The UK government has always given this right to the children of all (married) British fathers automatically but not always to the children of British mothers. My mother is English and therefore I should be eligible for British citizenship but up until recently this right was denied.
Last year (13 January 2010), the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 came into force which meant I was finally granted the right to claim British citzenship. Incredibly, it was only "a right to register as a British citizen" and I would also have to pay £540 to claim my British citizenship! This was absolutely outrageous since anyone born in the same circumstances after 1983, or at anytime to a (married) UK father, could simply complete a passport application without the need to register and without any fee.
I considered this path to citizenship to be unaccepable and I did not take up the offer to attain my British citizenship in this unfair way. There was a public outcry (quite rightly) from myself and many others about this blatant discrimination. Consequently, the law was amended in November 2010 and the application fee (which had actually gone up to £550 during the year!) was removed.
However, we still have to register and need to pay an administrative fee of £80 to cover the cost of a citizenship ceremony.*
As the law stands now the following two cases are exceptions to automatic British citizenship:
- Children born abroad before 1983 to British female citizens
- Children born before 2006 to unmarried British male citizens (and in fact they are even denied the right to register)
We still don't have 100% parity with the children of British father's! If my father had been British, citizenship would be automatic - no registration required, no fee at all and no ceremony!
It's unjustified discrimination.
*Registration and the citizenship ceremony is meant for those without a British parent. In other words, for foreigners who wish to become UK citizens.