Reader question: As a British resident in France, I recently had a son whose mother is French. His French citizenship is therefore sorted out already, but the UK government’s rules on claiming his British citizenship are unclear.
My understanding is that if we return to the UK and live there for three years before he is 18, then claim his citizenship, he will be a full British citizen.
However, if I claim now, living abroad, he will only have citizenship by descent and, as such, his own children may not be able to claim British citizenship unless born in the UK. Is this correct?
It is not a question of claiming your son’s citizenship.
He is already a British citizen, as he was born after July 1, 2006, and has a parent who was a British citizen at the time of birth who could pass on their citizenship.
All you need to do is apply for your son’s passport here. This can be done now, or when he is older. It will not have any impact on his rights.
You can check whether somebody is automatically a citizen here. This is important, as applying for citizenship would mean paying a £1,012 fee, when it might not be necessary.
However, you are correct to say he will not automatically be able to pass on his British citizenship to his children.
Two main ways to be eligible for British citizenship
There are two main ways your son’s children will be eligible to become British citizens if they wish, as long as they apply before the age of 18.
If your grandchild is born outside the UK, but at any point before that your son has spent three years living in the UK without spending more than 270 days outside the country in that period, then the grandchild will be able to register as a British citizen.
The three years can come at any time, so if your son lives in the UK between 2030 and 2033, and has a child in 2050, the child can register to become a British citizen.
The second possibility is if your grandchild lives in the UK for three years with their parents (again, spending no more than 270 days abroad).
The difference is that in the former case they would be British by descent and would not therefore be able to pass on their citizenship automatically to their children, which is not the case if they apply after living in the UK themselves.
They will also be British if they are born in the UK and remain there for the first 10 years of their life.