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Immigration And Nationality Law For Adopted Children

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) guidance states that if a child is adopted by order of a court in the UK  (including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) or in any British overseas territory and at least one of the adoptive parents was a British citizen at the time the adoption order was made, the child is automatically a British citizen. By law the child will “Become a [British] citizen other than by descent”, which is the same as if they had been born in the UK to a British citizen parent.

However, by order of a UK court is not the only method of adoption available. Overseas adoptions not recognised by UK law and de facto adoptions are not granted the same automatic nationality status.

Adoptions made in accordance with the terms of the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption and adoptions by order of a UK court are the only avenues of adoption that will lead the child to “Become a [British] citizen other than by descent”. In these cases the adoptive parents can make an application for a British passport for the child, as long as they send the necessary proof of adoption and supporting documentation to HM Passport Office.

Adoption in other circumstances will not have this automatic outcome and the child will have to acquire British citizenship through registration under Section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981.

The 1981 Act states that parents or caseworkers:

‘must normally only register children adopted overseas by a British citizen in countries or territories whose adoption procedures are recognised by the UK, and subject to the additional criteria below:

  • the adoption is not informal or temporary
  • under the law of the country where the adoption took place the child is the child of the adoptive parents alone and the legal relationship with the birth family has been completely terminated
  • at least one of the adoptive parents is a British citizen otherwise than by descent
  • the current parent(s) have consented
  • there is no reason to refuse on character grounds
  • you are satisfied that all relevant adoption laws have been adhered to, this includes the laws of the country in which the adoption has taken place, the country of origin of the child and the country in which the adoptive parents are habitually resident
  • you are satisfied the adoption is not one of convenience arranged to facilitate the child’s admission to the UK.

Although successful applications from children adopted through a process not recognised by the UK are not unheard of, these applications must have “exceptional, compelling or compassionate circumstances” in order to be considered by the Home Office.

Gherson has over 30 years of experience in nationality and immigration applications and has a record of succeeding with applications for both naturalisation and registration of adopted children under Section 3(1). Should you require assistance with such an application, please contact us.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2018

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