There are many categories of British nationals, each with a different set of rights and entitlements. For those born outside of the UK, it can be difficult to demonstrate that they are a British national by descent.
A legal definition of ‘British nationality’ is provided in the British Nationality Act 1981 (“BNA 1981”). This definition takes into consideration the individual’s date and place of birth and descent.
Different types of British nationals are defined in the BNA 1981:
Under the Immigration Act 1971, certain British citizens/subjects can live and work in the UK without being subject to immigration control. This occurs when the individual has obtained citizenship by birth, descent, registration or naturalisation.
Before the BNA came into force, individuals born in the UK before 01 January 1983 were considered to be British citizens by birth. After this date, if a child is born in the UK to a parent who is a British citizen or a settled person, the child will become a British citizen automatically.
If a child is born abroad to parents who are British citizens, they will acquire British citizenship status by descent. If a second generation of children is born abroad, they will not acquire it automatically. However, the parents can register the child as a British citizen within 12 months of the child being born, provided that the British citizen parent spent three or more years in the UK before the birth or the date of application.