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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-how-adopted-children-can-become-british/intercountry-adoption-and-british-citizenship
1. Adoption in the UK
If your child is adopted by order of a court in the UK, (including, for this purpose, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), or in any British overseas territory (except the British Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus) and at least one of the adoptive parents was a British citizen at the time the adoption order was made, then the child will automatically become a British citizen.
In law they will become a ‘British citizen other than by descent’ which is the same as if they had been born in the UK to a British citizen parent. This means that they can pass on British citizenship to any children they have.
2. Hague Convention adoptions
If your child’s final adoption order is certified as having been made in accordance with the terms of the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption and at least one of the adoptive parents was a British citizen at the time the adoption order was made and the adopting parent (or in the case of a joint adoption, both adopting parents), was (were) habitually resident in the UK at the time of the final adoption order, then the child will automatically become a British citizen.
The child will become a British citizen ‘other than by descent’, which is the same as if they had been born in the UK to a British citizen parent. This means that they can pass on British citizenship to any children they have. Please note that ‘convention interim’ adoption orders or orders entrusting a child to be brought into the UK for adoption here do not confer British citizenship on the child.
3. Other adoptions
Adoption in any other circumstances will not result in the adopted child acquiring British citizenship automatically. The child can only acquire citizenship will be through registration under section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981. Registration under this section is entirely at the discretion of the Home Secretary.
Where the child was adopted:
- before 3 January 2014 in a ‘designated country’
- after 3 January 2014 in a country that is listed in the Adoption (Recognition of Overseas Adoptions) Order 2013 or the Adoption (Recognition of Overseas Adoptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 and the Adoption (Recognition of Overseas Adoptions) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations
- through a Hague Convention adoption
an application will normally be approved if each of the following criteria is satisfied:
at least one of the adoptive parents is a British citizen otherwise than by descent (i.e. by virtue of his or her birth, adoption, registration or naturalisation in the United Kingdom)
the adoptive parents have consented to the registration
there is no reason to refuse registration on grounds of the child’s character
the Home Secretary is satisfied that all relevant adoption laws have been complied with. This includes the laws of the country in which the adoption has taken place, the country of origin of the child and the country in which the adoptive parents are habitually resident
the Home Secretary is satisfied that the adoption is not one of convenience arranged to facilitate the child’s admission to the United Kingdom
Adoptions before 3 January 2014 in countries that were not on the designated list, or after 3 January 2014 in countries that are not recognised in UK law in accordance with the legislation listed above, and which are not Hague Convention adoptions, are not recognised in UK law. Applications for registration in these circumstances would normally be refused.
Registration under Section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act confers ‘British citizenship other than by descent’ upon the child. This is the same status as if they had been born in the UK to a British citizen parent. This means that they can pass on British citizenship to any children they have.
British citizens are not subject to control under UK immigration legislation, but they must be able to prove their status when seeking admission to this country. This may be done by producing either a UK passport which describes the holder as a British citizen or a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode.
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