British Passport : The Rules of Eligibility

Having and holding a passport instills a sense of belonging and creates a sense of nationality with the country you are born or living in. Your passport also enables you to travel the world using a commonly accepted form of identification.

While many adults in the UK will have a passport already, they might not have the experience or understanding of how to get a first British passport, either for their child or someone moving to live in the UK.

Applicants are eligible for a British Passport if they are confirmed British by birth, descent or naturalisation. To explain what this means, at Passports Office we have come up with a guide to make things a bit simpler:

British by birth

For those born in the UK, gaining a British passport is exceedingly simple. If you are British by birth, you will be required to enclose your birth certificate with your application. This proof of birth in the UK is all the passports officials need to certify your eligibility. This only needs to be done once, for your first passport.

You are automatically eligible for a passport in the country of your birth. This can mean that British families have children who hold Italian or American passports along with their British one.

However, not all countries allow dual citizenship (the UK does), so make sure to check you can use two passports simultaneously in case you are forced to give up one or the other.

British by descent

British by descent refers to the passport applicant's lineage. If you were not born in the UK, but one or both of your parents were, then you are eligible for a British passport and can apply to become a British citizen by descent.

To prove that your parents are British, and therefore so are you, you must include one or both of your parents' passport details on your application form. Once the officials confirm this to be true they can approve your passport.

If you are not born in the UK, and your parents weren't either, you have to look a generation further back to prove British eligibility. If neither your parents or grandparents have been born in the UK, you are not automatically eligible by descent.

In order to get a British passport in this situation, you will need to have naturalization documents or go through the naturalization process itself.

Naturalized Citizen

The naturalization process requires you to qualify under certain, specific, government criteria based on your life in the UK and connection to it.

You will be able to gain citizenship if you are married or civil partnered to a person who is a British citizen.
If you are not married to or the civil partner of a UK resident then the decision of your naturalization will be assessed based on areas such as:

sufficient knowledge of the UK - of which there is a formal exam,
living in the UK and plan to continue living here, and have been in the country for at least 5 years.

Additional factors include to amount of time you have spent out of the UK during the time you have been living here, which are outlined in a Home Office Naturalization Booklet.

Need more information?

Talk to the Passport Office team

Call Passport Advice Line

Lines open 8am-8pm

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