In some circumstances a child born in the UK may automatically acquire British citizenship at birth. If this is the case it would be appropriate for the child to simply apply for a British passport. For those children born in the UK who have not automatically acquired British citizenship, they may be eligible to register as British.
Registration under section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act (BNA) 1981
A child born in the UK who has not automatically acquired British citizenship at birth, may be able to register under section 1(3) BNA 1981 if:
- they were not a British citizen at birth because at the time neither parent was a British citizen or settled;
- whilst they are a minor either of their parents becomes British or settled (obtains Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK; and
- if over ten years old, they are of good character.
A child is born in the UK to Italian parents. The parents moved to the UK in January 2014, exercising their right to free movement and their child was born in the UK in June 2016. In January 2019 the child’s mother applied through the EU Settlement Scheme and was granted Settled Status. The child can now apply to register as a British citizen through this route.
British citizenship otherwise than by descent will be given to a child registered under section 1(3). This means that they could pass on their citizenship to their child, even if born outside the UK.
Requirements for registration under section 1(4) of the BNA 1981
Children (and adults) born in the UK are entitled to registration under section 1(4) of the BNA 1981 if:
- they were not a British citizen at birth as at the time of birth neither parent was a British citizen or settled in the UK;
- they are aged ten years or over on the date of the application;
- they have lived in the UK for the first ten years of their life;
- they have not been outside of the UK for more than 90 days in each of the first ten years of their life; and
- the Secretary of State is satisfied they are of good character.
A child is born in the UK to Japanese parents. The parents entered the UK in January 2007 and the child was born in the UK in January 2008. The parents have held leave to remain since entering the UK, however, have not applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). Their child has lived with them in the UK since birth (for over 11 years) and has not spent more than 90 days of the year outside of the UK during their first ten years of life. The child can apply to register as a British citizen through this route.
Discretion is allowed when considering the 90-day absence limit in the first ten years of a child’s life. Absences of up to 180 days each year, and 990 days over the ten year period will normally be disregarded. Where absences are in excess of this, discretion may be used to grant British citizenship provided that the absences were due to circumstances beyond the family’s control, for example serious illness.
British citizenship otherwise than by descent will be given to a child registered under section 1(4).
Registration under section 1(3A) of the of the BNA 1981
Section 1(3A) accounts for the children of members of the UK armed forces.
Children, born in the UK on or after 13 January 2010, that are under 18 on the date of application, are entitled to registration under this section if:
- they were not a British citizen at birth, as at the time neither parent was:
- a British citizen
- settled in the UK
- serving in the UK armed forces
- while they are under the age of 18 either parent becomes a member of the UK armed forces; and
- they are of good character if over the age of 10.
If registered as British on the basis that a child meets these requirements, they will be given British citizenship otherwise than by descent.
If a child does not have an entitlement to register as a British citizen on the basis of either section 1(3), 1(4) or 1(3A) as above, they may make a discretionary application under section 3(1). A child under the age of 18 may be registered if the following requirements are met:
- if aged ten years or older, the child is of good character; and
- the Home Secretary thinks it fit to register them.
This leaves the Home Secretary wide room for discretion and, as such, each case will be assessed on its own individual merits. The Home Office advise that a child will only be registered under this route when it is in the child’s best interests and they have a strong connection with the UK. The following factors will be taken into account:
- the child’s future intentions;
- the child’s parents’ circumstances;
- residence in the UK;
- the child’s immigration status; and
- any compelling compassionate circumstances raised as part of the application.
Children born outside of the UK
It may also be possible for a child born outside of the UK to register as British. We consider the options available in more detail here.
How we can help
We are experienced in advising upon and preparing applications to register as a British citizen.
If you require a review of your circumstances in order to establish whether you may be entitled to register a child as British, or if you require legal advice about an application, please contact us for an initial discussion with one of our immigration specialists or make an enquiry below.