The law previously denied children of unmarried British fathers an automatic right to British citizenship if their mother was not British and not settled in the UK at the time of the birth.
Following changes in the law, individuals born prior to 1 July 2006 are now able to apply to register as British citizens.
Our Suzie von Strandmann considers this entitlement, the requirements and the process. If you think you or a person in your care may be eligible then please get in touch.
The historical bit
Prior to 1 July 2006, unmarried fathers did not automatically pass on their British nationality to children born outside of marriage, even if those children were born in the UK.
At this time, if a non-settled non-British national woman became pregnant by a British man but were not married at the time of the birth of their child, then the child would not have been British at birth.
Why? An example of the discriminatory effect of British nationality law, some might say, where children born out of wedlock were punished, and where the sins of the father really were visited upon the child.
Contrary to popular belief, simply being born in the UK isn’t a right in itself to nationality. It is a common misconception that a person’s birthplace is the single biggest determinant of nationality.
In reality, the principle of having an entitlement to British citizenship simply by virtue of having been born here (known by nobody except nationality lawyers as jus soli) existed in the UK only prior to 1 January 1983 when it was abolished by the British Nationality Act 1981.
As you can imagine, for many individuals, it is not until their British passport application is rejected that this anachronism comes to light.
Other victims of this anomaly include young people that only find out they aren’t British when they get into trouble with the police and are subsequently threatened with return to their mother’s country of origin: a country to which, in many cases, they have never visited.
Making a change
It took over 23 years for a change to be made to the legislation which addressed these discriminatory provisions.
When it came in 2006, it did not apply retrospectively. While this prevented injustice for those born after 1 July 2006, those born prior to 1 July 2006 to unmarried British fathers and non-British non-settled mothers continued to face the same issue.
Remarkably, it was only in 2015, that the law was amended again to retrospectively apply the changes to those individuals born prior to 1 July 2006.
It is important to recognise that these changes to the law don’t apply automatically: the affected individuals do not become a British citizen by virtue of this change.
Instead, it is up to the individual (or those responsible for them), to apply to register for citizenship. Of course, a problem will remain for these individuals (or those responsible for them) if they don’t actually know that this issue exists.
To be eligible under the 2015 provisions, the applicant must have been born before 1 July 2006.
They must show that their parents were not married at the time of their birth. And they must be able to demonstrate that they would have automatically become a British citizen at birth had their mum and dad been married.
How do I make the application?
We welcome enquiries from individuals who would like us to review their application via our one-off consultation service, or who would like us to manage the whole process for them. Please contact us if you would like to discuss what assistance we can provide.
The application (Form UKF) is relatively straightforward to complete, it can be done online or on paper.
Unlike other applications to register as a British citizen, Form UKF applications do not carry a Home Office fee. It makes assessing a child’s eligibility under this type of application particularly important because the savings are significant.
Note that if the applicant is 17 ½ or over they will still need to pay for the citizenship ceremony (currently £80) plus any other costs associate with finding a suitable appointment to enrol their biometric information (fingerprints and photographs) and submit their supporting evidence.
No Good Character test
The other benefit of this type of application is that the Good Character requirement does not apply.
The Good Character test applies to adult naturalisation applications and to applications to register children of 10 years old and above.
For child applicants who have had issues with the police, whether it be a conviction or even a caution, this can be relied on by the Home Office as evidence that the child is not “good” and the application can be refused.
The fact that Form UKF applications don’t trigger the Good Character requirement means that it is always worthy of investigation if a young person is born between 2003-2006 and there may otherwise be concerns about meeting this requirement.
Evidence of paternity
The evidence of paternity required by the Home Office for these type of applications is quite specific. The applicant’s original birth certificate is required, but it will only be acceptable proof of paternity if the birth certificate had been issued within 12 months of their birth.
If the original birth certificate is not available, either because it has been lost or destroyed, then a DNA test will likely be required.
While the application process may be relatively straightforward, it is evident that it is often investigating a individual’s eligibility under the legislation that proves the most challenging aspect of these type of cases, especially for those individuals that are in the care of social services and may not be in contact with their fathers.
Nonetheless, if you have a individual in your care born before 1 July 2006 who meets these requirements, it is important to be mindful of the potential benefits of investigating all routes to citizenship and not just the most obvious ones.