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Registration of a Child born in the UK as a British Citizen Guide

Table of content


A child born in the UK at a time where neither of their parents was a British citizen or settled, is not automatically born a British citizen. However, their parents’ immigration status will determine when they qualify for citizenship. Where a child is born in the UK, and has a parent who is either British or settled at the time of the birth the child is automatically British by birth, under Section 1 of the British Nationality Act (BNA). Children who have automatically acquired British citizenship by birth do not need to be registered.

Types of Registration

If a child is not British by birth, descent, or operation of law, they have to apply to register as British given that children cannot apply to ‘naturalise. There are a number of provisions in the British Nationality Act 1981 under which a child can register as British citizen either by entitlement or by discretion.

Registration per entitlement

Children who were born in the UK to non-British nationals will be able to register for citizenship per entitlement as soon as either of their parents become a British citizen or settled in the UK (Section 1(3)), join the army (Section 1(3A)) or while the parents are still undocumented, the said child has lived in the UK for 10 years (Section 1(4)).

In any of these cases, the child will need to satisfy the Home Office that they meet the following requirements:

  • they were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983,
  • they were not British citizens at birth,
  • they are under the age of 18 on the date the application is received
  • they are of good character if over the age of 10

Parent becoming British citizen or settled in the UK (Section 1(3)),

A child born in the UK will be entitled to register as British citizen when one of their parents either becomes British citizen or secures settlement in the UK.

A person is settled when they are ordinarily resident without being subject under UK immigration laws to any restriction on the period for which they may remain in UK. This means someone is settled where:

  • They have indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
  • They have ILR under the EU settlement scheme (settled status)
  • They are an EEA national or EEA national’s family member and are permanently resident in the UK.

This means, for example, children born in the UK to non-British parents with limited leave to remain, such as a valid work visa, would not be born British.

Parent joining the army (Section 1(3A))

When either parent of a child born in the UK joins the army, they will be entitled to apply to register as British citizen if they can prove that:

  • they were not a British citizen at birth, as at the time neither parent was:
    • a British citizen or settled in the UK or
    • serving in the UK armed forces
  • on or after 13 January 2010 while they are under the age of 18 either parent becomes a member of the UK armed forces and
  • they applied for registration before their 18th birthday.

Child living in the UK for 10 years while parents are still undocumented (Section 1(4)).

Children born to non-British parents who are in the UK unlawfully and in breach of immigration laws would also not automatically attain British citizenship. However, the child may gain the right to be registered as British citizens if they have spent their early years in the UK and have also to demonstrate that:

  • they have lived in the UK for the first 10 years of their life,
  • they have not been outside of the UK for more than 90 days in each of the first 10 years of their life,
  • the Secretary of State is satisfied they are of good character.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for your visa.

Registration per discretion

If a child does not meet the registration requirements per entitlement, the Home Secretary has the power to exercise discretion to register people as British citizens under section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981.

Discretion may be exercised if:

  • the applicant is under 18 at the date of the application
  • if aged 10 years or over on the date of application the applicant is of good character
  • they think fit to register them

The Home Office technically has a broad discretion to register any child as British. When considering whether or not to grant a discretionary application, the Home Office will consider each application on an individual basis.

The Home Office has published criteria explaining what is taken into account when deciding whether or not to grant citizenship at discretion, which includes:

  • the child’s future intentions,
  • the citizenship and immigration status of the child’s parents,
  • the length of the child’s residence in the UK,
  • whether or not the child is settled,
  • the child’s character (e.g., criminal convictions),
  • parental consent and
  • the child’s best interests,

Good character’ assessment

All registrations are subject to a ‘good character’ assessment. If a person is aged 10 or over when they apply for registration as a British citizen, the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the person is of good character. Although the Supreme Court has declared the good character requirement to be incompatible with Convention rights in relation to some applications for registration, the statutory requirement currently remains in place.

Applications for registration on a discretionary basis, particularly as a child, can be challenging. Before applying on this basis, it can be helpful to consider the merits of the application, both in principle and in regard to the evidence available. One particularly relevant factor for children is often whether their future can clearly be seen to lie in the UK.


The application for registration as British citizen for a child under 18 should be endorsed by two referees, one of them must be a person of any nationality who has professional standing: (minister of religion, accountant or solicitor etc) and the other referee must be a British passport holder over the age of 25.

Application process and cost

Children must be under 18 when the application is made. Once they reach the age of majority they must apply for British citizenship as adults, either by registration if they have an entitlement, or by naturalisation. No oath or pledge is required of children registering as British. Attending a citizenship ceremony is only required if the child applies as a minor but turns 18 by the time that the application is decided.

The application should be done online and will cost £1012 per child in addition to biometric enrolment fees in the region of £120 per applicant and requires parental consent.

The application process will take some time, generally between 3 to 6 months.

The applicant will also need to provide various documents in support of their application, including proof of their identity, such as their passport or birth certificate showing both their parent’s names.

If you wish to find out more about your immigration matters, our team of experienced lawyers is happy to assist.

Appeal and judicial review

If a citizenship application is refused, the application fee is not reimbursed. There is no automatic appeal right if the Home Office decides to refuse an application to register a child as a British citizen. It is possible, however, to request a review. The Home Office expects a request for a review to be made on Form NR, and there is a fee. There is no deadline for requesting a review, but it should be done as soon as possible.
If the review does not result in a change in the decision, the only remedy available is to challenge the refusal by issuing judicial review proceedings in the High Court.

If you have a question about your child’s status in the UK, we can help. UK nationality rules are complex and given the effort required to make the application and the level of Home Office fees, it is important you proceed with the best route for your child. We can advise on the options available and can support you through the process.

For guidance with your child’s application, speak to us. To make an enquiry you can call our dedicated Immigration enquiry line on: +44(0)7869806506 or by email at info@kassolicitors.uk

To discuss your UK visa application with one of our immigration lawyers, contact our immigration lawyer team or select one of our packages below.

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