Many immigrants already had children when they started their lives in the UK. Is there a way for these children to become British citizens?
Yes, there is a way. There are actually several possibilities. I will explain here how these children can become British citizens before they become adults. Because, obviously, there is also the option for these children to apply for naturalisation after they turn 18, in which case they must meet the usual requirements for naturalisation, like any other adult. I wrote about how an adult can become a British citizen here.
So how can a child born outside the UK to non-British parents become a British citizen before they turn 18? The simple answer is that an application must be submitted, accompanied by strong evidence, asking those reviewing the application (Home Office staff) to exercise their DISCRETION to register the child as a British citizen.
What does “exercise discretion” mean? It means that that child does not have an ENTITLEMENT (a right) to become a British citizen, like one born in the UK and whose parents became settled or British after the date of the child’s birth. But if that child who was not born in the UK does not have a right, it does not mean that they do not have a vocation. What the Home Office wants to see in the application is basically either one of the child’s parents (or both) applying at the same time for naturalisation as a British citizen, or that, although neither parent is applying to become a British citizen at the same time, the child meets some requirements which make their registration as a British citizen desirable.
Put simply, the Home Office must be convinced either that, once a parent is naturalised as a British citizen, the child should also be registered as a British citizen, or that there are some conditions, explained below, which once met lead to the conclusion that that child should become British despite neither parent applying for citizenship.
What are the conditions under which the Home Office is most likely to agree to register the child born outside the UK to non-British parents as a British citizen?
When a parent is applying for naturalisation at the same time
If the child’s application is made at the same time as one of the parents, who in turn wishes to naturalise as a British citizen, it must be proven that the other parent (obviously, if there is one, lives in the UK and is involved in the child’s life) has been granted indefinite leave to remain (settled status), that the child has been resident in the UK for at least the last 2 years and is settled in the UK, that both parents consent to the child being registered as a British citizen (although there are some exceptions to this requirement) and that there is no reason for the application to be refused on grounds related to the child’s character (a requirement for children over 10 and not met where, for example, the child has committed offences).
If neither parent is applying for naturalisation at the same time
If neither parent is applying for naturalisation, an application to register the child as a British citizen must prove that the child has been legally resident in the UK for at least 5 years, has been granted indefinite leave to remain (settled status) and held that status for at least one year, their parents have lived in the UK for at least 5 years and have received indefinite leave to remain (settled status), both parents give their consent for the child to be registered as a British citizen, and there is no reason for the application to be refused on grounds of the child’s character.
Alternatively, it is possible for an application to be made to register as a British citizen a child born outside the UK to non-British parents where both the child and their parents are lawfully resident in the UK and the child has been lawfully resident in the UK for at least 10 years, has parental consent for that application and there is no reason for the application to be refused for reasons related to the child’s character.
In all situations where Home Office caseworkers are requested to exercise their discretion in registering as a British citizen a child born outside the UK to non-British parents, those reviewing the application will consider the child’s residence and links to the UK, the country where the child is most likely to live in the future, the views, nationality and immigration status of the child’s parents, the child’s character and any other relevant and compelling circumstances.
Obviously, the preparation of such an application and the gathering of evidence to support it should be left to a professional if the application is to have any chance of success. Parents will always ask what the chances of success are, and whether there is a risk of the application being refused and the money invested in this procedure being lost. The answer is that there are always such risks, but they are minimal where the application is solid, correctly completed, and the evidence provided – convincing. All the above are not my personal opinions, but legal provisions in force and instructions issued by the Home Office for professionals like me and for their own employees who decide on such applications.
I am here to help
If you want to register your child born outside the UK as a British citizen and need specialist advice, feel free to contact me. Please note that I am an accredited immigration adviser, not an employee of the UK Visas and Immigration. I charge fees for the advice provided.