GLA OPS

Applying for British citizenship

If a child or young person is not already automatically a British citizen, there are some situations in which they can apply to become a British citizen. The process of a child becoming a British citizen is called registration (for an adult it is normally called naturalisation).

Born in the UK and parent becomes settled or British

A child has a right to become a British citizen if they were born in the UK and one or both of their parents later is settled (gets indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence) or becomes a British citizen. They must apply before they turn 18. If the child is 10 or over, the Home Office rules are that the child must be of ‘good character’. This means it will, for example, consider any criminal convictions.

To apply to register the child as a British citizen use Form MN1. The application form needs to be sent with evidence that the parent has been granted settled status or British citizenship. You can find the form and more information on the Home Office website.

The application fee to register a child as British is currently £1,012. There is no fee exemption for a looked-after child.

Important: The application fee normally changes every year, usually in April. In the past few years the fee has always increased. You should always check what the current fee is before you apply.

If you need help with this type of application and can't afford a lawyer, you could try referring the case to Coram Children’s Legal Centre's free Children's Pro Bono Legal Service.

Born in the UK and lived first ten years in UK

A child has a right to become a British citizen if they were born in the UK and have lived in the UK for the first ten years of their life. There must be no gaps of more than 90 days in any year (if there are longer gaps they may still be able to apply depending on the circumstances). They can apply at any time, even after they've turned 18. If the child is 10 or over, the Home Office rules are that the child must be of ‘good character’. This means it will, for example, consider any criminal convictions.

This application to register the child or young person as a British citizen is made on Form T. The application form needs to be sent with evidence of the child living in the UK for the first 10 years of their life. You can find the form and more information on the Home Office website.  

The fee to apply to register a child as British is currently £1,012. To register someone over 18 costs £1,206. There is no fee exemption for a looked-after child.

Important: The application fee normally changes every year, usually in April. In the past few years the fee has always increased. You should always check what the current fee is before you apply.

If you need help with this type of application and can't afford a lawyer, you could try referring the case to Coram Children’s Legal Centre's free Children's Pro Bono Legal Service.

At the Home Office's discretion

The Home Office has a wide discretion so can decide to register any child as a British citizen. This means even if you don't meet all the rules, you can still apply. This might be relevant, for example, if:

  • the child arrived in the UK as an infant and has grown up here their whole life and
  • it can be shown that the child’s future clearly lies in the UK and
  • it would be in the child’s best interests to be registered as British and
  • the child is of ‘good character’

They must apply before they turn 18. The application fee to register a child as British is currently £1,012.

Important: The application fee normally changes every year, usually in April. In the past few years the fee has always increased. You should always check what the current fee is before you apply.

For looked after children, if a child is under a full care order and is not British, you could apply to register them as British at the Home Office’s discretion. There is no fee exemption for looked-after children.

These discretionary registration applications are complicated. Get legal advice first. To find a lawyer, visit the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association website.

If you can't afford a lawyer, you can contact the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens to see whether they can help.

Dual nationality

The UK allows dual nationality but some countries do not. This means that the child or young person could lose their other nationality if they become British. You can check by contacting the embassy or high commission of the relevant country.

Flowchart reproduced courtesy of the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens

A case study: Christina's story

I was unaware of the legality surrounding my being in the UK until I was a teenager in secondary school. I did not go on trips that were abroad even though I really wanted to. My mum had said we couldn’t afford it, so I believed her. In truth, it was because I was undocumented. I only realised the seriousness of not having a legal status in the UK at secondary school. This is because despite feeling just as British as my school friends, I was denied certain rights and privileges.

When I was 16 my mother applied for discretionary leave to remain. Thankfully our application was successful and we were granted a temporary status called Limited Leave to Remain. I thought this meant that everything would be okay but I had a long way to go before I could apply for citizenship.

I applied for British citizenship and I was refused. I had asked for an internal review which again got refused. I was very disappointed and upset with the decision but later met an experienced lawyer from Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) who gave me hope that things could still work out. I challenged the review decision in the high court which was emotionally stressful and financially taxing. The review was not covered by legal aid, so I paid small contributions throughout to help fund my case.

My case was settled in July 2015. Two months before I was due to begin university I was granted British citizenship. There were times I felt helpless and negative but I'm very fortunate things worked out as they did. There are so many young people who are still going through this.

Since gaining my citizenship I have gone on to achieve many things. I am going into my final year at university after completing a placement where I was a research assistant to a renowned business psychologist. I am a student ambassador at university and work closely with the ‘Widening Participation’ department to increase the university’s engagement with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am also the co-founder and secretary of the Women in Business Society at my University. I have completed several internships and plan to continue to do so. None of this would have been possible if PRCBC had not helped me to gain citizenship.

This is what I achieved in three short years and it is just the beginning.