What are the Rules Governing British Citizenship for a Child Born in the UK?
Under British law, not all children born in the UK are automatically recognised as British citizens.
If your child was born in the UK, it will be important to understand how British citizenship works and whether your child holds British citizenship by birth or, alternatively, whether you are able to register their status on their behalf.
Automatic British citizenship for child born in UK?
If a child was born in the UK, whether they qualify as a British citizen will be determined by both their parents’ status in the UK.
Your child will automatically qualify as a British citizen where they were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time of their birth one of their parents was a British citizen or ‘settled’ in the UK.
To be considered ‘settled’, you have to be in the UK free from immigration conditions, for example, having been granted indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence status, ie; permission to live and work in the UK indefinitely.
If the child was born in the UK to parents who were neither British citizens nor settled in the UK, the child will not have acquired British citizenship by birth.
This means, for example, children born in the UK to non-British parents with limited leave to remain, such as a valid work visa, would not be born British. Likewise, children born to non-British parents who are in the UK unlawfully and in breach of immigration laws would also not automatically attain British citizenship.
However, the child may gain the right to be registered as British citizens once one of their parents is granted settled status.
Children who have automatically acquired British citizenship by birth do not need to be registered.
Children born in the UK may still have the right to apply to register as a British citizen where they satisfy either of the following criteria:
- The applicant is under 18 and since birth one of their parents became a British citizen, or got permission to stay in the UK permanently, or
- The applicant has lived in the UK until they were 10 years old or older.
Under 18’s born in the UK
Where your child is born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983, but they were not British citizens at birth because at the time neither you nor their other parent was a British citizen or settled here, an application can be made to register them as a British citizen if either one of you considered the UK as your home and became a British citizen or settled in the UK after the child was born but before they turn 18.
In other words, the child will have the right to be registered as a British citizen where either parent becomes a British citizen or settled in the UK while the child is still a minor, and they are a minor on the date of application.
Lived in the UK until aged 10
Where your child is born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and lived in the UK until they were aged 10 years old or more, again an application can be made to register them as a British citizen.
However, in most cases, the child must have spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in each of the first 10 years of their life. They must also pass the good character requirement, ie; they must not have a criminal conviction within the relevant sentence based threshold. By way of example, for a non-custodial offence, an application to register a child as a British citizen will normally be refused where this took place within the last three years.
Discretionary grounds for registration
Where a child may not qualify under the registration by entitlement, it may be possible to make an application to the Secretary of State to decide the case on discretionary grounds.
Such applications are processed under discretionary powers and as such, there are considerable grey areas about what could qualify. Take professional advice if you believe there are exceptional or particular reasons that could support a child registering as British.
How to register British citizenship for child born in UK
To register your child’s British citizenship, you will in most case need to make an application using Form MN1.
The application fee for under 18’s is £1,012 (as at October 2019). As part of the application process, you will also need to register their biometric information at an additional cost of £19.20.
Children under the age of 6 do not need to provide fingerprints but must have a digital photograph taken of their face. Further, children under the age of 16 years old will need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at their biometric enrolment appointment.
You will also need to provide various documents in support of their application, including proof of their identity, such as their passport or birth certificate showing both their parent’s names.
Children must be under 18 when the application is made. Once they reach the age of majority they must apply for British citizenship as adults, either by registration if they have an entitlement, or by naturalisation.
Prior to proceeding with an application you should also be aware that under the laws of some countries a person will automatically lose their nationality if they become a citizen of another country. If you have any questions about this, you should ask the authorities of the country of which the child is a citizen through the Embassy or High Commission before applying for British citizenship.
If the country of which the child is currently a citizen continues to recognise them as one of its citizens, the child may continue to be subject to the duties of citizens of that country when they are in its territory, including obligations to undergo military service.
Do you need advice about British citizenship for a child born in the UK?
If you have a question about your child’s status in the UK, we can help. UK nationality rules are complex and given the effort required to make the application and the level of Home Office fees, it is important you proceed with the best route for your child. We can advise on the options available and can support you through the process.
For guidance with your child’s application, speak to us.