British Citizenship: can you claim to already be a British national?

How to confirm your nationality status

British nationality is defined by law. Not by heritage nor taxes nor long-term residence nor service in British forces during war.

Whether a person has a claim to British nationality can be determined by their date and place of birth and descent, according to British nationality laws.

This guide will help you understand whether you meet the requirements to claim you already are a British citizen, or whether you will need to apply for naturalisation.

Are you already a British citizen?

The most acceptable evidence of British citizenship is a British passport.

If you have a British passport issued on or after 1 January 1983, it will say whether you are a British citizen.

If you believe you have a claim to British nationality, but cannot apply for a British passport for lack of required documents, you will need to apply for ‘Confirmation of British nationality status’.

The requirements you will need to meet to claim British nationality are the following, according to your place of birth.

If you are born in the United Kingdom

As a general rule:

You are not a British citizen if you were born in the United Kingdom to parents who were not British citizens and were not legally settled here at the time of your birth.

This means you are not a British citizen if, at the time of your birth, your parents were in the country temporarily, had stayed on without permission, or had entered the country illegally and had not been given permission to stay in the UK indefinitely.

You are most certainly a British citizen if:

1) You were born in the United Kingdom before 1 January 1983.
The only exception is if you were born to certain diplomatic staff of foreign missions who had diplomatic immunity.

2) You were born in the United Kingdom on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time of your birth one of your parents was:
– a British citizen; or
– legally settled in the United Kingdom.

3) You were born in the United Kingdom on or after 1 January 1983 but before 2 October 2000 and at the time of your birth, either of your parents was a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA)

This is because your parent’s stay is regarded as having been free of a time limit under immigration laws.

4) You were born in the United Kingdom between 2 October 2000 and 29 April 2006 to parents who were EEA citizens and one of your parents had been given indefinite leave to remain before the date of your birth.

However, if one of your parents has been given indefinite leave to remain at a later date, you may register to become a British citizen.

5) If you were born in the United Kingdom on or after 30 April 2006 to parents who were EEA citizens and one of your parents had permanent residence status before the date of your birth.

However, if one of your parents has been given permanent residence status at a later date, you may register to become a British citizen.

6) You were born in the United Kingdom on or after 2 October 2000 to EEA citizens who had an unconditional right of residence under EC law.
People with unconditional right of residence include those who are retired or who cannot work because of illness or disability.

7) Your parents are family members of citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) who were settled at the time of your birth.
If your parents are family members of an EEA citizen who was exercising Treaty rights, they may have been settled in their own right when you were born in the United Kingdom. If they were not, you are a British citizen only if the EEA citizen who was exercising Treaty rights was settled at the time of your birth.

If you were born overseas

If you were born outside the United Kingdom or British overseas territories, the requirements you will need to meet to claim British nationality are the following, according to your date of birth.

You are a British citizen if:

a)  You were born before 1 January 1983 and before that date, you were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies with 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.
b) You were born on or after 1 January 1983 and:
• one of your parents at the time of your birth was a British citizen otherwise than by descent:
You are then a British citizen by descent.

However , if you were born before 1 July 2006 you may not qualify if your parents were not married at the time of your birth.
• one of your parents at the time of your birth 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).
Then you are a British citizen otherwise than by descent.
If you were born on or after 1 January 1983 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.

If you do not meet the criteria to claim for nationality, you may nonetheless be able to register to become naturalised as a British citizen. The different routes to naturalisation will be detailed in the next guide.

The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. For legal advice regarding your case, you may want to take professional advice from a solicitor or from an immigration adviser registered by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).

By Federica Gaida