All Blog Videos Webinars
24 May 2024

A useful guide to British citizenship for adopted children in 2024

If you are adopting an overseas child, you might be wondering what rules apply to your child regarding British citizenship. Read on to find out more.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
citizenship for adopted children

British citizenship and whether you qualify for it can be a complex topic that varies heavily based on your personal circumstances. 

Due to the complexity of the topic, you may also be wondering if British citizenship for adopted children is a possibility after you have successfully adopted them. 

Just like any other question about being eligible for citizenship, the answer is that it depends on the circumstances of the parent and child. 

In some cases, it is automatic, in others, an application must be made to the Government who will consider whether to issue your child with British citizenship or not.

Automatic British citizenship for adopted children

Adoptions in Britain and overseas territories

Your adopted child can automatically get British citizenship if a court in either the UK or a qualifying territory (such as a British Overseas Territory) passes an order that authorises the adoption. 

If the adopter or adopters of the child hold British citizenship, then the adopted child will automatically receive British citizenship from the date of the court order.

Adoptions elsewhere

For adoptions elsewhere, the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption provides another route. An adoption under this is known as a ‘Convention Adoption’.

Countries must be signatories to this convention for it to apply to the adoption process. 

The UK became a signatory of the convention on 1 June 2003, so the rules only apply to adoptions after this date. 

For the adopted child to get British citizenship under the convention, the adopter, or one of the adopters, must be a British citizen and habitually resident in the UK. 

Additionally, the one being adopted must be under the age of 18. 

Once you have adopted the child, you will be issued with an adoption certificate. 

You must submit the adoption certificate, evidence that you are a British citizen, and proof that you are habitually resident in the UK for your child to then be issued with a British passport. 

Registering an adopted child as a British citizen

Overseas children who have been adopted by British citizens can only register their children if they adopted the child from a country whose adoption process is recognised in the UK.

There are some minor differences depending on the time period you adopted your child in. Anyone who adopted their child before 3 January 2014 will have a slightly different list of countries that are accepted as valid to adopt from.  

The British Government has a list of valid countries you can adopt children from on their legislation website. 

Additionally, the Hague Convention has a list of countries that are party to the previously mentioned 1993 convention on intercountry adoption.

Aside from the fact you must adopt a child, or must have adopted a child, from one of the above countries in the corresponding time period, there are other requirements that must be met.

These requirements are: 

  • The adoption is not temporary or an informal arrangement
  • One adopter is a British citizen as previously mentioned
  • Relationship with the birth family has been terminated by law
  • Current parents have consented to the adoption
  • Adoption laws have been adhered to
  • No grounds for refusal regarding bad character
  • The adoption is found to not be out of convenience to help the child enter the UK

If the caseworker is not satisfied that all of the above requirements have been met, there are still some exceptional circumstances where the child can be registered as a British citizen. For example, on compassionate grounds.

Which countries are not valid for an overseas adoption?

The Government has a small list of countries where there are restrictions on people trying to adopt children from them.

The countries included on this list are:

  • Cambodia
  • Guatemala
  • Nepal
  • Haiti
  • Ethiopia
  • Nigeria

Countries are usually included on the restricted list due to their adoption systems failing to provide enough safeguards for children in the adoption system, or other reasons. 


How long does it take to get a decision from the Home Office?

Decisions can take anywhere from 3 months, all the way up to 6 months, and possibly even longer in rare circumstances. The time depends on how many active cases the Home Office is dealing with.

How much does it cost?

For a British citizenship application, it costs £1,214. If the child turns 18 during the application process, you will need to pay an extra £130 for their citizenship ceremony.
Applications to register as British Overseas citizens, British overseas territories citizens, or British subjects, it costs £810.

Does the adopted child lose their existing nationality?

Some countries do not allow dual citizenship, whilst some do. For example, the UK does allow people to hold two nationalities.
If a country does not allow dual citizenship, then your adopted child may lose their original nationality once they get British citizenship.

What if my application is refused?

If your application is refused, there is no right of appeal. However, you may be able to get a judicial review.
Also, you should possibly seek the advice of a professional to see what your options are.

Do I have other options if the child is not eligible for citizenship?

You may be able to make an application for Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK on behalf of your adopted child. Limited Leave to Enter may also be an option, alongside Indefinite Leave to Remain.
We recommend contacting us for our assistance in this situation.

How we can help

Though we cannot help you with the adoption process itself, we can assist you with anything related to British citizenship. We can also help people with visa applications and settlement.

Arrange a free 10-minute consultation to discuss your issue with a member of our expert immigration law team. Once it has been determined that we can help you or not, you can have a longer, paid consultation. These last either 30 minutes, or an hour.

The team member you initially talk to will act as your point of contact within our firm, and will be there to answer any questions you have and ease your concerns.

Get in touch with us today if you need our assistance. 

Ready for assistance?

If you have any questions, or want to book an appointment with one of our legal experts, contact Woodcock Law today. Call us on +44 (0)20 7712 1705 or email

Are you looking for notarial services?

We assist both individuals and businesses with a range of notarial services. For more information about how we might be able to help, head over to our dedicated notary site.