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British citizenship

The information in this section is intended to help establish whether a child may be British, and when a child or adult may be able to apply to become a British citizen. It only covers the most common scenarios and does not provide a complete summary of British citizenship laws. 

Children under 18 

Acquiring British citizenship by birth

A child who is born in the UK will not automatically be a British citizen. A child will acquire British citizenship by birth if they are born in the UK to a parent who is either a British citizen or who has a form of settled status, such as indefinite leave to remain, at the time of the birth. 

A child who is born outside of the UK to a British parent may be a British citizen by descent, depending on the circumstances by which their parent obtained British citizenship. 

A child will not have acquired British citizenship by birth if they were born before 1 July 2006 to a British or settled father who was not married to the child’s mother, where the mother is not British or settled. In such cases, the child can apply to register as a British citizen. 

A child who has acquired citizenship by birth can apply for a British passport.  

Registration as a British citizen

When a child is not automatically British by birth, they may be able to apply to the Home Office to register as a British citizen.

A child will be entitled to register as a British citizen if one of the following applies to them: 

  • They were born in the UK and a parent subsequently becomes British or acquires settled status before the child turns 18.
  • They were born in UK prior to 1 July 2006 to a British or settled father who was not married to the child’s mother. 
  • They were born in the UK and lived here until they were at least 10 years’ old.

The Home Office also has the discretion to register any child as British, although legal advice should be sought to find out if such an application can be made. 

To register as a British citizen, the child must make an application to the Home Office and will need to pay a fee of £1,012, unless they qualify for a fee waiver. A child who is age 10 or over will also need to meet a good character requirement.

Adults

An adult may be able to apply to naturalise as a British citizen if they have lived in the UK lawfully for five years and have been settled in the UK for at least one year. The spouse or civil partner of a British citizen may be able to apply after three years of residence if they are settled in the UK. Requirements relating to permitted absences from the UK, good character, and knowledge of English language and life in the UK will also need to be met.

To naturalise as a British citizen, an application must be made to the Home Office and a fee of £1,330 paid. 

An adult who was born in the UK and lived here until they were at least 10 years’ old will be entitled to apply to register as a British citizen for a fee of £1,206.  Requirements relating to permitted absences from the UK and good character must also be met. 

A Commonwealth citizen may be able to apply for British citizenship through the Windrush Scheme

Further information and advice

As British nationality law is complex and application fees are costly, it is advisable to seek legal advice from an immigration adviser before making an application.

For full details about all of the different routes to citizenship and how to apply, see the Home Office information about British citizenship.

The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) provides information about different registration routes for children and, in some cases, may be able to assist a child or young person to make an application.