British Citizenship Application for a Child

British Citizenship Application for a Child

The Home Office guidance on registration as a British citizen states that before considering applying for citizenship, parents should check whether the child is already registered.  In some cases, having gone to the time and expense of preparing an application, parents have indeed gone on to discover that their child was already a fully-fledged British citizen. 

If the child was born in the UK before 1983, they should have been automatically registered as a British citizen.  If a child was born in the UK on or after 1st January 1983 when one parent was a British citizen or €˜settled' in the UK, then they should also have been automatically registered as a British citizen.  In these cases, you should not need to apply for British citizenship for the child in question.

In this article, however, we will make the assumption that this has been checked, or it is already known that the child is not a citizen of the UK. 

The British Nationality Act 1981

In accordance with the British Nationality Act 1981 (the Act), there are several scenarios that might lead to a child applying for British Citizenship.  Children who are not currently registered but can apply for citizenship may have been born in the UK, outside of the UK, born to parents in the armed forces, and in some cases may be stateless.  The Act covers the following scenarios:

  • section1(3): UK born minors whose parent has become a British citizen settled here or in the armed forces
  • section 1(4): UK born minors with residence in the UK from birth to age 10
  • section 3(2): for children born to British citizens outside the UK
  • section 3(5): for children born to British citizens outside the UK where the family have lived in the UK for three years
  • section 4(2) or section 4B: for people who already have some form of British nationality, including:
  • section 4D: for children born outside the UK to a parent serving in the armed forces
  • section 4F: for children born before 1st July 2006 and would have an entitlement to registration had the child's mother been married to their natural father
  • section 4G: for children born between 1st January 1983 and 30th June 2006 and would have become a British citizen automatically had the child's mother been married to their natural father
  • section 5: UK nationals for European Union (EU) treaty purposes
  • schedule 2 paragraphs 3, 4 and 5: stateless minors

Given the wide range of potential routes to UK citizenship as a child, it is essential that the person making the application chooses the appropriate section.  As the Home Office guidance states, this is to avoid the situation of a child being given citizenship by descent, when it should be given as an €˜entitlement', or vice versa.

 Read also: Get prepared - Top Tips on Passing the British Citizen Test

Registering a Child as a UK citizen

Registration as a British citizen for a child under 18 can be completed within or outside of the UK using an online form. 

The supporting evidence required will depend on the section being relied on (as per the list above).  The type of evidence which may be requested includes (this list is not exhaustive):

  • the child's full birth certificate
  • evidence of the parent's settled status (if settled in the UK)
  • parent's marriage certificate
  • a letter from the Ministry of Defence confirming service in the armed forces which outline all of the parent's military postings at the time of birth and dates of service
  • evidence of the parent's British citizenship by descent at the time of the child's birth (if the child was born outside of the UK)
  • a letter from the authorities of the country of the child's birth confirming the child did not acquire that country's citizenship or nationality at birth (if the child was born stateless)

As part of the application process, you will be advised which items of evidence are required to support the child's UK citizenship application. 

The application fee for UK nationality registration as a child is £1,012 or £810 if the child is a British overseas territory citizen, British overseas citizen, British Subject, or British protected persons.

Discretionary Applications for UK Citizenship as a Child

In some cases, the Home Office can use its discretion to grant registration as a UK citizen, but only if:

  • the child is under 18
  • if aged ten years or over, the child is of good character
  • they think fit to register them

If the child has some form of association or family relationship with any person who has been or who are engaged in terrorism, or extremist behaviour or who has raised security concerns, this will typically lead to a refusal of citizenship.  It is important to seek the advice of immigration experts for any case on which there may be a reliance on the discretion of the Home Office to grant citizenship.  This is because immigration Solicitors will be able to prepare a case that mitigates as many concerns which the Home Office may raise, and the strongest possible rationale for why the child should be registered as a UK citizen.  This will include ensuring that there is no basis for refusal on the basis of character, or objections raised by one of the child's parents.

Final words

Citizenship of a child in the UK can be fraught with complexity if not well understood.  If you are in any way unsure of the best route to use to apply for citizenship as a child, or if you have received a refusal and are now unsure what to do, it is vital to seek the help of an immigration lawyer.  Sometimes refusal letters from the Home Office do not provide a clear reason for the decision made, and hence applicants may not be aware that by making a minor change or waiting for a particular event to be completed (e.g. the adoption process if applicable), an application will then achieve a successful outcome. 

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