Helena Sheizon
Poli Che
Helena Sheizon

Are your kids British? … Are you sure?

Not every child born in the UK is a British citizen.

Those who were born in the in the UK before 1983 are British citizens by birth, and a British birth certificate showing the date of birth before 1 January 1983 is proof of British citizenship independently of the immigration status of the parents.

After 1 January 1983 nationality rules became more complex. In legal terms  jus soli (“right of land” which before this date determined citizenship) was largely taken over by, or partly mixed with, jus sanguinis (“right of blood”). In other words, it has become a combination of the legal status of the parents and the place of birth of the child that determines whether the child is British at birth.

All children born in the UK to a British parent (or British parents) are British citizens by birth (although there are some exceptions for those who were born before 1 July 2006 and whose parents were not married). Children born in the UK to migrants who have indefinite leave to remain or to EEA nationals with permanent right of residence are British by birth. And here we are entering into an area of unfathomable greyness.

What if the parent’s right of permanent residence is unconfirmed?

This scenario is certainly not uncommon. On the one hand, the document confirming permanent right of residence is not a prerequisite. You may have acquired permanent right of residence without ever thinking about it and you may not even realise that your child is born a British citizen. The easiest way to prove settled status of the parent on the date of the child’s birth is by a document confirming permanent right of residence and a letter stating the date on which it was attained. Although the document confirming permanent right of residence only shows issue date and does not show the date on which permanent residence was actually accrued, since a few months ago (summer 2016) the Home Office started to include this information in the covering letter and it is important to keep this letter as the date when permanent residence was accrued may be years before the document was issued.

Nevertheless, it should be remembered that permanent residence can be lost through absence from the UK for more than two years. So if the child is born more than two years after the parent’s permanent residence document was issued, to prove the child’s British citizenship at birth the parent will have to demonstrate that they were not out of the UK for two years since acquiring confirmation of permanent residence.

In practical terms, it is recommended that all children born to non British parents should have a document confirming their British nationality status. An application for this document can be made using form NS and the Home Office fee for issuing the document is £234 as of April 2017.

Is a British passport sufficient proof of nationality status?

British passport is a travel document issued to a British citizen. At the border control the immigration officers check that the passport is correctly issued, is not cancelled and is not reported lost or stolen. You will not be questioned about how you became British and when. However, an application for a new British passport has to be supported by evidence of entitlement to British citizenship and the evidential requirements become more and more onerous by the day. Producing a previous passport is no longer sufficient proof of entitlement and your child may be questioned in 30 years’ time about the basis for entitlement to British citizenship. Having official confirmation of British citizenship issued at a fee by the Nationality Directorate of the Home Office will potentially save any further questioning in the time to come.

Can British nationality status be reviewed?

There is undeniably a very serious problem in the risk of the government reviewing British nationality status of those British born children of EU nationals who had been issued with British passports in the good old days with “no questions asked”.

I have seen families who complained that their first child born in the UK was issued with a British passport with no quibbles, whereas their child born a few years later would not be recognised as a British citizen by the passport office. Furthermore, the Home Office may not be convinced that the parents have actually acquired permanent right of residence after years and years of residence either because of breaks between employments, or due to insufficient earnings, or in the absence of a comprehensive medical insurance, or due to lack of evidence of looking for employment, and such other criteria which were virtually inexistent in the happier days of British membership in the EU.

In my view, it would be very unlikely that British nationality status would be reviewed without serious reasons for initiating a review where nationality was confirmed officially by the Nationality Directorate. It is more likely to be routinely reviewed as a matter of policy in the absence of this document in a similar way as British citizenship is now routinely reviewed in respect of those who had relied on their British overseas citizen’s status or citizens of former British colonies.

When can a child be registered as a British citizen?

A child born in the UK who is not British by birth can be registered as a British citizen as soon as one of the parents becomes settled (i.e. acquires permanent right of residence or indefinite leave to remain). A registration certificate is a document proving the holder is a British citizen. This document is to be retained for life and may be requested at any time when an application for a British passport is made.

EEA nationals acquire permanent right of residence in the UK once they have exercised their Treaty rights for a continuous period of five years and their children born in the UK are British citizens. Nevertheless, interpretation of who acquires the right to permanent residence has been shifting with every turn of the spiral in the Brexit campaign. Lack of clarity spills over to the nationality law.

Also, a child born in the UK can be registered by entitlement if the child has spent the first 10 years of his of her life in the UK and have not been out of the UK for more than 90 days in any one of those years. Registration on this basis can be done at any time even when the person is adult.

Registration of children born outside the UK

A child born outside the UK can be registered as a British citizen at the discretion of the Secretary of State. The most important criteria for exercise of discretion is that the child’s future lies in the UK. It is expected that at least one of the parents is becoming a British citizen at the same time or has already naturalised as a British citizen and the other parent is settled, although this should not be understood as a mandatory requirement. Children over the age of 13 are expected to have lived in the UK for at least two years prior to registration. For younger children residence requirement does not apply as long as their future is clearly seen to lie in the UK.


Post Author

Helena Sheizon

Helena Sheizon

Helena is the founder and managing director of Kadmos Consultants. She was called to the bar in 2005 and has been specialising in immigration since 2006. She is registered as Level 3 (OISC top level) immigration advisor with a licence for Judicial Review case management.

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20 Responses

  1. Hi
    I Lived in England for 6 years from age 9-15. (1999-2005)
    At that time my dad was working there for over 5 consecutive years and applied for permanent residence and citizenship. being under 18 years old i received my citizenship as well.
    Today i am 32 and have a child of my own born outside the UK. i was wondering if he is eligible for a British citizenship.
    (also, If i move back to England does that make things simpler for him?)

  2. Hi I have a 14 year old son born in france to a French national. Not married. Is my son entitled to a British passport tia

  3. Hello I recently found out I have a brother he was born here in 2005 to a British parent(father). My brother has been raised abroad and has now been put in an orphanage . I have his birth certificate the dad doesn’t want nothing to do with the child how do I prove nationality status to help my brother?

    1. Hi Saida, you really need legal advice there. Your brother may be a British citizen by birth or he may need to be registered as a British citizen. You can reach out to a citizens’ advice bureau or you can book a 15-minute consultation so that we could road map what needs to be done.

  4. Hi
    if im married to a Philippine national and both my kids are born in her country are my kids also British citizens?

    1. Hi Philip, your kids are British citizens if you are British other than by descent – in other words, if you were born in the UK, registered as a child (other than registration by descent) or if you were naturalised as a British citizen. If you are British by descent but have lived in the UK for at least three years continuously before the children were born you can register them. The type of registration in this case would be British by descent. If you need help with either British passport applications or registration, please let us know. Will be happy to help.

  5. Hi I have been living in UK since 2006. I have acquired my resident permit through my European husband which has been in UK since 2002 and also working. Our daughter born in may 2007, my visa arrived 10 days after she was born and my husband, received certificate of registration as Ea national. Is there any chance my daughter is british by birth. If so how can I prove since the docs back from the home office was granted 10 days after her birth, also my husband was living and working in UK, for over 5 years before her birth.

    Many thanks 😊

    1. Hi, unfortunately, it’s impossible to answer your question without knowing more. Your daughter may very well be British by birth, but it is also possible that she is not – depending on your husband’s nationality and on whether he had worked for a continuous 5-year period in the UK. I would recommend that you book a consultation and we will be happy to give legal advice to you.

  6. Hello I and my wife are European citizens but we are living in UK from September of 2012. My question is my child born in Uk in November of 2016. When he was born I was living in Uk 4 years and 6 month but I lived in UK in 2009 during 1 year but I left the country and came back to Portugal. My son can apply for british passaporte?

    1. Hi Ricardo, by the sound of it your child is not British but I cannot give you proper legal advice without full knowledge of your and your wife’s circumstances. And this will not be the right platform for it anyway. If the child was born before you or your wife became settled in the UK you can register the child as a British citizen once you become settled. Let us know if you need help with it.

  7. Hello. I’m looking for an advice as this is not clear to me.
    I and my wife arrived to UK from EU in 2005. In 2006 our daughter was born. In 2009 our son was born. In 2011 we applied for a naturalization and in 2012 we were naturalised and got our British passports. I must say that our children were born in Scotland.
    Now, we are planning to naturalise our children through MN1 form. Do we need to apply for the Permament Resident Card for them first? Permanent Residence Card is required for the naturalization but we are now British parents so well settled in this country. Any ideas?

  8. HI Chris,
    my kids father is settled he became settled in 2012 after my son was born my daughter was then born in 2014
    i have been adding my kids to my 2.5yr leave to remain applications but it has come to my attention that my son can actually register on the MN1 form as British and my daughter is British naturally as she was born to a settleled father
    My questions is can I make these applications for them myself as their father and I broke up due to DV. I have documents from the police confirming he was found guilty in court
    i have birth certificates for them and evidence that he pays child maintenance for them.
    my solicustor tried to contact him before to get him to apply for the children but he refused. I have this evidence too
    as the home office granted him ILR surely they have the evidence on their systems. and they have confirmed in previous applications that they are extending my 2.5yrs as he has ILR
    Can i do the application myself? can i use your services?

    1. Hi Ana, yes, you can make the application without the father’s involvement and we will be happy to help with this. Give us a call on 020 8930 9503 and we will arrange for the next steps.

      Best wishes,


  9. Hello. You say that ‘A child born in the UK who is not British by birth can be registered as a British citizen as soon as one of the parents becomes settled (i.e. acquires permanent right of residence or indefinite leave to remain)’. Would the parent/s need to have a document to prove they’re settled when applying for the child’s registration or will evidence of, say continuous employment for 5 years be enough?

    Context: my wife and I are both EU citizens and have both been continuously working in the UK for over 5 years. Our daughter was born in 2016 and we are planning on applying for her citizenship, but the application form does not make this crucial point clear. In fact the application form (MN1) doesn not even ask for evidence of 5 years’ residency for the parent/s – it simply asks for the date when the parent “became settled in the UK (eg granted indefinite leave to remain)”.

    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Chris, thank you for this. No, parents do not have to have a document confirming permanent right of residence, but it helps if you have one. If you have or your wife worked in the UK for five years before the child was born, she may have been born British and you do not need to register her. In this case you would only need confirmation of her British citizenship.

      It is probably best to receive legal advice and we can help with the application for registration if your daughter is not born British and qualifies to apply for registration.

      Hope this helps.

  10. I am applying now for my eea permanent residence card.I have been living in the UK since 2004 as an EU cutizen. My children are born in 2012 and 2015 in the UK. when I apply for my first born British passport. I was asked to provide proof of employment and bank statements. Then I received the first British passport. For my second child, I was asked to provide proof of employment one more time, I wrote a letter to explain I already went through the same process before and then the second passport was issued. Now that I’m applying for my permanent residence card, are my children s British passport a sufficient proof of residence?

  11. I am a EU national while my wife is a non EU national we both acquired our permanent residence in 2016. I had first child in 2011 and and second 2013. I have been working since I came to UK in 2009 and I am still working. May I kindly inquire in my children do qualify for British citizenships

    1. The answer to your question depends on whether the children were born in the UK or abroad. If born in the UK they are entitled to register as British citizens. If born abroad they can be registered at the discretion of the Secretary of State, normally (but not necessarily) when one of the parents also applies for British citizenship through naturalisation.

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