Whilst children are under the age of 18 there are a number of routes available for them to acquire British citizenship. However, these options drastically reduce once they become adults.
This article looks at the most common routes for citizenship by registration for children born in the UK, and consider some of the key advantages to these avenues versus a later naturalisation application.
Obtaining citizenship provides a number of advantages ranging from the right to obtain a British passport, the right to vote, and significantly greater protection against removal from the UK in the event of the commission of a criminal offence.
Not all children who are born in the UK will be born British, but those born here often have more straightforward routes to citizenship available while they remain minors. However, these more straightforward routes disappear once an individual attains their majority.
As a result, it is usually worth anyone who may be in this position (or who has care of someone who may be in this position) getting organised and assessing their options whilst the prospective applicant remains under the age of 18.
What are the routes?
The main routes for obtaining citizenship are set out in the provisions of the British Nationality Act (BNA) 1981.
The most widely available route to citizenship for those over 18 is that of naturalisation. Section 6(1) BNA states that anyone of sound mind can apply to become a British citizen and if certain conditions are met the Secretary of State has a discretion to grant citizenship.
For children born in the UK, there are two commonly used routes.
Firstly, under section 1(3) BNA, children who were born in the UK at a time when their parents were not settled or did not have British citizenship, can apply to be registered as a British citizen once one of their parents obtain settled status or citizenship.
And secondly, under section 1(4) BNA, children who were born in the UK and have lived in the country for the first 10 years of their lives can apply to be citizens.
Below we have set out some of the main advantages to these registration routes as compared to naturalisation.
Less onerous evidential requirements
Naturalisation under section 6 has a number of requirements including (but not limited to):
- Residency requirement: not being absent from the UK for more than 450 days in the 5 years to the date of the application, and no more than 90 days in the 12 months prior to the submission of the application
- Evidence of English language proficiency
- Passing the Life in the UK test; and
- Holding settled status or indefinite leave to remain for at least one year prior to applying for naturalisation (unless married to a British citizen, in which case the 12 month period is waived).
The requirements under the two registration routes are less stringent and are usually easier to meet.
Under section 1(3) BNA, the requirements include (but are not limited to):
- The child being born in the UK and not British at the time of their birth because neither parent was British or settled;
- Evidence that since their birth, one of their parents has become British or settled; and
- They are under 18 at the date the application was submitted.
These requirements can usually be evidenced by a child’s birth certificate and their parents’ current and previous immigration documents, such as their BRPs or new British passport.
For children applying under section 1(4) BNA, the requirements include (but are not limited to):
- The child was born in the UK and was not British at the time of their birth because neither parent was British or settled;
- The child lived in the UK for the first 10 years of their life; and
- The child has not been outside the UK for more than 90 days in each of the first 10 years of their life
In neither case is there a requirement for a child applicant to have settled/ILR status first, avoiding the need for an additional application. Children also do not need to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language or pass a life in the UK test.
In practice, this means that the requirements for registration is often much easier to satisfy. It is also usually the case that preparing a registration application requires much less effort because there is less evidence to gather and prepare.
Another advantage of the registration routes is that the application process is cheaper.
Currently the fee for a registration application stands at £1,012 (although the registration application fees regime is currently being challenged in court, so this may be reduced in the near future), whereas the fee for a naturalisation application is £1,330.
In addition, it is not necessary to pay for an English language test or a Life in the UK test when making a registration application. It is also not necessary for a child to first have settled status or indefinite leave to remain (the cost the of the latter is £2,389 in Home Office fees) which is normally required for an adult to make a naturalisation application.
The sooner a child is a British citizen, the sooner they can enjoy the benefits and greater protections of citizenship.
In addition to providing greater protection against removal, obtaining British citizenship also enables your children to obtain consular support from the British Government if they get into difficulties when travelling abroad.
It also removes the need for registered children to make further immigration applications so that they are able to remain in the UK in future. It means that where registered British citizen children live outside the UK for an extended period of time, they will still be permitted to return.
This is to be contrasted with holders of leave to remain, including indefinite leave to remain, where extended absences can result in permission to stay in the UK expiring, or being curtailed.
Getting help with a registration application
Registration under ss. 1(3) and 1(4) BNA provide more straightforward routes which are simpler and less costly when compared to naturalisation.
They also enable your child to become British earlier meaning that they have greater protection against removal from the UK or curtailment of their leave if and get to enjoy the benefits of British Citizenship.
If you wish to receive advice about whether a registration application might be the best option for your child, we offer one-off consultations to advise on eligibility. Please do not hesitate to get in contact via our website or via 02083 65 78 00 to discuss your needs.