You can apply for a British passport if you have British nationality. But there are some circumstances where your application can be refused or your existing passport can be retained.
When you can get or hold a British passport
You must have British nationality to apply for or hold a British passport.
Having British nationality doesn’t guarantee you a passport. For example, you may not get a new passport (or your existing passport may be taken from you) if:
- you’re suspected of a serious crime and an arrest warrant has been issued
- a court order stops you having a UK passport or restricts your travel
- you’re on bail and bail conditions mean you can’t leave the UK
- you’ve been brought back to the UK before at the government’s expense and haven’t repaid what you owe
- you’ve received a European Union or United Nations order which restricts your travel
A passport can also be cancelled or not renewed if it’s for a child and there’s a court order in place stopping the child from leaving the UK.
Your eligibility and entitlement to a British passport will be considered when you apply.
Passports belong to the government and can be cancelled or withdrawn at any time.
Types of British nationality
You can apply for a British passport if you’re a:
- British citizen
- British overseas territories citizen
- British overseas citizen
- British subject
- British national (overseas)
- British protected person
British citizenship - born in the UK before 1 January 1983
You became a British citizen on 1 January 1983 if both of the following were true:
- you were a citizen of the UK and Colonies
- you had the ‘right of abode’ in the UK
‘Right of abode’ means you:
- are entirely free from UK Immigration Control and don’t need permission from an Immigration Officer to enter the UK
- can live and work in the UK without restriction
This includes people who:
- were born in the UK
- were born in a British colony and had the right of abode in the UK
- have been naturalised in the UK
- had registered as a citizen of the UK and Colonies
- could prove legitimate descent from a father to whom one of these applies
British citizenship - born on or after 1 January 1983
Being born in the UK doesn’t automatically give you British citizenship.
If you were born on or after 1 January 1983, you will be a British citizen if your mother or father was either:
- a British citizen when you were born
- ‘settled’ in the UK when you were born
In most cases you will be a British citizen if your mother or father was born or naturalised in the UK.
If you were born before July 2006, your father’s British nationality will pass to you only if he was married to your mother at any time.
If your circumstances are more complicated, you can get more information on the UK Border Agency website.
Born outside the UK
You might still qualify for British citizenship depending on your circumstances - there’s more information on the UK Border Agency website.
If you’re a foreign national or Commonwealth citizen, you don’t automatically gain citizenship just because you live in the UK.
Citizenship through marriage or civil partnership
You automatically get British citizenship if you’re a non-British woman who married a British man before 1949.
Your nationality won’t change if you marry or enter a civil partnership with a British citizen under any other circumstances - you won’t automatically get British citizenship.
This includes where a non-British man marries a British woman - nationality never passes from a woman to a man when they get married.