Children born in the UK may automatically be British citizens or may be able to register for this status. In some cases, urgent action may be needed to ensure the chance to gain British citizenship is not lost.
Is a child born in the UK a British Citizen?
Since 1 January 1983, children born in the UK will only be British if they have one or more parent who is British or “settled”. Some, but not all, children born in the UK will be British even if neither parent is.
For non-EEA nationals, “settled” usually means having been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
For EEA nationals, whether a child’s parent was considered “settled” depends on when the child was born:
- Between 1 January 1983 and 2 October 2000 – an EEA national parent must have been in the UK exercising treaty rights at the time of the child’s birth (or have already gained a permanent status here).
- Between 2 October 2000 and 29 April 2006 – an EEA national parent must have been granted ILR before the child was born. A stamp may have been entered in the parent’s passport to confirm this.
- From 30 April 2006 onwards, a parent must have gained Permanent Resident status by the time of the child’s birth. This would generally be after a period of five years residence during which the parent exercised treaty rights.
Exercising treaty rights means being a worker, self-employed, student, self-sufficient or job-seeker. There are specific requirements to be met for each of these activities to be counted as qualifying time. In some cases, whether a parent has gained Permanent Resident status may involve quite complicated legal issues.
If one or more parent met the requirements above at the time of birth the child will be British.
The passport office guidance with more details, including the special rules relating to Swiss nationals, can be found here.
How can British Citizenship be proven?
If the child had British citizenship at birth then a passport can be obtained to prove this status by making an application through the Passport Office.
Parents do not need to apply for a document certifying Permanent Residence before applying for a child’s passport. Unless they had been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, parents may not have any single document to show they had gained the required status. Documents such as payslips will need to be sent with the child’s application to show the parent had gained Permanent Residence before the child’s birth. In some cases, identifying whether a parent had gained Permanent Residence status by the required date can be quite complex.
Guidance on the evidence which needs to be supplied with these applications can be found here.
Even if not needed for travel, making a passport application will make the government aware of the claim to citizenship. It may be easier to provide evidence now rather in the future when the documents may have been lost or accidentally destroyed. If not applying immediately then relevant documents should be stored securely so an application can easily be made in the future.
Recent cases in the press have highlighted difficulties for people with a claim to citizenship but who have not been able to provide the right evidence to do so.
Registration as a British citizen
Children born in the UK who were not automatically British at birth can be registered as British citizens once one of their parents gains ILR or Permanent Residence Status.
An application to register, with a fee, must be made before the child’s 18th birthday.
It is also possible for people to be registered as British citizens if they were born in the UK and spent the first 10 years of their life here (except for up to 90 days). This application can be made by both children and adults.
Additionally, it may be possible for a child to be registered if the Home Office exercises discretion to do so. In all cases, children over 10 years old must meet a good character requirement.
The fee for children to register as a British citizen has now risen to £973 making it out of reach for many children or families. The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) has been campaigning on the injustice of the Home Office profiting from these applications. You can find out more about their work, and how you can get involved, here.
Gaining British citizenship can have an impact on another nationality status so advice about dual citizenship should be taken from the other country’s government before registering a child as a British citizen.
Do children who have EU/EEA citizenship need to apply for a British passport or register for citizenship?
EU/EEA nationals will continue to have a right of residence whilst the UK remains in the UK. There is much uncertainty as to the future but it is hoped that suitable arrangements can be agreed for all current residents. There is no need to apply for a British passport or citizenship but, whatever happens in the future, it may be useful.
Unlike EEA Permanent Residence status or Indefinite Leave to Remain, British nationality is not lost even after extended periods away from the UK.
Even if a family is leaving the UK, as sadly some have decided, it may be worth considering these options as a child may wish to return here in the future. In some cases the opportunity to secure British citizenship may be lost if steps are not taken by parents at this time.
If you would like advice about British citizenship please contact us.
Find out more about our services for EEA nationals.