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British citizenship for a child under the age of 18

There are provisions in law to register minor children under the age of 18 as British citizens. These rights fall away and are lost forever when they turn 18. It is incredibly important you apply for your child before they reach the age 18.

Register your child for British citizenship

It’s important to take action before a child turns 18. After they turn 18, several rights to British nationality fall away and can be lost forever.

Ensure your child’s nationality sooner rather than later

While the laws are complex around the granting of British nationality to children under 18, there are several obvious circumstances that give rise to a claim.

These are (but are not limited to) cases where:

  • The child was born stateless and/or did not acquire a citizenship automatically at birth

  • A parent is British and has spent time living in the UK before the child turns 18

  • A parent is British and immigrates with their family to the UK

  • A parent is British and was employed by a UK-domiciled company at the time of the child’s birth

  • A parent who has renounced British nationality in the past

  • A parent qualifies for a UK Ancestry visa

  • The child is gifted in sports, music or the arts

  • Discretionary registrations of children in special circumstances

The UK is making it tougher to claim nationality

The recent hardening of the UK government’s stance toward migration in general makes it more important than ever to ensure your child’s claim to British citizenship is not wasted.

Get in touch with our British nationality experts today if your child is approaching the age of 18. If they’re already older than 18, fear not, there are still many, albeit more complicated ways that they can claim British nationality.

Claim British citizenship for children under 18 who are resident in the UK

There are provisions for children under 18, who are resident in the UK, to acquire rights to British citizenship. These rights depend on their age and the status of their parents.

Children born in the UK

A child born in the UK to non-British parents who do not have settled status does not acquire British citizenship by birth. They may register to become a British citizen once one parent obtains settled status or becomes a British citizen.

Children not born in the UK

Section 3 (1) of the Home Office's guide on registration as a British citizen

A child under the age of 18 born outside of the UK could be registered as a British citizen if:

  • Their family have settled in the UK
  • They have at least one parent who is naturalising as a British citizen (or is already British) and the other parent holds a settled status
  • The child also holds the settled status
  • The child is aged over 13 and has at least two years' UK residence

Section 3 (5)

A child under the age of 18 born outside of the UK could be registered as a British citizen where both of the following apply:

  • One parent has obtained British citizenship by descent at the time of the child’s birth
  • Both parents* and the child have been resident in the UK for at least three years (this may be shorter in some cases)

* Where the parents have separated, are living separately or never married, different criteria apply. These should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

It can be important to take action before a child turns 18. After they turn 18, several rights to British nationality fall away and can be lost forever

Settled status

Settled status is most commonly held by:

Claim British citizenship for children under 18 with a UK-born grandparent

There are provisions in law for children under 18 with a UK-born grandparent and who are not resident in the UK to be registered as British citizens. This is also known as British citizenship by double descent.

A child under 18 born (and resident) outside of the UK with a UK-born grandparent has a potential to apply for British citizenship if the following apply:

  • A parent:
    1. Has a UK-born parent
    2. Has spent at least two and half years in the UK in the past
    3. Was British at the time of the child's birth

All of these circumstances must apply and the child must be registered as a British citizen before it turns 18.

  • The family moves to the UK before the child turns 15 and they spend at least three years in the UK. The child must be registered as a British citizen before he/she turns 18.
  • A parent:
    1. Has a UK-born parent
    2. Was in long-term employment with a UK-domiciled company at the time of the child's birth
    3. Was British at the time of the child’s birth

Examples of international companies domiciled, listed or headquartered in the UK include Old Mutual, Investec, BP, Glencore, Norwich Union, Rennies and SABMiller.

  • The child is particularly gifted in sports, music or the arts
  • A discretionary registration is justified (but only in exceptional circumstances)
  • The child:
    1. Is born to a British parent
    2. Does not acquire a nationality automatically at birth from either parent

It does not matter if the child subsequently gains a nationality at a later date. This situation is known as statelessness and is particularly common in countries that do not grant automatic nationality at birth or who require (one of) the parents to hold a particular status at the time of the child's birth. It is possible for a British parent to select the country in which the child is born in order to create statelessness. In such a case, the child takes on the nationality of the British parent.

  • The child had a UK-born grandfather who was in Crown service at the time of the relevant parent’s birth
  • A parent:
    1. Had a UK-born mother
    2. Did not have a UK-born father
    3. Was registered as a British citizen between 2 February 1979 and 31 December 1982
  • A parent was registered as a British citizen in the past. However, not all registrations were the same and they created different rights depending on the type of registration, as well as where and when it occurred
  • A parent was born in a former British colony

Claiming British citizenship for children outside UK

Even if a child has no UK-born grandparent there are provisions in law for children under 18 who are not resident in the UK to make a specific registration as a British citizen.

A child under 18 born outside of the UK without a UK-born grandparent may have a potential claim to British nationality if any of the following apply:

  • A parent is British otherwise than by descent

  • The child did not acquire a nationality automatically at birth (irrespective of whether the child subsequently gained nationality at a later date) and a parent was British at the time of the child’s birth*

  • The family relocates to the UK (on a British or EU passport or a qualifying residency visa) and the child accompanies the family as a dependant**

A specific application for registration as a British citizen can be made before the child turns 18. It can be important to take action before a child turns 18. After they turn 18, several rights to British nationality fall away and can be lost forever.

* This is particularly common in countries that do not grant automatic nationality at birth or who require (one of) the parents to hold a particular status at the time of the child's birth.

** The child can be registered as a British citizen before the age of 18 in certain circumstances.

Free British citizenship assessment

 

Discover if you qualify for British citizenship through your heritage. Our online assessment uses your personal circumstances, and those of your parents and grandparents, to let you know your chances of attaining a British passport.

START YOUR ASSESSMENT NOW

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