There have been a growing number of stories in recent years of people who have lived in the UK their whole lives suddenly finding that they are not considered British citizens and do not necessarily have the right to continue living and working here.
Many people assume that if they are born in the UK they will automatically be a British citizen, however, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, whether you will legally be considered a citizen of the UK from the moment you are born or not will depend on the status of your parent(s) at the time of your birth if you were born after 31 December 1982.
Who automatically qualifies as a British citizen at birth?
If you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983, you will automatically be a British citizen if at the time of your birth your mother and/or your father was either a British citizen or settled in the UK.
Settled in the UK means:
- s/he is ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK; and
- not subject under immigration law to any restrictions on the period in which he may remain.
A person settled in the UK would for example be in possession of a Certificate of the right of abode, hold indefinite leave to remain or have a permanent right to reside in the UK under European free movement law.
You will also automatically be a British citizen if you were a citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) before 1 January 1983 and you had the ‘right of abode’ in the UK. This includes those who were born in the UK, were naturalised in the UK, had registered as a CUKC or could prove legitimate descent from a father to whom one of these applies.
If neither of the above options apply to you, you may still be a British citizen e.g. if your parent(s) or guardian applied for you to register as a British citizen while you were a child or you may be eligible to become a British citizen through registration or naturalisation.
How to find out if you are a British citizen
If you are unsure about whether you are a British citizen, you can use the government’s online citizenship checker tool to see whether you may be a citizen or not. This does not require you to share any identifying information and can be useful for getting an indication of your likely status.
You can also consider contacting the Home Office, however, we appreciate that many people may have concerns about doing so, especially in light of the Windrush scandal. We are therefore happy to advise you on your options before you take action and can guide you through the entire process of confirming your citizenship or applying to become a British citizen as required.
How to apply to become a British citizen
If you were born in the UK, but are not currently a British citizen, it is often relatively straightforward to apply to become a citizen.
Generally, you may be eligible for British citizenship if:
- you are under 18 and one of your parents has become a British citizen or settled in the UK since your birth; or
- you were born in the UK and have lived in the UK until you were at least 10 years old and did not live outside of the UK for more than 90 days during those first 10 years.
There are further provisions for those who are born stateless and for those abandoned in the UK. There are also provisions for those who are born overseas to a British citizen parent/s.
If you believe you may be eligible to apply to become a British citizen, we strongly advise speaking to one of our expert immigration lawyers before making an application.
We can guide you through the entire application process, ensuring you have all of the necessary evidence and that all of the required paperwork is filled out and submitted correctly to minimise the risk of any delays or other issues.