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Registering a UK Born Child as a British Citizen After 10 Years

If you do not qualify for British citizenship automatically, you may be eligible to apply for Registration as a British citizen, either by way of an entitlement or on a discretionary basis.  In this article we explore entitlement to registration as a British citizen for those born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983 and who have spent the first 10 years of their life in the UK.

What Are the Requirements for Registration as a British Citizen?

Section 1(4) of the British Nationality Act 1981:

A person born in the United Kingdom after commencement who is not a British citizen by virtue of subsection (1) or (2) shall be entitled, on an application for his registration as a British citizen made at any time after he has attained the age of ten years, to be registered as such a citizen if, as regards each of the first ten years of that person’s life, the number of days on which he was absent from the United Kingdom in that year does not exceed 90.

Therefore, adult or minors are entitled to registration under s.1(4) of the BNA 1981 if they:

  • were born in the UK;
  • they were not a British citizen at birth as at the time of birth;
  • they are aged 10 years or over on the date of the application; 
  • they have lived in the UK for the first 10 years of their life and have not been outside of the UK for more than 90 days in each of the first 10 years; and
  • the Secretary of State is satisfied they are of good character.

Registration under this provision gives British citizenship otherwise than by descent.

What If I Have Been Absent for Longer Than 90 Days?

Section 1(7) British Nationality Act 1981 allows for discretion to grant an application where there are longer absences than 90 days. 

The Registration as a British citizen: children Version 14.0, guidance to caseworkers published 10 August 2023 ‘the guidance’ reads as follows:

You should normally waive excess absences if: 

  • the number of days absent from the UK in any one of the years does not exceed 180 days and the total number of days over the 10 year period does not exceed 990 days 
  • the number of days absent exceeds 180 or 990 respectively but was due to circumstances beyond the family’s control, such as a serious illness 

You must not waive excess absences over 180 days in a single year or 990 days in the 10 year period where: 

  • the only reason was that the applicant was unaware of the requirements, without there being any special circumstances 
  • the parents’ absences with the child were entirely voluntary

What Evidence Should I Provide To Register a Child Born in the UK as a British Citizen After 10 Years?

You will need to include a birth certificate to demonstrate place of birth and age and evidence of residence during the relevant 10-year period. 

The guidance reads as follows:

The evidence of residence will differ for the different periods of a child’s life. Documents from the following list can establish residence

  • aged up to 5 years: 

o passport or travel document 

o medical records 

o vaccination records

 o doctors’ letters 

o personal child health record (red book) 

o letters from child’s nursery 

  • aged 5 to 10 years: 

o letters from child’s school confirming attendance 

o passport or travel document for the full 10 year period to confirm absences during the period

This is of course a non-exhaustive list and there will be a variety of sources of evidence to consider. The evidence available and required will vary depending on the facts of the individual case. You may like to seek advice in this regard. 

How Is Good Character Applied to a Child Applicant?

The British Nationality Act 1981 does not define good character. The relevant caseworking guidance sets out factors that should be considered but does not provide an exhaustive list. 

The guidance deals with the application of the requirement to young persons.  The caseworker should “take account of any mitigation relevant to the child’s particular circumstances”. 

When assessing criminal convictions “guidelines for adults will normally apply to a child who has been convicted of a criminal offence, the lesser sentence handed down to them may mean they are less likely to meet the higher thresholds’.  The caseworker will consider any “subsequent mitigation …. not taken into account at the time of sentencing.”

A caseworker “may exercise discretion where a child’s criminality would result in a lifetime refusal of any citizenship application.”

There are of course many considerations relating to good character.  It is important to note the guidance sets out a discretion in relation to children regarding immigration breaches:

When assessing a child’s good character, it will normally be appropriate to disregard immigration breaches if it is accepted this was outside of their control. For example, where a parent applied for the child to come to the UK as their dependant but failed to apply for an extension of leave when the child’s temporary leave expired, the child should not be penalised.

Parent(s)  Applying At Same Time – Impact

It is possible for a parent applying for citizenship to include a child on the application.  The child applicant may be entitled to register even if the parent’s application is refused.

Who Should I Ask To Be My Referees?

An application will require two referees.

For child applicants at least one of the referees must be a person who has dealt with the child in a professional role, such as a teacher, doctor, health visitor or social worker. 

The Nationality Policy: general information – all British nationals Version 4.0, published for Home Office staff on  10 May 2023 reads as follows:

Where a child cannot provide a referee who has dealt with them in a professional capacity and has provided documents to show that they have attempted to do so, you can accept 2 referees who meet the criteria for referees on adult applications.

Do I Need Parental Consent?

The guidance recognises that the applicant has an entitlement to be registered as a British citizen if the requirements in section 1(4) are met.  The guidance does recognise it is ‘good practice’ to obtain consent and the consent form for parents is generated as part of the application submission process. If consent is not obtained it is not a reason for refusal.  

Is an Oath and Pledge Required?

Unlike adults, when children successfully obtain citizenship there is no legal requirement for them to attend a ceremony and take the oath and pledge. 

However, if they are part of a successful family application, they will receive an invitation along with their parents to attend the ceremony and receive their certificate of registration, and if they wish, take the oath and pledge. 

The oath and pledge will need to be taken if the section 1(4) application is made as an adult, or the application is made by a child who becomes an adult by the time the application  is decided. 

Refused or Successful – Next Steps

You may wish to speak to our barristers in the event an application for registration as a British citizen has been refused. You will need to consider the reasons for the refusal and the merits of making a request for reconsideration of the decision. 

There is not a statutory right of appeal against the refusal of a citizenship (registration or naturalisation application). The only judicial remedy is that of judicial review.

Our earlier article addressed what steps to take when an application is successful. 

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice in relation to Registration as a British Citizen, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form.


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