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Is Your Child Eligible To Become A British Citizen?

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

A child under the age of 18 can acquire British citizenship in a number of ways. In certain circumstances, a child may be entitled to British citizenship automatically, i.e. they are born a British citizen. Generally, this would happen where the child is born in the UK to a mother or father, either of whom is either British or settled in the UK at the time of the child’s birth. A person is considered settled if he or she have indefinite leave to remain or, for EEA nationals, permanent residence in the UK. If the child was born outside the UK, the child would similarly be born a British citizen if at the time of the child’s birth either mother or father is a British citizen, provided the parent’s British citizenship is acquired otherwise than by descent. 

In the cases described above, a child does not need to apply for registration as a British citizen and can apply directly to the Passport Office (“HMPO”) to be issued with their first British passport.

If a child was not born British, he or she may have the entitlement to register as a British citizen through birth, or by way of satisfying the standard criteria for registration at the Home Office’s discretion. This means that where the child has a right to apply to register either by entitlement or at the Secretary of State’s discretion, an application for registration will need to be made to the Home Office, with a subsequent application to HMPO for a first British passport if the registration application is successful.

There are a number of provisions in the British Nationality Act 1981 (“BNA 1981”) under which a child has the entitlement to register as a British citizen, which means that if the child meets the relevant criteria and is of good character, they must be registered and there is normally no discretion on the part of the Home Office to refuse such an application. For example, if the child was born in the UK and either of the parents becomes settled or themselves a British citizen after the child’s birth, and the child is under the age of 18 and is of good character, then the child has the right to register as a British citizen by entitlement.

Furthermore, the child would be entitled to be registered as a British citizen if he or she was born in the UK and had lived here for the first 10 years of his or her life, with no absences of more than 90 days in any one year. Registration by entitlement also extends to children born outside the UK to a British father or mother who has acquired British citizenship by descent and has resided in the UK for more than three years prior to the child’s birth or has resided in the UK together with the child for more than three years following the child’s birth.

Finally, if the child was neither born British nor has the entitlement to register under the BNA 1981, the Home Office has the discretion to register a child if an application is made for registration while he or she is a minor. Discretionary applications of this nature will usually involve consideration of whether the child’s future is clearly seen to lie in the UK and whether both parents live in the UK, are settled here, or are about to apply to become British themselves. 

Where a child is neither British at birth nor has an entitlement to registration, nor meets the usual discretionary application requirements, the Home Office still has a wider discretion to register any child where there are exceptionally compelling or compassionate circumstances. Such applications are particularly complex and would require the submission of detailed supporting evidence.

The information set out above does not cover all the circumstances in which a child may have the right to apply for British citizenship.


Gherson has extensive experience with all types of applications for naturalisation and registration as a British citizen. Should you require expert advice and assistance with your British citizenship application, please do not hesitate to 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 2019

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