How to acquire British citizenship for a child adopted overseas?

If you are planning to adopt a child from another country and want him/her to have British Citizenship, you must be aware of the following

  • In some situations, the child becomes a British citizen automatically on the date of adoption
  • In other situations, the Secretary of State will carefully consider if the child qualifies for British citizenship

Let us consider each of the two situations in detail

  1. Automatic acquisition of British Citizenship

Under section 1(5) and 1(5A) of the British Nationality Act 1985, the adopted child can become a British citizen if

  1. A court in the UK or a qualifying territory passes an order authorizing the adoption or,
  2. The minor is adopted under a Convention Adoption

What is Convention Adoption?

The term ‘Convention’ refers to the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

A convention adoption is one in which the adoption took place in a country where the Convention is in force. It must have been in force when the adoption was affected. The adoption must also be certified under Article 23(1) of the Convention. Article 23(1) states that the adoption certified by the State of Adoption must be in accordance with the regulations of the Convention.

In simple terms, if you have obtained the Article 23 Hague Convention Adoption Certificate, then you can be certain that the adoption is a convention adoption.

Two more requirements must be met for the adopted child to acquire British citizenship

  • The adopter, or one of the adopters (if it is joint adoption) must be a British citizen at the time of adoption
  • For convention adoption, the adopter, or both the adopters (if it is joint adoption) must be a habitual resident of the UK or the designated territory

If all the above requirements are satisfied, you can apply for a British Passport for the child. You will have to submit evidence that you are a British citizen or a habitual resident and also the Article 23 Adoption Certificate (for convention adoption)

  1. British Citizenship by Registration

The adopted child can be registered for British Citizenship under section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act of 1981. Please note that an application for registration can be made only when the child is a minor. After the application is submitted, the Secretary of State will review the matter and determine if the child qualifies for British Citizenship.

The policy based on which the Secretary of State makes the decision is published and available for reading. So, make sure to go through the policy before applying.

According to the policy, the Secretary of State will rule in favour of citizenship if:

  • The child is from a country or territory whose adoption procedures are recognised by the UK
  • The adoption is not a temporary or informal arrangement
  • Legal relationship with the origin family is fully terminated
  • The biological parents have consented for the adoption
  • The child’s character is good (considered only if the child is 10 or older)
  • The adoption laws (of the country of adoption and residence) are adhered to

In case a few of the above requirements are not met, the child can still be registered if the Secretary of State finds some exceptional reason for doing so.

But what if the child does not qualify for citizenship by automatic acquisition or by registration? The adopted child then has to apply for leave to enter and stay in the UK.

If you need an immigration expert to assist you with your application, please contact a member at Aristone Solicitors.

Get in touch with aristone solicitors today



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