Giving your child the gift of British citizenship could be one of the most important things you do for them. A British passport not only gives your child the opportunity to live and work in the UK, it allows them to enter and exit most countries with relative ease.

Two children holding UK flag

Why you need to apply before your child turns 18

The legislation surrounding claims to British citizenship generally contains provisions for children under the age of 18, who have a connection to the UK, to register as British citizens. The requirements vary from case to case, but one constant is that these rights to British citizenship often fall away (and are lost forever) once the child turns 18.

If you think your child has a claim, you need to act before their 18th birthday. Note that the age requirement here is simply that they are under the age of 18 on the date of the application and so it is possible to apply up until a few days before their 18th birthday.

There are several scenarios in which your child could be eligible to apply for British citizenship. The most common ones are outlined below, but if you think your child might have a claim that does not fit with the scenarios listed, you can leave a comment on this blog and we’ll get back to you.

How to figure out if your child has a claim

Is the child resident in the UK?

If a child is resident in the UK and their family is settled there, they may be registered as a British citizen if:

  • Their family have settled in the UK (i.e. obtained indefinite leave to remain)
  • They have at least one parent who is naturalising as a British citizen (or is already British) and the other parent holds settled status
  • The child also holds settled status
  • The child is aged over 13 and has at least two years’ UK residence

Please note: Where the child’s parents have separated, are living separately, or were never married, different criteria apply, and the Home Office will assess each application on a case-by-case basis.

Does the child have a grandparent born in the UK?

A child who is under 18, and was born and is resident outside of the UK, with a UK-born grandparent, has a potential claim to British nationality if any one of the following nine sets of circumstances apply:

  1. The child’s British parent spent at least two and a half years in the UK in the past and was British at the time of the child’s birth
  2. The relevant parent has a UK-born mother, did not have a UK-born father, and was registered as a British citizen between 2 February 1979 and 31 December 1982
  3. The relevant parent was British and was in long-term employment with a UK-domiciled company at the time of the child’s birth
  4. The child did not acquire a nationality automatically at birth
  5. The child’s parent was born in a British colony
  6. The child had a UK-born grandfather who was in Crown Service at the time of the relevant parent’s birth
  7. The child’s family moves to the UK before the child turns 15 and the child and their family spend at least three years in the UK before the child’s 18th birthday
  8. The child is gifted in sports, music or the arts
  9. A discretionary registration is justified (but only in exceptional circumstances)

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The child’s father is British by birth or has naturalised as a British citizen

The child will acquire British citizenship automatically at birth if the parents were married at the time of birth. However, the child will not acquire British citizenship automatically at birth, but may be eligible to apply for British citizenship if:

  • The father was born in the UK or naturalised as a British citizen prior to the child’s birth; and
  • The child was born before 1 July 2006; and
  • The child was born in or out of wedlock

Where the child’s parents were married after the child’s birth, the position may be different. This will depend on the country in which the parents were domicile at the time of the child’s birth and on the date of their marriage.

Children adopted abroad by British parents

Children under the age of 18 who are adopted abroad by British parents may be considered for British citizenship at the Home Secretary’s discretion. The following requirements must be met to apply:

  • At least one of the adoptive parents is a British citizen other than by descent (e.g. by birth)
  • Both adoptive parents have provided their consent to the registration
  • There is no reason to refuse on character grounds
  • The UKBA are satisfied that all relevant adoption laws have been adhered to

See also: 5 unusual ways you can claim British citizenship

What if none of these apply?

If none of the above apply, your child could still benefit from one of the immigration routes for those with British parents or grandparents.  

There are many different routes to citizenship and you may be unaware of potential routes that may be available for you or your children. It would be in your interest to consult an expert who can assess your family tree and advise you on the unique circumstances which could apply.

Our citizenship consultants can assist you in establishing whether you or your child has a claim to British citizenship, no matter how complex the case may be. Get in touch with us on +44 (0) 20 7759 7581 or

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