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. In 2018, parliament adopted a law to permit dual citizenship for the first time,

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.