Registration as a British Citizen

Registration as a British citizen is the most common route by which children under the age of 18 get their British citizenship. The requirements to meet are less than that of adults’ naturalisation as a British citizen. Some children when born in the UK, depending on the status of their parents at the time of their birth are automatically British and therefore do not need to go through the process of registration and can apply directly for a British passport.

The right to British citizenship as a child is also found within the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981) as is the right to naturalization as British citizen for adults. The most common applications for registration as a British citizen are done under section 1 and section 3 of the BNA 1981. 

Section 1 of the BNA 1981 is for those who were born in the UK.  Section 3 of the BNA 1981 is used for children born outside the UK. 

Automatic right to British citizenship 

Born in the UK after 1983

A person born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and one of their parents was either a British citizen or settled here in the UK at the time of their birth or are members of the UK armed forces will automatically be a British citizen. There is no need to apply to register to be a British citizen.

The child will be considered a British citizen otherwise than by descent. 

Adopted children

A child who is adopted in the UK and one or both adoptive parents are British citizens will also automatically be a British citizen otherwise than by descent on adoption and does not need to be registered.

Registration as a British citizen

There are several ways for children to become British citizens through registration. The most common routes have been described below.

Born in the UK after 1983 and one of your parents has become a British citizen or has settled status since your birth

A person born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 to non-British or non-settled parents can apply to be registered as a British citizen once one of their parents has become British or settled in the UK. In order to meet the criteria, an application would have to be made when the person is less than 18 years old. 

Any person who has lived in the UK until they were 10 years old

A person born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and neither of their parents was a British citizen or settled at the time of their birth, can apply to register as a British citizen if they are under the age of 18. The general requirements are they must be:

  • 10 years old or older
  • Have lived in the UK until they were 10
  • If older than 10 years old, they must show that they are of “good character” for an explanation of what good character means, please see the detailed paragraph below.
  • They must not have spent more than 90 days outside the UK in each of the first 10 years of their life

Child whose parents are applying for British citizenship

Where one or both parents are applying for British citizenship they may apply for one or more children who are not automatically British at birth to be registered as British citizens as part of a “family application”.

Children in this category will be considered at the Secretary of State for the Home Department’s discretion and will usually be registered only if both the parents are granted or already hold British citizenship, or if one parent holds British citizenship and the other is settled in the UK

Other ways children become British citizens

Children of EEA nationals

Some children born in the UK to EEA and Swiss nationals will be British citizens automatically. However, changes in the law mean that different rules apply depending on when a child was born.

  • A child born in the UK before 2 October 2000 to an EEA national parent will be a British citizen if their parent was exercising EC Treaty rights at the time of birth i.e. working.
  • A child born in the UK between 2 October 2000 and 30 April 2006 to an EEA national parent will only be a British citizen if their parent had indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the time of the birth. 
  • A child born in the UK to an EEA national after 30 April 2006, when the EEA Regulations 2006 came into force, will be a British citizen if their parent had been in the UK exercising EC Treaty rights in accordance with the EEA Regulations 2006 for more than 5 years or has indefinite leave to remain. The child of an EEA national who did not become a British citizen at birth may now have an entitlement to be registered as a British citizen under the British Nationality Act 1981, if their EEA national parent has since become “settled” here. 

Any other child born to British or non-British parents

There are various other ways by which the Secretary of State for the Home Department might exercise discretion in circumstances not already described on this page. However, in considering any application not specifically covered above consideration will be given to:

  • The child’s connections with the UK 
  • Where the child’s future is likely to lie
  • The parents’ views
  • The parents’ nationality and immigration status (it is normally expected that either both parents are British citizens or one parent a British citizen and the other parent settled in the UK)
  • Whether the child is of good character
  • The length of time the child has lived in the UK (normally at least 2 years residence particularly if the child is over the age of 13)
  • Any compelling circumstances such as a job offer or other opportunity which requires British citizenship.

General requirements

The child’s connections with the UK 

What is usually considered is whether the child has any restrictions on their stay in the UK. They should normally be free of any restrictions in the UK

The parents’ views

Both parents’ should normally consent to the application for registration as a British citizen.

The parents’ nationality and immigration status 

It is normally expected that either both parents are British citizens or one parent a British citizen and the other parent settled in the UK

Whether the child is of good character

This applies to children making an application when they are 10 years or older. Recent rule changes mean that the Home Office now has very strict guidance in respect of the way in which criminal convictions affect one’s good character. In general, if a person has been convicted of a criminal offence then the applicant will have to wait until the conviction becomes spent under the terms of the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act before being able to apply for British citizenship. The Secretary of State has discretion to overlook very minor, one-off offences.  Convictions incurred abroad will be treated as if they had taken place in the UK.  Applicants are required to disclose on the application form all information relating to character, including criminal convictions. The Home Office conducts thorough checks on every applicant and failure to meet this good character requirement will result in the application being refused. 

The length of time the child has lived in the UK 

The Secretary of State of the Home Department normally considers it sufficient to fulfil this requirement where the child has spent at least 2 years residence in the UK particularly if the child is over the age of 13.

Any compelling circumstances such as a job offer or other opportunity which requires British citizenship

This could be a job offer to work for the Royal Navy, but can be any other opportunity which requires British citizenship in order for the child to get the job. This of course will have to be supported with extensive evidence as to why the child should be granted British citizenship.

As with naturalisation as a British citizen, registration can be very complicated as there are several avenues that may apply and some are more favourable than others. 

Our services

  • We can advise on the procedure for making an application for registration as a British citizen for your child, the process and the timescale
  • We can assess the merits of your application and advise as to how to improve your application to maximise success
  • We can advise on the law in relation to automatic right to British citizenship
  • We can advise on the law in relation to registration as  a British citizen
  • We can advise on the good character requirements
  • We can advise on the residence requirements
  • We can advise on the acceptable profession of referees

Whatever the case, we are here to help, assist, advise and represent our clients in relation to any aspect of the immigration matters of our clients.

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