A passport from which country? Your child's country of birth - which, I suppose, is where you are now - or your native country? What entitlement does your child have to a passport from either of these countries? The laws and regulations may vary from one country to the next and could change at any time, so do investigate and don't take anything for granted.
My daughter was born in Mexico, I’m British and her dad – my husband – is Mexican. Because of me, she has the right to a British passport.
I was never sure if she was automatically a British citizen from birth or whether you’re only a citizen once you have the official documents to prove it. I suspect that may be the case.
My main worry was that, what with immigration regulations becoming ever stricter, at any moment the rules could change. Perhaps there might come a time when just having a British mother would no longer give her an automatic right to British citizenship. So I wanted to make sure she had her UK passport as soon as possible, just in case.
How do you go about applying for your child’s first British passport when you live abroad and your child wasn’t born in the UK? What documents do you need and where do you make the application?
I'm no expert but I thought I’d write here about my experience so hopefully this post will be useful for you too if you’re about to start the whole passport application process or are wondering how to do it.
It then took about TWO WEEKS from sending our application off to the UK passport office for them to process it and send Emma’s shiny new passport back to us! I could hardly believe it. All that time I let it niggle away at the back of my mind and when it came down to it, the whole thing was so quick and simple!
So, how do you apply for your child’s first British passport from abroad?
Follow these steps:
1. Check on the website for the procedure for the country you are in and your exact situation – what documents do you need? How much is the application fee plus the courier fee (for sending you the passport and returning your documents)?
- Go to https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports and answer the questions for your child using the drop down menus. This will take you to a page giving information on how long the application will take, the cost of the application and courier fee. There is a link to the online application form, but first check the supporting documents and guidelines. In fact, I would advise getting all your documents together and ready to send off as this could take a few weeks, and then filling in the online form. Once you complete the online application form and make the payment you have a limited time (90 days) to send your supporting documents.
- Download the Supporting Documents Table – it’s probably a good idea to print it out and highlight the parts that apply to you as it is a bit confusing just looking at it on screen.
- Download and read the Guidelines
- Save the page and come back to it when you’re ready to make the application.
2. Take into account how much you will need to spend. Apart from the online application and courier fee there is also the cost of getting documents certified by a Notary, the cost of translations and passport photos. Don’t forget you will have to send all the documents by courier to the UK.
3. Get the documents you need certified by a Notary. In our case it was my daughter’s and my husband’s birth certificates, both Mexican.* It wasn’t necessary to certify the proof of address documents.
4. Any documents that are not in English need to be translated into English. I took the certified copies of the two birth certificates and my proof of address documents to be translated. The translations must be done by an official translator – I searched online and found a list of official translators in Querétaro with their contact details, called as many as possible to ask their prices and went with the cheapest.
5. Get the photos taken. Check the rules for passport photos for specific details about what is and isn’t permitted – there are some small differences between children’s and adults’ photos - and make sure the photographer understands. Print out the guidelines to show the photographer if in doubt. I didn’t do this and probably confused the photographer with my rambling explanation as the photos I got back were no good at all (a whole section of hair and part of an ear chopped off!) so we had to go and get another set of photos taken, with a different photographer.
6. Decide who your counter-signatory will be. It could be someone back in the UK or in the country where you are now. You can find comprehensive information about who can and can’t be your counter-signatory at the following link:
7. Go back to the website and complete the online application form, make the payment, note down your username and password and print it out.
8. Sign your part of the printed form; the counter-signatory has to complete and sign the other half.
9. Double check all the documents – make a list of what you’re including and check them off against the required documents.
10. Send everything via courier service to the address of the passport office in the UK (which is on the form you printed out). You have 90 days from when you made the online payment to get all your papers sent to the passport office.
You can check up on the progress of your application with your username and password from the online application.
You can also call the passport office if you have any doubts – I called them a few times with queries about my documents while I was getting them all together and they were quite helpful.
Passport Office Telephone: +44 (0) 300 222 0000
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm (UK time)
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, 9am to 5:30pm (UK time)
You should receive two separate courier envelopes; one returning all your documents to you and the other containing the new passport.
In our case, the passport arrived first, only about two or three weeks after sending all the documents, so I was sure the application was being rejected. I opened the large courier envelope with a sinking feeling and when I saw the shiny new passport inside I could hardly believe it! I was so relieved and overjoyed!
I very excitedly told Emma, who had just turned three at the time, that now she was British. She caught my mood but obviously didn’t quite understand the implications and replied, “Yay! I’m not Emma anymore, I’m British!”
Don’t bother contacting your embassy or consulate as the passport application has nothing to do with them so they probably won’t be able to help, or will just refer you to the website.
I don’t know about other countries, but at least in Mexico the Notary will give you the option of either getting a certified copy of your documents or getting them “apostilled”. According to them, the “apostille” is to make your document internationally recognised and is used for international applications. We only had the certified copies – as specified in the list of documents – so I called the passport office just to be sure. They told me that the certified copy was fine, they weren’t even sure what an apostille was! So we just used the certified copies with their official translations and there was no problem with that.
At first I was worried about who I could get to countersign the photos since it has to be someone with ideally a British passport, who has known me (not my daughter) for at least two years, who is not related to me by blood or marriage and is of “good standing in the community” – or a member of one of a long list of professions (which sounds rather antiquated to me, but never mind). Nobody I know personally here in Mexico fits all of those criteria. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to have someone living in the UK countersign, so I phoned the passport office to ask them. They told me that I could, which solved the problem. Instead of sending all our documents directly to the Passport Office, I sent them to my parents first, who arranged for one of the neighbours (who does fit all of the above criteria) to countersign the photos. They then sent everything to the Passport Office.
Proof of address documents
I was originally going to send a bank statement as my proof of address as it was in my name. Later, when I checked more carefully the information about what could be used as proof of address, bank statements weren’t mentioned. It does give as an example “A letter sent to you by a central, regional or local government department” so I thought of the water bill, which does come from a local state government department. It’s in my husband’s name, not mine, but he was part of the application so that was accepted. I had to go back to the translator and get this extra document translated at the last minute! Maybe they would have accepted the bank statement but I wanted to be sure.
You don’t need to provide a marriage certificate if the passport is for a child born after 2006, so we didn’t.
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I hope all this information reaches someone who might benefit from it – if you’re reading this and know anybody who is going to start this application process, please pass it on to them. All the links should also save some time searching for the right pages.
Here is the QUICK REFERENCE CHECKLIST as a brief summary and reminder of the whole process:
1. Check all the information on the website https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports
2. Investigate and work out how much it will all cost.
3. Get foreign documents certified by a Notary.
4. Get official translations of any documents that are not in English.
5. Get passport photos taken.
6. Make online application and payment. Make a note of your username and password.
7. Get a countersignatory (who fulfills all the requisites) to sign the back of the photos and complete the second half of the printed out application form.
8. Double-check all documents.
9. Send by courier to the UK Passport Office (address is on the application form you printed out.
Please let me know if you found this post useful, or if you have any additional or alternative information! Maybe you've already been through the whole process and had a completely different experience. If you have any doubts you can contact me – leave a comment here, send me an email or leave a message on any of my social media platforms and I’ll do my best to help - or just call the Passport Office.
All the best,