Nationality in Malawi is determined by the 1966 Citizenship Act as amended most recently in 1992. The 1994 Constitution also provides for every child to have the right to a nationality, and that citizenship shall not be arbitrarily deprived or denied.

From 1971 until 1992, the Citizenship Act included a provision that citizenship from birth was restricted to those who have at least one parent who was not only a citizen of Malawi but was also “a person of African race”. This provision was deleted in 1992.  Malawi has preferential systems for registration as a citizen for those with a particular connection to Malawi, including stateless persons, with some conditions. Dual citizenship is not permitted, but there are proposals that this should be changed.

Malawi has one of the lowest rates of birth registration in Africa, at only 3 percent of under-fives. In 2009, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child welcomed news that a bill in Malawi would make registration of births mandatory; a new National Registration Act was adopted later that year, replacing legislation from 1904.  In 2012, a major initiative to improve birth registration was launched.