Why is British Citizenship important to children and young adults?

Many children born in the UK or with lengthy residence have a right in law to register as British citizens. These children include children born in the UK to European citizens, stateless children born in the UK and looked after children. For an insight into Parliament’s intention when introducing the British Nationality Act 1981, please see Commentary_ Hansard BNA 1981 _registration_Aug 2018.

It is extremely important for children to register their right promptly. Please see our Booklet “Children and their rights to British Citizenship” for Parents, Carers and Children:

Children and their Rights to British Citizenship


The importance of British citizenship is highlighted by the Secretary of State on his British citizenship application form guide. This points out that

“Citizenship is a ‘significant life event’. Apart from allowing a child to apply for a British citizen passport, British citizenship gives them the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of their local community as they grow up.“

British citizenship to a child and young adult is about identity, integration, sense of belonging, confirmation that this is their home, having the same rights and feeling part of their peer group and much more.

British citizenship also means that the child or young adult obtains all the advantages of citizenship, including the right to live in the UK, freedom from immigration control, access to student loans, employment, health services and other social benefits. At worst, a child or young adult who is not registered is at risk of being removed, often to a country s/he has barely lived in and knows nothing about.

From our own experience, and the experience of those who work with children and young adults, it is of psychological importance to be registered as British citizens. Doing so gives young persons a greater sense of identity in the UK (see pages 22-29 of legal research report: Systemic obstacles to children’s registration as British Citizens).

Estimates have indicated that there are approximately 120,000 young persons living in the UK without the legal right to reside under current immigration laws. Of these children, approximately 65,000 were born in the UK.


Why are children not being registered as British Citizens?

Our legal research confirmed that many children born in the UK or living here from an early age do not have British citizenship or any leave (permission) to remain in the UK. However, many are entitled to British citizenship, and others, while not entitled, may be granted citizenship at the discretion of the Home Office.

Some of these children neither know they do not have permission to be in the UK nor that they may apply for citizenship. Similarly, parents, foster parents and corporate parents (social services) often do not know these things; and in some cases appear to prefer not to know.

Among key problems are:

  • No steps taken by those responsible for the welfare of children to enable these children to exercise their right to register as British
  • Lack of awareness among children, parents, others working with children
  • Unaffordability of the registration application fee of £1,126 for young persons 18 or over; and concerns about the accessibility of the fee waiver introduced from 16 June 2022 for children who cannot afford the registration application fee of £1,012. See FAQs: faqs8_30may_2022 (5)
  • Gathering evidence may be complex and costly
  • Absence of legal aid for advice and assistance in registration applications
  • Poor decision-making by Home Office, poor application of discretion, poor guidance, absence of consideration of section 55 of 2009 Act, UNCRC duties and/or right to private life
  • If refused registration, there is also no legal aid for advice and assistance at Home Office internal review stage and a £372 Home Office review fee is required
  • Application of the good character test for children aged 10 or over (and Home Office guidance that treats children the same adults). See reference material on children’s citizenship claims and the good character requirement: https://prcbc.org/research/

Updated October 2022