
  • British Nationals (Overseas) who do not hold any other citizenship or nationality before March 19, 2009;
  • persons born outside the UK to a British born or naturalised mother;
  • certain children born outside the UK to a British citizen by descent;
  • certain children born in the UK who are stateless;
  • persons who acquire British overseas territories citizenship after May 21, 2002 (except those connected solely with the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus);
  • children under age 18 who are adopted outside the United Kingdom by British citizens;
  • former British citizens who renounced British citizenship.