13 July 2021

Changes to Registration of Stateless Children Under The Nationality Act 1981

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Previously the SSHD in her proposed changed to the stateless route identified that the route is open to abuse because many parents would refuse to register their children by their own nationality. SSHD has now proposed changes to the registration of stateless children route under nationality Act 1981.

Current Requirements:

Under current nationality law a child can acquire British Citizenship under statelessness provisions where:

  • The child is born in the UK
  • Have lived in the UK for 5 years and,
  • Never had any nationality

Proposed Changes Under Clause 9 of the bill

The above provisions/requirements will remain in place only for those applicants who have lived in the UK as stateless person throughout their lives until they reach the age of 18. The registration application can be made before the age of 22. There are additional requirements proposed for the children under this category.

Additional proposed requirements for children:

Additional requirements introduced for children aged between five and seventeen are proposed under a new paragraph 3A in Schedule 2 of the 1981 Act.

Under the new paragraph 3A(1)(d), a stateless child will only be registered as a British citizen if:

  • the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person is unable to acquire another nationality.

There are three situations identified where the child is deemed to be able to acquire another nationality. These are:

  • the nationality is the same as that of the child’s parents,
  • the person has been entitled to acquire the nationality since birth, and
  • in all the circumstances, it is reasonable to expect the person (or someone acting on their behalf) to take the steps which would enable the person to acquire the nationality in question.

Are there any exceptions?

Fortunately, the newly proposed provisions do leave some room to breathe for the applicants aged five years to seventeen years if “acquisition is conditional on the exercise of discretion on the part of the country or territory in question”. These provisions are stated under section 3A(3) of the act.

How does it benefit in certain cases?

For example, Indian nationality law does put restrictions upon the registration of a child born to Indian parents outside of India

For a stateless child of Indian parents, for example, if registration is attempted after the child’s first birthday, then it requires the Indian government to exercise discretion. Such a child will not, therefore, be somebody who “has been entitled to acquire the nationality since birth”. Obviously, not all countries will have the same provisions under their nationality law.

Therefore, not all hope is lost especially in the case of stateless children born to Indian national parents. How these provisions and other additional requirements will work in practice is yet to be seen.

UK’s Obligation Under 1961 Convention and International Law

The 1961 Convention establishes safeguards against statelessness in several different contexts. A central focus of the Convention is the prevention of statelessness at birth by requiring States to grant citizenship to children born on their territory, or born to their nationals abroad, who would otherwise be stateless.

Article 1(1)

The Contracting States shall grant their nationality to persons, otherwise stateless, born in their territory (subject to Article 1(2)).

The grant may be by virtue of the birth, or upon application by or on behalf of the person so born.

Article 1(2)

An applicant may have up until at least the age of 21 to claim their citizenship by birth from article 1(1).

For grant of citizenship by birth, a Contracting State may require proof of habitual residence in their territory for a period not exceeding 5 years immediately prior to application, or 10 years in total.

As we can see from the above-summarised articles under the 1961 Convention, the only requirements are for the child to be born in the signatory state and lived there for a minimum of five years. There is no requirement to have or to be able to acquire any other nationality.

Therefore, it is safe to say that if this bill becomes the law, UK may be in breach of international law.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Connaught Law and authors accept no responsibility for loss that may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Connaught Law. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Connaught Law.


About the Author

Awais has an extensive experience of advising high net-worth individuals on all types of immigration matters, ranging from investor and entrepreneur visa applications to appeals and judicial reviews in the Immigration Tribunal and the High Court.

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