How to Register as a British Citizen

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If you hold British nationality, you may be eligible to register for British citizenship. Most commonly, you would be eligible for registration as a British citizen if you were born either in the UK or outside the UK to a British parent and are not automatically classed as a British citizen because of this, or where you have another type of British nationality.

The following practical guide looks at the rules, requirements and application process to register as British citizens, from what this means and the circumstances in which you may be eligible to register, to being able to prove your newly-acquired British citizenship status.

 

What is registration as a British citizen?

Registration as a British citizen refers to being officially registered as British, either through legal entitlement or as a matter of discretion. There are a number of routes for individuals to apply to register for British citizenship. The right under British nationality law to apply and be registered as a British citizen is known as an entitlement, while other registration routes will be at the discretion of the Home Secretary, albeit typically based on existing criteria that the Home Secretary has already agreed should allow someone to be registered.

There are also certain scenarios, in the case of children applying to be registered, where it would be right for the Home Secretary exceptionally to allow a child to be registered as a British citizen because of the compelling nature of that child’s circumstances.

Applying to register as a British citizen is different to naturalisation, where naturalising requires you to hold settled status or indefinite leave to remain to be eligible to apply. There are also various other requirements that must be met when applying to naturalise, including a continuous residence requirement, a requirement to be of sound mind and good character, having sufficient knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK, as well as being aged at least 18 years old at the date of application. In contrast, an application can be made by or on behalf of a child to register as a British citizen, although the good character requirement still applies to anyone applying for citizenship aged 10 or over.

If you are potentially eligible for British citizenship in more than one way, you can choose which way to apply, either via registration or naturalisation. Either way, there are various advantages to becoming a British citizen, including being able to hold a British passport, and to travel freely in and out of the UK without any time restrictions. It will also provide you (or your child as they grow up) with the opportunity to fully participate in the life of your local community, including the right to vote in UK general elections.

 

Who is eligible to register as a British citizen?

There are various routes to register as a British citizen. Below we look at the right to apply to register as a British citizen in circumstances where either you were born in the UK and are not automatically British, or born outside the UK to a British parent, but again are not automatically British, or where you have another type of British nationality.

However, this list is not exhaustive, where there may be various other routes available to you, depending on your particular circumstances.

 

Born in the UK but not automatically British

You do not automatically acquire British citizenship if you were born in the UK. This will depend on when you were born and your parents’ circumstances. Taking professional advice in the event of any uncertainty around nationality or the right to register as a British citizen is recommended as in some cases, you (or your child) may automatically have acquired British nationality, as a matter of law, where there is no need to make an application to register, but rather you can simply apply for a British passport.

You may be eligible to apply to register as a British citizen, if you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and either:

  • you are under 18 when you apply and since you were born one of your parents became a British citizen or was settled, ie; living in the UK without any time restrictions
  • you lived in the UK until you were at least aged 10 years old and you did not spend more than 90 days outside the UK in each of the first 10 years of your life, unless there are special reasons that you spent more time outside the UK.

However, you will not need to apply to register, where you may automatically be classed as a British citizen if you were born in the UK between 1 January 1983 and 1 July 2006 and, when you were born, your mother was British or already settled in the UK, or your father was British or settled in the UK and was married to your mother at that time. Equally, if you were born in the UK after 1 July 2006, you will have automatically acquired British citizenship if, when you were born, one of your parents was British or settled in the UK.

In these circumstances, provided you have automatically acquired British citizenship, you can instead apply for a British passport or ask for a letter confirming your citizenship.

If you were born in the UK before 1983, you will also automatically be classed as British, without the need to apply to register, unless your father was a foreign diplomat at the time of your birth or ‘an enemy alien in occupation’ and you were born in an occupied British territory, such as the Channel Islands, during World War II. If you are automatically British, you can again apply for a British passport or request a letter confirming your citizenship.

 

Born to British parents but not automatically British

If you were born outside the UK to British parents but you are not automatically classed as a British citizen, you may again be able to apply to register as British if, for example:

  • you are under 18, where either parent was a British citizen when you were born and you have lived in the UK with your parents for the 3 years prior to applying
  • you are under 18, where either parent was a British citizen when you were born and your British parent lived in the UK for at least 3 years before you were born, where that parent had their own British parent who could pass on their citizenship to them
  • your father was a British citizen when you were born but your mother was married to someone else at the time.

However, you will not need to apply to register if you are automatically classed as British. This could be where, for example, you were born overseas on or after 1 July 2006, and either your mother or father was a British citizen when you were born and that parent could pass on their citizenship to you. It could also be where you were born overseas between 1983 and June 2006, and either your mother or father was a British citizen when you were born, although they must have been married if your father had British citizenship but your mother did not, and that parent could pass on their citizenship to you.

A British parent could pass on their citizenship to you if they were:

  • either born or adopted in the UK
  • granted citizenship after applying for it in their own right, rather than being based on having one or both British parents
  • working as a Crown servant at the time of your birth, such as in the diplomatic service, overseas civil service or armed forces.

 

Having another type of British nationality

You may also be eligible to apply to register as a British citizen if you already have another type of British nationality, including as a British subject, a British overseas citizen, a British national (overseas) or a British protected person. You cannot apply this way if you are a citizen or national of another country, or if you are a British overseas territories citizen.

However, other options to register as a British citizen in this context include:

  • if you hold any form of British nationality and either you have lived in the UK for at least 5 years or have worked as a Crown servant at any time
  • if you were naturalised in Gibraltar as a British overseas territories citizen or registered there as a minor after 21 May 2002
  • if you are/were ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, both on the date that you apply and on 3 February 1997 or, if born after 3 February 1997, your parents were ordinarily resident in Hong Kong at the time of your birth.

 

How to register as a British citizen

If you are eligible to register as a British citizen, the way in which you apply to register will depend on the basis upon which citizenship is sought. For example, as an applicant under 18 applying on the basis that you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and since your birth one of your parents was granted British citizenship or obtained permission to settle permanently in the UK, an application can either be made online or by completing paper Form MN1. However, if you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and lived here until you were aged 10, you should usually use Form T to register instead.

There are various different forms, depending on your particular set of circumstances. In some cases, you can apply online using the appropriate form, although if you live in the Channel Islands, on the Isle of Man or in a British overseas territory, you must apply in person or by post instead. You should always check here with your governor’s office.

As part of your application, you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to enrol your biometric information. This comprises a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face. You will also need to submit a number of documents in support, where you can either upload copies into the online service or have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.

Before you begin your application, you must ensure that you have two referees who can endorse you, where you will need to provide their details on the application form.

 

How much does it cost to register as a British citizen?

In most cases, the cost to apply to register as a British citizen is £1,214 if you are under 18, even if several children are applying at the same time to register as British citizens. If you are over 18, the cost to apply is £1,431, including the citizenship ceremony fee. If you turn 18 during the application process, you will need to pay £80 for your citizenship ceremony.

You may be eligible to apply for a fee waiver if you are under 18 and you or your parents cannot afford the application fee to register as British citizens.

How long does it take to register as a British citizen?

You will usually get a decision on your application to register as a British citizen within a period of 6 months, although some applications can take longer. You will be told if you need to provide more information to help with your application.

If your application is successful and you are aged 18 or over, you must attend a citizenship ceremony where you will be presented with your certificate of citizenship.

 

How can I prove my British citizenship status?

If your application to register as a British citizen is successful, you can apply for a British passport, where you cannot use your certificate of citizenship to travel in and out of the UK.

If you do not want to apply for a British passport, you can apply for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode to be placed in your foreign passport instead. Guidance on applying for a British passport or a certificate of entitlement can be found online at GOV.UK.

 

Registration as a British citizen FAQs

How do I register as a citizen in the UK?

You can usually apply to register as a British citizen online, although you may need to use a paper form if applying from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man or a British overseas territory.

How much does it cost to register as a British citizen?

The cost to apply to register as a British citizen is usually £1,214 if you are under 18 and £1,431 if you are over 18, including the citizenship ceremony fee, although you may be eligible for a fee waiver.

How do you qualify as a British citizen?

To qualify as a British citizen, you must meet certain statutory requirements to either be automatically classed as British, or to be able to apply to register for British citizenship or to be eligible to apply for naturalisation.

What does it mean to register as a British citizen?

Registering as a British citizen means that you will be entitled to live and work in the UK without restrictions. You could be entitled to register as British if you were born in the UK or born to British parents.

Last updated: 5 February 2024

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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