What are the routes to British citizenship for children born outside the UK? In this blog post, Waseem Nazir, sets out some of the main routes through which children born outside the UK can obtain British citizenship.
British Citizen by Descent
If a child is born outside the UK and at the time of birth, one or both parents are British, the child should be able to inherit citizenship from the British parent. This is known as British citizenship by descent. However, if the parent themselves are British by descent, they will not be able to pass down their citizenship, as the rules only allow this to be passed down one generation.
Registration as a British citizen under section 3(5) of the British Nationality Act
If the above does not apply, for example if the child’s parents are themselves British by descent, the alternative is to consider whether the child may have an entitlement to register as British under section 3(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981.
It is possible for a child under the age of 18 to register as a British citizen on the basis of section 3(5), providing that the following requirements are met:
- They were born outside of the UK
- At the time of their birth they had a parent who was a British citizen by descent
- The child’s mother and father must have lived in the UK for a three-year period ending on the date that the application is received by the Home Office
- The child must also have lived in the UK for the same three-year period
- The child and their parents must not have been absent from the UK for more than 270 days during the three-year residence period
- The consent of both parents is given to the application
- If aged ten years or older, the child is of good character
Children born before 1 July 2006
It is important to note that if the child was born before 1 July 2006, and their parents were not married at the time, the child may only rely on their mother’s citizenship, unless their parents subsequently married.
Children born after 1 July 2006
For those children born on or after 1 July 2006 the father will be relevant to the application, regardless of whether they are or have been married to the child’s mother, so long as he satisfies the definition of father.
Registration under section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act
Under section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act, a child, under the age of 18 on the date of application, can apply to register as a British citizen, providing that the following requirements are met:
- they were born outside of the UK;
- the mother or father of the parent in question (the child’s grandparent) became or but for their death would have become, a British citizen otherwise than by descent either on 1 January 1983 or at the time of the parent’s birth;
- the parent who is British by descent must have lived in the UK for a continuous period of three years at any time prior to the child’s birth;
- during the three-year period, the parent must not have absences from the UK exceeding 270 days; and
- if aged ten years or older, the child is of good character.
Unlike the requirement under section 3(5), the three year period of residence relevant for this section does not have to be that leading up to the date of submission, therefore families who no longer live in the UK can still consider this option.
If a child has an entitlement under section 3(2), they will obtain British citizenship by descent. Therefore, if a child meets the requirements under sections 3(5) and 3(2), it may be preferable to apply under section 3(5) as you would obtain British citizenship otherwise than by descent.
Discretionary applications under section 3(1) British Nationality Act
If a child does not have an entitlement to register as a British citizen on the basis of either section 3(5) or 3(2) as above, a discretionary application may be made 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 considers registration to be appropriate.
This leaves the Home Secretary wide scope for discretion and, as such, each case will be assessed on its on its individual merits and all relevant factors will be taken into account.
The Home Office’s position is that a child will only be registered under this route when it is in the child’s best interests to be so, 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.
Therefore, if you are planning to make an Discretionary application for British Citizenship for a child, it is important that you provide a full picture of the child’s circumstances (backed up by documentary evidence) and explain any detriment the child will suffer if not granted British Citizenship.
How long will my British Citizenship application take?
The time can vary, and depends on a number of factors.
On average decisions are made in around 6-12 weeks.
What happens if my British Citizenship application is refused?
If your application for British Citizenship is rejected, it is important to consider in detail the reasons provided by the Home Office for doing so. An application may be refused if an applicant has not provided all the required documents, or if an applicant does not meet the residency requirements.
There is no right of appeal against a refusal. However, this does not mean that nothing can be done. You have the right to request an administrative review, and failing that, there is the option of judicial review.