THE LEGISLATIVE REFORM (OVERSEAS REGISTRATION OF
BIRTHS AND DEATHS) ORDER 2014
FCO responses to questions from the Regulatory Reform
Q1) Approximately how many overseas births and
deaths are registered each year?
In 2012 we registered 6,194 births overseas. The
number of registrations has gone down every year since 2009, when
we registered 9,684 births. We generally register around 550 deaths
overseas per year, although in 2012 we only registered 329 deaths.
We won't have 2013 figures until mid 2014 when the General Register
Office (GRO) will have collated returns sent from our overseas
Q2) What are the main reasons why people choose
to register an overseas birth or death? What advantages does it
offer compared to a local registration?
Registration is not required. It is an optional service
available to all those born overseas who have an entitlement at
birth to British nationality.
A local birth certificate, with a certified translation
where necessary, is generally sufficient for all purposes in the
UK, including supporting an application for a passport. A consular
birth registration does not confer British nationality onto a
child, nor does it take the place of a local birth certificate.
In some cases parents like a consular birth or death registration
certificate as it is an instantly recognisable British document
that can be helpful in the UK. In some countries dual nationality
is not allowed and some people obtain a consular birth registration
rather than a passport. In a number of countries in the Middle
East, a local birth certificate cannot be issued to an illegitimate
child meaning that it cannot obtain health care or education.
A consular birth registration can assist in cases such as this.
There is no UK legal requirement for a consular death
registration, and one is not necessary for transporting a body
or disposal overseas. There is no reason why banks, lawyers etc
in the UK should not accept a local death certificate with certified
translation, but in some cases next of kin like a consular death
registration certificate as it is an instantly recognisable British
document that can be helpful in the UK to wind up the deceased's
Q3) Approximately what proportion of overseas
birth and death registrations are made in person and what proportion
We estimate that approximately 70% of registrations
are made over the counter in our Posts overseas. In recent years
the FCO has encouraged customers to use courier or postal services,
which has generally been welcomed by customers.
Q4) Approximately how long does the current process
take (from the initial application being made to receipt of the
certificate)? Does the FCO expect that the new registration process
will be quicker, about the same or slower?
Once a straightforward and properly completed birth
application has been received by a consular Post our target it
to process it in 5 days. Our target for death registrations is
3 days. In some countries the certificate can then be collected
in person, or it is returned by post or courier. Where further
checks are required e.g. on the supporting documentation, the
processing time can be considerably longer depending on the nature
of the checks we need to make on the documents. The actual processing
time of applications submitted to the central unit (Overseas Registration
Unit) will also be 5 or 3 working days. However, the overall timing
will be longer as documents will be sent to and from the central
unit by international courier or post. Transit times will depend
on the geographical location of the customer. Whereas transit
times will increase, there will be a gain for those customers
who would have travelled to the nearest consulate to lodge their
application and then to collect the document.
Q5) What costs are incurred by applicants under
the current system, and under the proposed new system?
Under the current scheme:
The fee for administering an application for the
registration of a birth or death is £105. The fee for issuing
each certified copy of the registration is £65. Some customers
also incur travel or postal costs, depending on where they are
resident and how they apply.
Under the proposed new scheme:
We do not intend to change the current fees for the
first year of the proposed new system as we will need to establish
base line operating costs. It is our intention in future years
to adjust downwards the cost of the service to more closely reflect
the actual cost of providing it.
Once the new Overseas Registrations Unit is set up,
all customers will need to cover postal/courier fees.
Q6) Do FCO staff currently provide help to applicants
with questions about the registration process and/or supporting
documentation required? Where else is information about the current
We believe that the information provided on-line
at https://www.gov.uk/register-a-birth and https://www.gov.uk/register-a-death
is comprehensive and clearly written and the presence of counter
staff to assist is a "nice to have" rather than an essential
part of providing information to customers. In line with the Government's
Digital by Default strategy we are moving transactional services
such as the birth and death registration service away from a face
to face service to an on-line service. We will redesign the current
web pages to reflect the changes to the services that we are making
and will ensure that information remains clear and concise and
that there will be a "contact us" email address.
Q7) How will applicants find out about the proposed
Information will be given on the "register a
birth/death abroad" pages of the gov.uk website, where customers
currently find details of how to register a birth or death. The
FCO will provide information to Posts overseas with a request
that they publicise the changes to the British community resident
in their country. Additionally, the FCO will publicise the changes
using Twitter (the FCO account has over 50,000 thousand followers).
Q8) What support and help will be provided to
applicants under the proposed new procedure?
Customers will e-mail scanned copies of their applications
and supporting documents to the Overseas Registration Unit. Trained
staff will then make a pre-assessment to ensure that the applicant
does have a claim to British nationality, and that the list of
supporting documents is complete. The officer dealing with the
application will then contact the applicant and advise on what
original documents to send to the central unit, and whether any
additional supporting documents are required. This will also mean
that the applicant has a named point of contact dealing with the
application which he/she can then contact for any further help
Q9) What will be the procedure for applicants
without internet access?
In these cases we will allow the registration to
be made at our Post in the country concerned, for forwarding to
the Overseas Registration Unit for processing. Given the fact
that consular birth/death registrations are an optional and low
volume service, and very rarely urgent or time-sensitive, we anticipate
that we will only need to assist in a small number of exceptional
Q10) Our understanding is that consular registration
of an overseas birth or death of a British National is entirely
optional, and nothing in the proposals would affect this. Is this
This is correct. Registration is not required. It
is an optional service available to all those born overseas who
have an entitlement at birth to British nationality. A local birth
certificate, with a certified translation where necessary, is
generally sufficient for all purposes in the UK, including supporting
an application for a passport.
Q11) Consular registration of an overseas birth
or death does not confer nationality, and nothing in the proposals
would affect this. Is this correct?
This is correct. A registration does not confer British
nationality onto a child, nor does it take the place of a local
We will include a disclaimer on the consular birth
certificate explaining that the certificate is neither a certificate
of identity, nor does it give British nationality: "This
copy of the consular birth registration is not a UK birth
certificate and should not be used as one. It does not replace
the original birth certificate issued by the authorities in the
country in which the birth took place. It is not a certificate
of identity. A person does not acquire British nationality by
virtue of having a consular birth registration".
Q12) In issuing a passport or other document that
confers British nationality or a right of residence, does consular
registration of an overseas birth or death mean that certain checks
to determine whether the applicant qualifies are bypassed, and/or
automatically determined to be met? If so, which tests?
No. British nationality is a matter of law and neither
Ministers nor officials have the power to vary its provisions.
If it is discovered that an error has been made we are obliged
to withdraw consular birth registration from any person found
not to be entitled to one.
Responsibility for determining nationality for a
UK passport application is the responsibility of HMPO. A consular
official registering an overseas birth or death assesses each
application on its merits, taking into account supporting documentation
provided by the customer (including child's full local birth certificate;
British national parent's full birth certificate; British parent's
passport; parents' marriage certificate). As explained in Q11,
a consular birth registration does not confer British nationality
and does not substitute any checks that HMPO conduct when issuing
a passport. It should be noted that obtaining a passport in itself
does not confer British nationality.
Q13) As we understand it, there is currently no
requirement for personal attendance by the applicant at the relevant
overseas Post in order to register an overseas birth or death,
and this situation would remain unchanged under the proposals.
Is this correct?
As explained in Q3, around 70% of registrations overseas
are made in person. This is a matter of local policy overseas,
and personal attendance may be required, for example if the customer
has to pay for the registration in cash. Where our Posts do not
ask for personal attendance they do ask for more documentation
in support of an application overseas than local registration
officers do in the UK, e.g. we ask for the British passport(s)
which we can check against the passport database. Under the proposals,
all applications will be made online without personal attendance.
Q14) How many cases of erroneous consular registrations
of overseas births and deaths is the Government aware of?
Known numbers of erroneously issued consular registrations
are small, but we are aware of a handful of incorrect overseas
registrations. We do not of course know how many registrations
have been made incorrectly but have not been detected. It is difficult
to estimate because it is often several years after registration
that any errors come to light. The GRO has told us that in 2011,
292 registrations made overseas were cancelled for a variety of
non specified reasons (we suspect that some have simply been spoiled
and not all will have been due to incorrect nationality determinations).
We have begun an investigation into possible incorrect nationality
determinations in one of our Posts. Establishing a central unit
would allow us to capture this type of information and manage
risk by providing consistent nationality determinations.
Q15) Is the number of erroneous registrations
expected to increase or decrease under the proposed centralised
Overseas Registration Unit? Why?
We anticipate that the number of erroneous registrations
would decrease. A central unit will enable us to form a central
point of excellence for nationality determinations, and be easier
to manage than an overseas network of some 130 Posts most of which
currently register a small number births and deaths.
Q16) How will the FCO ensure that the central
unit has sufficient expertise to undertake the necessary verification
checks on foreign documents? Will the central unit be able to
access specialist support from the relevant overseas Post if required?
Staff in the central Overseas Registration Unit will
assess applications against a Knowledge Pack. The Pack includes
basic information about local registration procedures and legislation,
current arrangements for dealing with applications, examples of
local civil status documents, local peculiarities, risk factors
etc. These knowledge packs have been produced by our overseas
Posts and will be read alongside similar documents that HMPO have
commissioned from posts for passport repatriation. The Unit would
examine the application and make an assessment using the risk
assessment and the Knowledge Packs. Where further checks were
considered necessary, the Unit would ask Posts to verify that
a local hospital had recorded a birth with specific parents on
a specific date and that these details matched local civil registration
Q17) Will applicants for consular birth and death
registration be required to submit original documents by post
to the central unit?
We will not require applicants to submit original
British passports as we can check details against HMPO's passport
database. We will require the child's original local birth certificate;
the passport and birth certificates of the British parent(s);
and the parents' marriage certificates, plus any other documentation
which we deem to be necessary to satisfactorily establish the
identity and nationality status of the parents and child (with
certified translations where necessary).
Q18) How will FCO address the risk of fraudulent
applications for consular registration of overseas births and
As explained in our answer to Q16, Overseas Registration
Unit staff will use information in Knowledge Packs when assessing
applications, and if necessary ask overseas posts to help verify
documents where necessary, particularly for applications from
countries which we assess as being high risk for fraudulent applications.
Q19) What is the status of the information technology
and databases that will underpin the proposed new central unit
and its handling of applications for registration of overseas
births and deaths?
The basic IT is already in place. Consular Directorate's
database (Compass) is used to record consular assistance cases
and has attributes and specialist records where birth and death
registrations can be recorded. We are upgrading Compass to enable
the system to keep all the records we have previously kept in
book registers and to enable the system to print certified copies
of all registrations. Compass' developer is currently working
on the upgrade and we expect this upgrade to be ready for system
testing ahead of centralising the service from April.
Q20) What are the differences between the process
for applying for consular birth and death registration overseas
and the application process within the UK?
The process for applying for a birth and death registration
is the responsibility of the GROs in England & Wales, Scotland
and Northern Ireland. Registration is informant-based: births
must be registered within 42 days of the child being born;
deaths should be registered within five days. Any child born and
registered in the UK will be issued with a UK birth certificate,
regardless of the child's nationality, and a UK death certificate
will be issued for anyone who dies in the UK.
A consular birth or death registration overseas is
an optional service, and there is no time limit for registration.
There is also a higher requirement for evidence of identity as
we restrict registration solely to individuals with a claim to
10 January 2014