What to do if a child is born during a voyage? What will be the child’s legal status?

child born during the voyage

Travelling has become common and some have made it as hobby. People want to travel all parts of the world and explore it. It’s very dangerous to travel a foreign land as a migrant or refugee. Pregnant women face greater challenges during travel on sea. There are cases to be found of babies to be born on middle of voyage.  Now a big question arises about the nationality of the child born during the voyage. Here we see how the babies born during the middle of voyage gets the citizenship of particular country by following all legal rules.

Case study

In old German coast guard vessel, a boy was born. His name was Alex Destine. After his birth, a question arises in international law about the citizenship of boy. At the time of his birth, the boat was heading towards Italian coast, it was not clear that they entered Italian territorial waters. Two international treaties related to this case

1. Convention on the reduction of statelessness – signed in 1961 and entered into force in 1975, states in third article as Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs 1 (b) and 2 of this Article, a child born in wedlock in the territory of a Contracting State, whose mother has the nationality of that State, shall acquire at birth that nationality if it otherwise would be stateless.[i]

2. UN Convention on the law of the sea

  • Article 91: Every State shall fix the conditions for the grant of its nationality to ships, for the registration of ships in its territory, and for the right to fly its flag. Ships have the nationality of the State whose flag they are entitled to fly. There must exist a genuine link between the State and the ship.
  • Article 94: Every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag[ii]

But, as often is the case, these treaties are not ratified by all States, including the United States concerning Convention for the Law of the Sea. International perspective, if a child is born in international waterways and the country recognises the principle of “Jus Soli”. The child to be born on the country, then he gets the nationality of that country. The child can also inherit the nationality of the parents, country which recognises “jus sanguinis”. Alex gets nationality of his parents.

Jus soli

It means “Right of the Soil”. The United States and some other parts of countries, follow the jus soli. When a person is born in territory of particular country, then the person has the right of nationality or citizenship. Jus soli is the most common means to acquire citizenship of that particular nation. Some countries have completely abolished this system.[iii]

Jus sanguinis

It means “Right of Blood”. The child gets the nationality acquired by one or both the parents. The child automatically becomes the citizen of the state where the parents has acquired the citizenship. This system is applicable to almost all states in the world. India follows this system for acquiring citizenship.[iv]

For instances, if both parents are Canadian citizens born outside Canada. Mom has Canadian citizenship, but she cannot pass that citizenship on to her children. Dad has Canadian citizenship but cannot pass it on to his children. If you’re born in Canada, then fine – everyone born in Canada has hold Canadian citizenship. But if the parents went on vacation or something and you were born at sea, you would have no citizenship at all.

In this case, the child was born during a voyage in Greece with parents of foreign nationality. The child gets the citizenship of Greece. Even the father claims the citizenship of Greece. Unless he did not satisfy the provisions of Greece, he cannot acquire Citizenship. If

  • the child was born in Greece and lives in Greece with parents of a foreign nationality who have themselves both lived legally and permanently in Greece for at least five consecutive years, as long as the parents jointly register the child in the public registry of the place of residence within three years after the birth of the child; or
  • the child is of foreign parents but has completed six years of attendance in a Greek school in Greece and lives legally and permanently in Greece, upon completion of six years of schooling and after a joint declaration and application by the parents.

India has not signed the convention on the reduction of statelessness. India is one of the parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. India has signed the convention on December 10, 1982. The agreement was made on July 29, 1994. A child, who is born in India during voyage, can acquire citizenship by satisfying the conditions in Citizenship Act, 1955. The person born in India on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, where―

  • Both of his parents are citizens of India; or
  • One of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.


The nationality was regulated by international laws, the child born during voyage. The child will get the citizenship of the country which follows jus soli or jus sanguinis. Some countries follow both the system. The person, who wants to acquire the citizenship of a country, must know the legal rules followed.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[i] https://www.unhcr.org/protection/statelessness/3bbb286d8/convention-reduction-statelessness.html

[ii] https://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/closindx.htm

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_soli

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_sanguinis

Shantha Gopika R
I'm Shantha Gopika R pursuing B.com;LLB (Hons) from SASTRA Deemed to be University. My areas of interest are company law, family law and property law. I am a good listener. I like to learn new languages and prefer to do research on various topics. I am fascinated by music and thriller series