Currently, only British mothers and married British fathers are able to pass on their citizenship, by descent, to their children. The one and only group left out of their birthright are children born before 1 July 2006 to unmarried British fathers.

There is a registration system put in place for fathers to register their minor children for UK citizenship.  However, it is being misused by immigration officers.  There are numerous news stories about children shut out of British citizenship because an immigration officer refused to register an illegitimate child's birth.  Once that child reaches the age of 18, they are exempt from the opportunity to acquire British citizenship. 

No other group of children have a cut-off date attached to their births for nationality purposes.  Only illegitimate children have such unfair rules applied to them by the British government.  Every other child born to at least one British parent can apply for citizenship at any time in their life. 

Both the Nationality, Immigration, & Asylum Act and the Borders, Citizenship, & Immigration Bill sought to remove this inequality completely.  However, each time it was removed, continuing to shut out children born to unmarried British fathers, while giving British mothers the right to pass on their nationality to their children, regardless of birth status.  It was last year, during the Borders Bill, when the then Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, stated that giving illegitimate children any rights would be a "step into the unknown".  Another MP told a "who's your daddy" joke.  

This behavior towards illegitimate children is unacceptable and goes against both the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.  The British government must find a way to offer some path to citizenship for the very last group it has admitted to discriminating against — illegitimate children born before 1 July 2006 to British fathers.

This is clearly a human rights issue.  Only one group of children are being singled out of their nationality rights.  Remove ALL cut-off dates so that ALL children born to at least one British parent can register their births and acquire British passports, not just specific groups.

Why is this idea important?

It is illegal under the Human Rights Act to discriminate on the basis of age and sex.  In this instance there are two victims of inequality – children born out of wedlock before 1 July 2006 and unmarried British fathers.

This inequality tears families apart.  In some households, some children have British citizenship and some do not.  If a child were born today to an unmarried British father, they would have the right to British citizenship, but a sibling in the same household who was born before 1 July 2006 would not.  Many chlidren born before 2006 have fathers who went on to marry and have chldren with other women, conferring British citizenship on one set of children, whilst leaving their siblings who were born out of wedlock to a different mother, shut out.

It’s also important because for so long, unmarried fathers have faced uninformed or unscrupulous immigration officers who wrongfully denied them the chance to register their child’s birth.

Why isn’t a legitimate claim to British citizenship by descent, automatic for all children of a British parent? Why is there such an unjust tier system in British nationality law?

It is time to put an end to this blatant and unjustified discrimination!

55 Replies to “Allow Illegitimate Children Citizenship Through Their British Fathers”

  1. As a victim of this entirely unnecessary form of discrimination, I can attest that it has caused me unremitting pain all my life, and if I were to be granted my birthright at long last, I could finally experience life without the pain of being denied my identity and stigmatised as inherently inferior to my father’s other children. I must also specify that my father was in fact denied the right to register me – several times – when I was a minor.

  2. I have 2 sons who are unable to get British Citizenship as they were born overseas and out of wedlock… Is there an active lobby group i can join , raise petitions, lobby MP’s etc. The law is “Out of Order” let’s get this!

  3. I fall into this category of being born before 01 July 2006 to a British father out of wedlock but what saddens me the most is that in 2004 a British passport was issued to me which I traveled with until 2006 when i went to my birth country in west Africa to get married and bring my wife over that an ECO confisticated my British passport on the grounds it was issued in error.
    Since then life has been unbearable as all my plans have been cut short.
    Any idea where to turn to and what to do??

  4. I am a victim of this unfair & unjust law. I was born to an American mother and my father, a UK citizen of Montserrat, Antigua & London. They did not marry. I am not able to claim my UK citizenship by descent. This is so very wrong. By continuing to allow this law to remain, you are punishing innocent children who had no say. I implore the UK government and various pressure groups to address this and get the law changed now! Otherwise they are guilty of hypocrisy professing to be a country promoting an equality agenda.

  5. I’m all for supporting this! Is there an official petition to bring this to the attention of parliament? Anyone written their MP? Is there an opposition MP who would be particularly capable of using this issue as a stick to beat the current government with? If so who is that MP and do we know anyone in that constituency? How about mounting a challenge in the courts? I know that in the UK the parliament has total sovereignty, meaning that it can ignore any court ruling if it so wishes, but a ruling by a high court either in Brussels or in Westminster would surely be politically quite difficult to disregard out of hand . . . . I’m not currently in the UK but am more than willing to help support motion in any way that I can.

  6. I’m a mother to be, my boyfriend is a British national and we work in the same company. Since he heard the news that I was pregnant, he was upset about it and wanting to make an abortion. Abortion in my country is illegal and immortal sin as I really don’t know how could I ever get through with this. Is there any law about the rights of illegitimate child abroad besides having their fathers citizenship? Can we get any support and further more rights about illegitimate children?

    1. i totally understand your pains as im in the same boyfrend broke up with me without a word with an xcuse that he cant afford to take care of me or our baby and i also objected to abortion as this isnt something i wanna now lost depressed and confused and there is no way i can go back to africa with a baby without a dad.what am i hoing to evn tell my family as im totally neing disowned.get ontouch ok?

  7. As far as British Law concerns if children are illegitimate they take their mother’s nationality whether British or foreign. In Britain illegitmate children have no automatic rights to their father’s estate or nationality so therefore Britain would not grant that nationality status to a foreign national bearing the illegitimate child of a male British National.

    Even if the father agrees to being named on the birth certificate if the parents aren’t married the child is illegitimate.

    I aint going to change anytime soon so get used to it.

    1. im in the same boat i was born here never left ive been told so many things to do still no passport im 28 and my parents did not marry but i know my father my two older sisters have a British passport and the rest of us 5 siblings dont so no family holidays no school trips unless we pay 631 each my nan died and i couldnt go ive been told to do a dna by passport office then to be told no waste of money ive had bad depression as ive watched people leave me behind now im trying to find the first 5 years of my life which is proving to be hard from 5 i have before then no joy as paper system just feels like theres no justice for us

    2. That is very mean of you, do you honestly think that anyone would want to be in that situation, this is unfair for a country that preaches oneness, and should be stopped, not in this age and time, this country is heading for doom if this is not stopped because this children will grow up having this feeling that can lead to hatred for the country and will fight back,
      you deserve to be stoned for saying that if it were to be in the old days.

    3. “I aint going to change anytime soon so get used to it.”


      Thankfully, the law has changed now which shows that people with your sorry opinions do not matter anymore.

  8. I wonder why its not okay to stay and use the mother’s nationality why is it imperative to get British Nationality! By the way UK nationality/citizenship doesn’t exist its British for those that seem to want to seek it perhaps you need to work out what it is first before you try to get it.

    1. Sammy,
      The problem is not only the British Nationality. We’re not opportunists trying to take advantage. The term “illegitimate” child is discriminating. So what, is my sister more daughter than I am? Am I inferior? Everyone have a father and a mother, but because my parents were not married Britain denies him from the right of registering me as his daughter. The birth certificate issued on my country recognizes him as my father, but if I go to UK I will not be recognized the same way. This is humiliating. I really don’t care for passports, I just wanted this stigma to end.

  9. I agree with every word Ants said. I am also an “illegitimate” child and when I was a minor my father tried to register me several times, all of them were denied. My sister, however, was able to be registered. I would like to raise another point that I haven’t seen anyone talking about: this discriminating law opens breach to british men not carry out their duties related to the child, since many of them don’t consider he/she their childs. Nevertheless, in my country (Brazil) all children are treated the same way no matter if the father is married or not to the mother, and if he doesn’t carry out his legal and financial obligations to the child, he goes to jail. I know a few fathers in this situation who had to turn themselves to lawyers so they could be free. I hope Bristish Government is aware of what kind of behaviour this law encourages.

  10. The law does discriminate, no doubt. But politics and consequential legislation is rarley about fairness. But the UK law does allow for registration of illegitimate children of a British father, quote (GUIDE MN1 REGISTRATION AS A BRITISH CITIZEN – A GUIDE ABOUT THE REGISTRATION OF CHILDREN UNDER 18) :

    “We may normally register the illegitimate minor child, born before 1 July 2006, of a British
    citizen father under section 3 (1) if the criteria at a-c. (and, if appropriate, d.) below are all
    a. We are satisfied about the paternity of the child; and
    b. We have the consent of all those with parental responsibility; and
    c. If the child had been born to the father legitimately:
    i. the child would have had an automatic claim to British citizenship; or
    ii. the child would have had an entitlement to registration under either section
    1 (3), section 3 (2) or sections 3 (5); or
    iii. we would normally have registered under 3 (1). And, if appropriate
    d. There is no reason to refuse on character grounds

  11. my daughther was born feb 1, 2006.. just few months before july 1, 2006. is there any considerations to this..

  12. my husbands son born in belize was just refused a passport as his mom and dad was not married he was born before 2006 but my step son has his fathers name on his birth paper and has the same name only jr added to it i mean why give a child the same name as you if its not your child and sign the birth certifficate.when my step son told me why they refused him i said NO way they cant say that its discrimination but looking on line i found out they can its so wrong all he wants to do is spend time with us in england be with his dad and half brother and sister.and to top it of they charged us a lot of money to insult us.

  13. I am not happy with this law: my daughter born in 2004 does not get a British nationality whereas my son born in 2008 does. Their father is British but we are not married.

  14. I also came up against this issue recently, I am a British citizen and my daughter was born in 1995 so now she is over 18 and will be applying as an adult for British citizenship by descent.

    Her mother is an Australian citizen and we are not married but in a defacto relationship.

    I was confused at first by the rules about unmarried parents but after doing some research this is what I have discovered.

    The rule only appears to apply when the child was born in country that classifies the birth as illegitimate, If the country makes no legal distinction between unmarried or married and does not use the legal term illegitimate it’s not a problem and all that is required is proof of paternity (usually a birth certificate with the fathers name on it will suffice).

    Australia falls into that category and so my daughter is entitled to British Citizenship by descent even though we (her parents) are not married.

    A document from the British government explaining the legal technicalities and listing which countries do or don’t comply can be found here…

    1. Thats exactly what I thought but when I applied for my daughters British passport here In Australia (sent for NZ for processing), I read that document you mentioned and thought I had it was all covered, as I am listed on the Birth Certificate as the father back in 1996 when she was born in Australia. Her application was rejected on the grounds that in the Commonwealth Marriage Act of 1961 the term Illegitimate is still used , and this being an Australian Federal Law , consequently is the Law that they must follow (not State laws which do not use the term any more) My daughters British Passport was rejected and I lost almost $300 in fees (Sept 2013) So be careful what you read as it can be very confusing and may lead as in my case to a lot of disappointment and loss of monies. (I also hold Irish passport and my daughter got her Irish passport easily as long as I was on the Birth Cert. there was no problem unlike the British they do not discriminate between children both before or after 2006 , its just one rule for everyone)

      1. Paul, which documents have you provided? did you have to fill in any domicile questionnaire?

    2. Hey, I am in the same situation as your daughter.

      I applied for a passport under the assumption that I was already a British Citizen but was denied.

      Just wondering if your daughter had any luck getting a british passport or if she had to get a citizenship first??

    3. Kevin, I am aware of this document and that I fit it (I was born in Brazil, no discrimination among children born in or out of wedlock whatsoever). Nevertheless, I have never heard of anyone that successfully got citizenship this way (maybe because there are only a few cases?). Have you heard of anyone in this situation??

  15. This is ridiculous. If you have a child born after 2006 then citizenship passes through the blood line, nromally and humanely and no matter if your parents were married, but before 2006 passes only through the marital line.

  16. Just want to ask, Im filipina and i had a son his father is british, and the father already acknowledge my son, My son already used his father name, what my child benefits for that? i mean like is he can get a british passport? just want to know his right.. thank you

    1. I have sam situation with you, i want to know the benefits of my child also, as i didnt talk or communication to his father for a year now, so planning to get him a british passport, but my problem is he is still minor, i dunno if it possible for me to go also with my son? Hope someone can answer our concerns..

  17. This is totally insane.This law makes no sense to me.why childten to british fathers born abroad out of wedlock can have british nationality.Theu must make fair rules .only children born after july 2006 can apply that is so unlawful and unfair.

      The problem is the fee with is around £950

      GOOD LUCK!!

  18. GREAT NEWS!!! I have just spoken to Baroness Lister who has forwarded me the document we have all been waiting for. To be honest, I’m bursting at the moment. Here is the link…

    Yes…this IS what you think it is. I have asked Lady Lister to table a question to Mr. Brokenshire to clarify when the new provisions will be implemented. She will get back to me when she hears from him.
    It seems our VERY LONG WAIT is finally coming to an end. Please make a special note that it was Lord Avebury who brought this forward and fought for this horrible wrong to be made right. Please take the time to let him know what this means to you because, like me, I’m sure his common sense and hard work is going to change your life too.

  19. In addition to what Stephen states above, despite the recent change to the law by way of the Immigration Act 2014, Section 65. If you are an adult applying for registration by descent from any of the British Dependancies i.e. Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands and Dependencies, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, St Helena and Dependencies, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Virgin Islands, you are likely to continue to encounter denial/refusal discrimination issues if you cannot show that your father was ever physically lived/settled i.e. had permission from the UK government for a period over 5 years to reside in the UK. The Home Office in their application of past and present laws, still have grounds to refuse. If you encounter such issues in your application with the Home Office, let Lord Avebury, or Baroness Lister, and your local MP know by email. He is working to submit a further amendment to the law to correct this issue. The Home Office, as usual, don’t wish to exercise any discretion in the interim. I would also recommend getting a solicitor. A firm in London called Wesley Gryk have already been active in this area. If you live in one of the dependancies, you again, should contact your government representatives to complain, and get yourself a good attorney.

  20. Hi, in the light of the above Section 65, would an illegitimate child (of a British father and non-British mother, born overseas before 1 July 2006, positive DNA test ordered by British Court available, father is not named on the birth certificate, both child and mother RESIDE OVERSEAS) be allowed to be registered as a British Citizen?

    In the past, the reply from Home Office was that it is not allowed as the child is not resident in the UK.

    Many thanks for any help!

    1. It get’s complicated, and the new law is focused on parents born in and who are settled in the UK. Contact Wesley Gryk Solicitors in London, SE1. +44 20 7401-6887. Contact name: Elizabeth Ruddick. She and her team have already done work on behalf of children born where parents are British citizens from British Dependancies Territories. You can also write to Lord Avebury, c/o House of Lord, London SW1, to let him know of your issues. The Home Office (in may case0 feel my application would fail, due to the fact that my father must show he was settled in the UK.

  21. It is an unfair category to find oneself. All of my half siblings all qualified and got their British Passport early on in life leaving me and my siblings feeling like outcasts and illegitimates by the law and within the family status quo – it really messes up your view of life from an early age. I am also going to write to Lord Avebury in hopes that something can be done to change this stance on the idea of what constitutes an “illegitimate” child. It’s almost 2015, surely outdated ideas of prejudice cannot be allowed to continue or be tolerated.

  22. To Trent:

    Spoke to two firms of solicitors. The answer from first was: yes, your child will be entitled to be registered as a UK citizen because the new Section 65 does not say anywhere that the child has to be resident in the UK. The other one was paralegal and did not know much. Does anyone know? Trent, i never in my life contacted a Lord. I am not a UK citizen, do you think it is OK for me to contact a Lord??

    1. Yes, of course you can contact any member of the House of Lords and make them aware of a matter. The changes to the law don;t appear to encompass people from British Overseas Territories, they appear to be centered on people living in the UK. My legal advice from a solicitor in London clearly states the opposite. Lord Avebury and Baroness Lister are two that I know of who have already asked questions of the government on this matter. I think until the UK has its general election, not much will be done. Further legislation is going to be needed to include the terrotories. I know the ILPA (Immigration Lawyers Practitioners Association) in London is also involved in this area. They help craft advice & recommendations to the government and fellow attorneys.

      1. Hi Guys… I too have been following up on the New Section section 65 of the IA 2014 which will add new Sections 4F – 4i to the BNA 1981, although this section has not been commenced. I am gaining the understanding that CUKC’s born in a British Colony i.e. Antigua or St. Kitts Before independence should be able to benefit from this provision if their Father, as A CUKC resident in the UK for 5 years or more (Section 2-1-c IA 1971) and became and that father would have become a British Citizen under (Section 11) BNA 1981. I assume these provisions would have made for the CUKC child born outside the UK to have acquired the Right of Abode from the father even if they have not live in the UK before 1983 because the father was settled there… Also Section 1 Subsection 5 of the IA 1971 was not repealed until 1988. look it up.

  23. Hello,
    My name is Samantha Honebon, I am the daughter of a Brazilian married to a British, my parents got married in England (Dorset – Weymouth) in 1986. At the time the doctors said that my mother was not pregnant, it would be a fibroid, then decided to have me in Brazil, i was born in April 1988 with a month of life returned to England where I studied and lived until I was 5 years old (Dorset – Dorchester), after that my parents separated (but not in the office, are still married) and my mother came to live in Brazil. My father’s name is Donald Reginald Ivor Honebon, he was born in January 1934, is a retired engineer of the British Navy (where part of a war that can not remember, but it has an ulcer in the leg by a bomb had burst near it). I have all orignais documents: marriage certificate in England my parents, my birth certificate of Brazil (I only have the last name of my father HONEBON), NHS number, British vaccination card, baptism card in Dorchester, and the birth certificate of my father I asked the dorset for you. I want to take my British citizenship, I know I am entitled by descent but read that for my father was “crown service”, I already have the nationality, it is true? If you do not or how can we do? You provide this kind of advice?

  24. Good Evening,

    I was born in 1992 to unmarried parents my father is British and my mother is Ugandan.

    I have made an application for a British passport as I was very unaware of all of this..

    I had no clue that my British passport may be denied.

    They have had my application for 12 weeks now and I am worried. Is there a possibility to appeal a decision.

    Surely they are not allowed to discriminate like this..?

  25. At: Balzam:
    Here’s an extract of the legal advice:
    “Children of British subjects from certain overseas territories will be excluded from Section 41. This is because Section 41 is drafted in such a way that it suggests it only applies to those who would, had their parents had been married, have become British citizens at the date of the commencement of the British Nationality Act on 1 January 1983. If they would have been British Dependent Territories citizens on 1 January 1983, rather than British citizens, Section 41 does not appear to apply. This is in spite of the fact that British Dependent Territories citizens did automatically become British citizens at a later date, namely when the British Overseas Territories Act came into force in 2002.” It’s a complicated mine field when it comes to children (now adults form the Crown Dependancies. I have been told, in my case, my application would not be helped by Section 65.

  26. my name is an .my father become british citizen in 2001.I was born brother was born in2007.hi is a british this right?

  27. I have victim of this law as well. Born 1988 Canadian to an British unmarried Father. Unfair.

  28. Hello all,
    I have been following this story for a while now and finally my prayers have been answered, they changed the law!

    Now I know you could start to apply from April 6 so just want to find out if anyone has done it yet? and how did the process go..
    I fall under the 4G category and only have to pay the ceremony fees, but I live in Denmark so where would i have to go for a ceremony?

    Please if anyone could share their application story that would be really appreciated 🙂

    1. I made the ukf application in April. Fee was taken in May and biometric was done in May.
      But it is 5 months and 12 days now no response from HO. Called and was told because it’s a new form. So it is taking longer than expected.
      It is not a straight forward application at all.

  29. My mum was born in Cape Town in the 1930s. Her parents: British Naval Engineer (father). her mum was born in Cape Town in 1903 to British Parents.
    Cape Town was at the time a commonwealth country. Her mum spent many years in the UK and is classified on ships passenger lists as a British Citizen.
    My mum was illegitimate and her father paid maintenance while he was in the Royal Navy. There is nothing about my mum which is not British.
    Can she get British Citizenship: NO
    My dad on the other hand had a Welsh father and a German mother who were married. Does he have British Citizenship: YES
    She is now in her late 70’s and would love to be able to apply for and get her birthright confirmed by having British Citizenship.

  30. Still lots of discrimination for unmarried British mothers, and the ones who hold ILR some of them living in UK for the last 40 years, who applying for they siblings.
    the diference paying £1000 for application MN1
    and UKF etc and Ordinary application paying around
    £50. absolutely disgusting
    Can anybody tell me whats going on???


  31. Still lots of discrimination for unmarried British mothers, and the ones who hold ILR some of them living in UK for the last 40 years, who applying for they siblings.
    the diference paying £1000 for application MN1
    and UKF etc and Ordinary application paying around
    £50. absolutely disgusting
    Can anybody tell me whats going on???
    PS I haven’t comment it before!


  32. I am a male British Citizen whom has a child with a Filipino Citizen in.2016. I am applying for British passport for my child but at the time of birth my partner was still married. Annulment is expensive and can take years to finalise in Philippines.

    Will my.child be tefused a British passport on the grounds that my partner was married at the time of my childs birth?

    1. Hi Fred.

      We are in the same situation. I a, a Filipina, previously married to a British Citizen, we got married in the Philippines but we are not yet annuled and we are not yet divorced. I met my current partner to whom I have a son with and I stumbled upon this thread. A also wonder for the same as on the requirements they want us to submit a certificate of non impediment which goes for ladies or gents that is single or a divorce/annulment paper. Since i don’t have either I am just so confused on what i will do. I just want my son to have his birth right.

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