Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

About being British

I was browsing Wikipedia and came across an article on the British Nationality Law, which it calls arguably the world's most complex nationality laws.

Reading the article made me think about the nationality of my children. If I read it correctly, my children will be "British Overseas Citizens", rather than "British Citizens" as I am, since I have British citizenship only by descent (I wasn't born in the UK) and cannot, therefore, pass on my citizenship. However, it appears that I may be able to register my children as British Citizens before their eighteenth birthday (Some persons are eligible for registration as citizens automatically, but this registration must be done before their eighteenth birthday: […] children not born in the UK of citizens by descent).

I'll have to discuss with Stella which nationality she wants to give our children: whether she wants to have them English, German, or both. (If they are also German, though, there may be problems acquiring full British citizenship, according to my limited understanding of the situation: The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 has also granted British Overseas Citizens, British Subjects and British Protected Persons the right to register as British citizens if they do not hold and have not intentionally renounced another citizenship.)

However, if they are German citizens, they would also have the right of abode in the UK by virtue of being EU citizens. So we'll have to see. But having Germans called "Newton" seems a bit strange; on the other hand, I don't know how successful I'll be in passing on my first language to my children, and having British Citizens who speak English badly and who have German as their first language is also a bit strange.

ETA: Hm, this Britishness test I've just read about may throw a bit of a spanner in the works. (More information at

ETA 2: Hm. It seems that any child born of at least one German parent is a German national. Interesting.

ETA 3: This page (in German or in English) clarifies things a bit: Children born in Germany of foreign parents will, provided certain prerequisites are fulfilled, acquire German nationality from birth. They must however decide between the ages of 18 and 23 years, whether they want to retain their German nationality or the nationality of their parents. … The principle of the avoidance of multiple nationality still marks the law on nationality. Those applying for naturalization must in principle give up their foreign nationality. However in contrast to previous legislation, there are generous exceptional rules which allow the previous nationality to be retained.

This page from the US Embassy in Germany, on the other hand, is a bit vague: As a general rule, a child born to a German citizen parent automatically acquires German citizenship at birth through jus sanguinis, regardless of the place of birth. There are exceptions under present law, however, and have been many in the past. For more information about how German citizenship may be transmitted by a German parent, please contact your local Staatsangehörigkeitsbehörde (or Standesamt, in some parts of Germany). But then, later, Under German law, a person may not have more than one citizenship unless he/she was born with both. And, further, For more information about these and other responsibilities of citizenship, please contact the Embassy, your nearest consulate, or your local Staatsangehörigkeitsbehörde (or Standesamt).

According to a page of the British High Commission-Canada, it seems that registration is done in the UK when you go to live there.

This page says that Persons falling into these categories may be registered as British citizens if they have lived in the United Kingdom lawfully for five years; the twelve months preceding the application must be of continuous residence. British Overseas Citizen […].

This site has information on the German side of things. has the text of the law; has a summary.

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