British Citizenship for a Child Born Abroad to Settled Parents
The rules regarding UK citizenship and naturalisation can seem complex to the uninitiated. We are often asked by our own clients if it is possible for a child born in the UK, or outside, to parents with UK indefinite leave to remain (ILR), to register as a British citizen. In this article, we will explain in which circumstances a child is eligible for automatic British citizenship and, if not, who can register as a British citizen (this advice relates to parents or one parent from outside of the European Economic Area, as different rules apply for members of the EEA).
Who is automatically eligible for British citizenship?
According to the official government guidance accompanying the British Nationality Act 1981, those who automatically become British citizens do not need to register for citizenship. There are two primary ways in which a child can become a citizen of the UK automatically:
- British citizenship otherwise than by descent – in this case, the child would need to be born in the UK to a parent who is either a British citizen, or has settled (i.e. has ILR or EU settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme), or is a member of the UK armed forces.
- British citizenship by descent – whereby a child of a person with British citizenship otherwise than by descent is born outside of the UK. A person who was born outside of the UK to a British parent, and hence is themselves a British citizen by descent cannot pass on citizenship to a child born outside the UK.
Who Is Entitled to Register for British Citizenship?
Under the British Nationality Act 1981, a child born in the UK can register for British citizenship in the following circumstances
- If the child’s parents are not British citizens and were not settled in the UK, the child will later be able to register if and when one of their parents become settled in the UK or become British citizens
- Where the child was born in the UK on or after 13 January 2010 and their parents were not born British citizens and were not settled in the UK, the child will be able to register if either parent becomes a member of the UK armed forces.
- If a child lives in the UK for the first ten years of their life
- A child born in the UK who is and has always been stateless may qualify on the basis of a period of five years of residence.
A child born outside of the UK can register for British citizenship if:
- either of the child’s parents was a British citizen by descent at the time of the child’s birth
- the mother or father of that parent (the child’s grandparent) became, or but for their death would have become a British citizen otherwise than by descent
In addition, to qualify for citizenship under this route, the parent with British citizenship by descent must have lived in the UK continuously for three years prior to the birth of the child. Continuous in this sense means that they must not have been outside of the country for more than 270 days in that period. In addition, the child must be under 18 years when registering for citizenship. It is also important to note that the three-year period does not apply if the child is stateless.
Taking the above rules into consideration, children who are born outside of the UK to parents who are settled in the UK, but are not citizens, will not have the immediate right to register for British citizenship, but this does not mean it cannot be acquired later.
When Can a Child Born Outside of the UK to Settled Parents Apply for Citizenship?
A child born outside of the UK to settled parents in the UK will be able to apply for British citizenship once they have been living in the UK with ILR for one year. If you, as the parent, have ILR, you will be able to apply for ILR for your child as long as:
- the child lives in the UK with both parents
- both parents are settled in the UK
It may also be possible for the child to acquire ILR if one parent is settled in the UK if any of the following are true:
- the parent has sole responsibility for looking after the child
- the other parent is dead
- there are compelling reasons why the child should be allowed to stay in the UK
A parent, from the perspective of immigration law, refers to either a) a natural (biological) parent, b) an adoptive parent, or c) a step-parent where the biological parent has died.
While ILR is not the same as citizenship, with this immigration status, the child will be able to remain in the UK indefinitely, re-enter the UK if they travel abroad, and apply for citizenship after only one year. In addition, you will not need to pay for the healthcare surcharge on their behalf.
As stated earlier, citizenship and immigration can be deeply complex, which is why it is always important to have your individual circumstances assessed by a specialist in immigration law. It may be that your child is eligible for citizenship without you realising. If your child is not currently eligible for British citizenship, this does not mean they will never be. By speaking to immigration Solicitors, you will be able to understand your options and those of your child if your plan is to remain in the UK. They will then help you put in place a series of stepping stones to achieve your ultimate goal of living a secure family life in the UK.
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