Before Hong Kong return to China’s sovereignty, the UK government passed the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990, which allowed the Secretary of State to register as British citizens persons recommended to him for that purpose by the Governor of Hong Kong. The persons who obtained nationality through that Act were granted status of British citizens, while their spouses and children were granted the status of British citizens by descent.
Children born outside the United Kingdom to British citizens otherwise than by descent, are automatically entitled to British nationality by descent and can pursue a British passport without the need for any previous application for citizenship.
Children born outside the United Kingdom to British citizens by descent might be entitled to British nationality, nevertheless are required to apply for registration to confirm their entitlement. For children born outside the UK, the first step is to consider whether the person has an entitlement under section 3(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981, which gives British citizenship otherwise than by descent. If no entitlement arises from there, the next step is to consider whether there is an entitlement under section 3(2). Finally, if no entitlement exists, consideration must be drawn to an application under section 3(1).
The requirements for a child to be entitled to registration as a British citizen under section 3(5) are:
The requirements for a child to be entitled to registration as British citizens under section 3(2) are:
Registration under section 3(1) is more complex and relies entirely on the Secretary of State’s discretion. The Home Secretary may exercise their discretion to register people as British citizens under section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 if:
These are the only statutory requirements. It is possible to register a child under circumstances that would normally lead to the refusal of an application if this is justified in the particular circumstances of any case.
Equally, if there is good reason to do so, it is possible to refuse to register a child under circumstances that would usually lead to the grant of an application. In particular, the Home Secretary may refuse to grant a certificate where it would not be in the public interest to grant citizenship. This could be for reasons relating to their actions, behaviour, personal circumstances or associations such as family relationships.
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