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Can I get British citizenship through my child?

Relocating to another country is a complicated process, and the route to gaining British citizenship is no exception.

As an accredited DNA testing laboratory, we are well-versed in providing DNA tests in support of immigration, visa, and passport applications, helping verify biological relationships between family members and reunite families from across the world.

We also understand that, as an applicant, you probably have lots of questions about the process. 

In this article, we look at what British citizenship is, who can apply, whether you can gain British citizenship via your children, and how DNA tests – like those offered by AlphaBiolabs – can be used as supporting evidence in visa, immigration, and passport applications.

Table of contents
  • What is British citizenship and what are the requirements?
  • How can I get British citizenship?
  • Can I get British citizenship through my child?
  • Can a child get UK citizenship through their parents?
  • Can a child get UK citizenship through grandparents?
  • What evidence is needed when applying for British citizenship?
  • Who might need a DNA test for immigration/passport applications?
  • Which DNA tests are best for visa/citizenship applications?
  • Do I need to take a DNA test for my UK visa/citizenship application?
  • Do I need to use a solicitor for my visa/citizenship DNA test?
  • How much does an immigration DNA test cost?
  • How are DNA samples collected for immigration DNA testing?
  • How is an immigration DNA test performed at the laboratory?
  • How does sample collection work when a family member lives abroad?
  • What will the Home Office look for when reviewing my DNA test results?
  • Where can I buy a DNA test for my citizenship/visa or passport application?

What is British citizenship and what are the requirements?

People with British citizenship have the right to work, live and study in the UK indefinitely, have access to public funds (e.g. benefits, if eligible), and can apply for a British passport.

To be eligible for British citizenship, you must:

  • Be over the age of 18
  • Have had indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK for at least 12 months – this is the term used for when a person ‘settles’ in the UK. Indefinite leave to remain gives you the right to stay in the UK for as long as you want. You can also apply for benefits if you are eligible, and use ILR status to apply for full British citizenship
  • Have passed the Life in the UK test, demonstrating your knowledge of British culture, history and customs
  • Have been a continuous resident in the UK for at least five years, with no more than 450 days absence during that time
  • Not be in contravention of any immigration rules
  • Have satisfied the B1 CEFR English language requirements

You must also be able to demonstrate ‘good character’ as a potential British citizen. To assess your character, the Home Office will look at your criminal record, including any offences that may have taken place overseas, and any immigration violations.

They will also consider any positive contributions you have made to society.

How can I get British citizenship?

Whether or not you can apply for British citizenship depends on several factors, including your personal circumstances and whether you have biological relatives who are already permanent UK residents.

Before applying for citizenship, it is worth finding out whether you are eligible, as well as what the process involves.

Below are the circumstances in which you may be eligible to apply for British citizenship:

  • By birth or descent

    If you were born in the UK on or after 1st January 1983 or born when one of your biological parents had British citizenship, you will usually gain citizenship automatically.

  • By marriage

    To be eligible for citizenship by marriage, you must have spent a minimum of three years ‘settled’ in the UK. You must also be married to/the spouse of a British citizen.

  • Resident for 5 years

    If you have lived in the UK for five years or more, there are a couple of routes you can go down to apply for citizenship.

    You can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) status if you are a non-EEA citizen and have lived in the UK for five years. ILR gives you the right to remain in the UK for as long as you wish to study, work and live. It can also be used to apply for British citizenship.

    If you are from a country within the EEA (European Economic Area), you can apply to be a permanent resident after you have lived in the UK for five years.

    If you hold permanent residence or ILR status you can apply to become a British national (citizen) after 12 months.

    The rules mentioned above also apply if you have ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme, having lived in the UK for five years.

  • Individuals classed as ‘stateless’

    A person is classed as stateless if they are not recognised as a citizen of any country. If you are in this situation, you may be able to apply to become a British citizen.

    Your ability to apply for citizenship and the process you’ll need to follow will depend on the country you were born in.

  • Resuming citizenship

    It is possible to resume your British citizenship status if you have previously renounced it. However, there is certain guidance you will need to follow to do so.

Can I get British citizenship through my child?

Having a child who is a UK citizen does not automatically grant you citizenship as a parent.

However, you may be able to apply for leave to remain status if your child is a British citizen, if they are eligible for British citizenship, or if they have lived in the UK for at least seven years.

Leave to remain status is often the first step towards becoming a British citizen, enabling you to stay in the UK for a specific period. However, your activities will be restricted in line with your visa.

To apply for leave to remain status based on a relationship to a child, you must:

  • Prove that you have sole parental responsibility, or direct access to the child
  • Show that you are taking or intend to take an active role in the child’s upbringing
  • Be able to provide for your child without needing any financial support via public funds

The next step after leave to remain status would be to obtain indefinite leave to remain status (ILR). You can only apply for ILR if you have been residing in the UK for five years.

ILR enables you to remain in the UK for as long as you wish, to live, work and study. It also means you can apply for British citizenship, as well as any state benefits for which you might be eligible.

There are many resources available online which explain the process of applying for leave to remain status as the parent of a child residing in the UK.

Can a child get UK citizenship through their parents?

Depending on the circumstances, a child can be granted UK citizenship via their parents.

In the UK, a child might have automatic British citizenship if they were born in the UK, or one of their parents is a British citizen.

In these situations, you would not have to apply for UK citizenship for your child. This would also enable you to apply for a British passport for your child.

More information about who has British citizenship automatically can be found on the UK government website.

If your child does not have automatic British citizenship, there are a few other routes available to register them as a British citizen, provided they meet other provisions as set out in the British Nationality Act 1981.

These include:

  • They are under the age of 18 and either parent becomes a member of the UK Armed Forces
  • One or both parents became British citizens while the child was under the age of 18
  • They have lived in the UK for the first 10 years of their life
  • They have not been outside the UK for more than 90 days in each year of the first 10 years of their life

More information about eligibility for children to gain British citizenship can be found online at Citizens Advice.

Can a child get UK citizenship through grandparents?

Under UK immigration rules, a grandchild may have the right to claim automatic British citizenship if they have a grandparent (or in some cases, great-grandparent) who was born in the UK.

This route to citizenship is known as British citizenship by descent or double descent.

There are three instances where an individual may be able to claim British citizenship by double descent, through their relationship to a grandparent (or great-grandparent):

  • They are a child under the age of 18 – with a grandparent who was born in the UK, a parent who will be staying in the UK for another three years by the time an application for citizenship by descent is made, or are classed as ‘stateless’ when they are born (to a British citizen)
  • They were born before 1st January 1949 – the three most common scenarios for this are that the child’s parents were not born in a Commonwealth country (born before 1915), the child or their parent was born in a former British territory, or they are a woman who married a British man before 1949
  • They were born after 1st January 1949 – where the child’s parents were born in a former British territory, they have a parent or grandparent in service of the Crown e.g. British military, or their parents were married before 1949 and the mother was a British subject

More information on British citizenship by double descent can be found by visiting the Immigration Advice Service.

What evidence is needed when applying for British citizenship?

The documentation/evidence you need to submit for your British citizenship application can vary, depending on your personal circumstances, relationship to family members living in the UK, and which documents are available to you.

Some of the most requested evidence includes:

  • Proof of identity – such as a passport, national identity card, Home Office travel document or entitlement card, Home Office ARC letter, birth certificate, photographic driving licence or bank/building society/credit card statement issued within the last six months
  • Evidence of English language (if relevant) – such as a degree certificate (taught or researched in a majority English speaking country), Home Office approved qualification in English at B1 CEFR or a passport showing that you are a national of a majority English speaking country
  • Evidence of residence – based on the length of your lawful residence in the UK. This can be a passport, letter from your employer or education provider, or letter from a government department confirming when you arrived in the UK
  • Evidence of marriage – your marriage or civil partnership certificate, and/or spouse’s current passport or naturalisation documents
  • Evidence of parent/child relationship – for parents wishing to gain British citizenship for their children, they may be asked to supply birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports as evidence of residence, death certificate (for any deceased parents), or divorce certificates (decree absolute)

In most instances, these forms of documentation will be enough to support an application for British citizenship, a visa or passport.

However, in circumstances where key documents are missing or unavailable, the Home Office will provide the applicant with alternative options for supporting evidence, including  DNA relationship tests (as provided by AlphaBiolabs).

It’s important to note that the decision to take a DNA test must be completely voluntary, and Home Office officials cannot ask you to submit DNA evidence.

DNA relationship tests are an extremely useful tool in support of immigration, visa or passport applications, providing irrefutable proof of a biological relationship between the applicant and family member(s) who already hold British citizenship.

Who might need a DNA test for immigration/passport applications?

If you are submitting a visa, citizenship, or passport application, you will usually be required to submit supporting documents such as birth or marriage certificates.

These documents are often enough to prove a relationship to family members already living in the UK.

However, where more evidence is required, or there are no official documents available, the applicant might choose to take a DNA test to prove a biological relationship.

You might decide to order an immigration DNA test if you are:

  • Applying to join family members who are already living in the UK as permanent residents or
  • Applying for a UK passport based on a familial relationship

It’s important to remember that Home Office officials cannot insist that you submit DNA evidence to support your application for citizenship. As the applicant, it is up to you whether you take a DNA test.

Whichever DNA test you choose, the test must be carried out by a UKAS ISO 17025-accredited testing laboratory.

This ensures that the results are admissible in support of your visa/citizenship or passport application.

The DNA samples must also be obtained by a trained sample collector under strict chain of custody conditions, to ensure samples are collected in the correct way and from the right people. This is a legal requirement of DNA testing for visa/citizenship and passport applications.

AlphaBiolabs’ DNA laboratory is UKAS ISO 17025 accredited, and our DNA immigration tests are recognised and admissible to UK courts, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and HM Passport Office.

Which DNA tests are best for visa/citizenship applications?

Examples of DNA testing being used for visa/passport applications include:

  • If you are a UK citizen whose child was born abroad, and you are seeking citizenship for the child. In this instance, you might to choose to have a legal paternity or maternity test to confirm parentage.
  • If a relative plans to move to the UK and they want to submit DNA evidence to confirm a familial relationship (where a UK citizen is sponsoring them for citizenship or a visa), they may decide to have a complex relationship DNA test performed

    These types of tests can be used to verify a biological relationship between siblings, grandparents and their grandchildren, nieces and nephews and their uncle(s) or aunt(s) or even tell us the likelihood of two or more people being cousins.

Do I need to take a DNA test for my UK visa/citizenship application?

No, there is no legal requirement for you to take a DNA test to support your citizenship application.

If you are applying for UK citizenship and have been asked to provide further evidence to support your application, the Home Office will provide you with a range of options for submitting supporting evidence, including the option to take a DNA test.

However, it’s important to remember that DNA testing is not compulsory for British citizenship applications, and Home Office officials cannot request that you do a DNA test: but it is a very useful tool if you want to prove a biological relationship to family members already residing in the UK.

If you decide not to take a DNA test, the Home Office must review your application on the basis of the evidence already supplied (e.g. birth certificates, marriage certificates etc.).

Do I need to use a solicitor for my visa/citizenship DNA test?

No, you do not necessarily need to use a solicitor to get a DNA test for citizenship/visa or passport applications.

However, you must use a solicitor if you are hoping to get Legal Aid to support your application,

If you need assistance completing the forms for your citizenship application, the Immigration Advice Service can put you in touch with specialist immigration solicitors who can help.

You can also find answers to some of the most common questions regarding UK citizenship/visa applications by visiting Citizens Advice online.

How much does an immigration DNA test cost?

The cost of a DNA test for immigration depends on several factors including where the samples need to be collected from (e.g. foreign location) and which DNA relationship test you need (e.g. paternity, maternity, sibling, aunt/uncle or grandparent).

Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to legal aid towards the cost of your immigration DNA test.

The Legal Aid Agency has produced a wealth of information to assist people who want to check whether they are eligible for legal aid funding.

If you are considering an immigration DNA test, we advise that you use this legal aid checker as a starting point before embarking on the complex process of applying for legal aid for a UK visa, citizenship or passport.

How are DNA samples collected for immigration DNA testing?

A DNA relationship test is usually performed using a cheek (buccal) swab which is rubbed on the inside of each donor’s cheek to collect cheek cell DNA for analysis.

Immigration DNA tests are performed in the same way, with the only difference being the way in which the DNA samples are collected.

For DNA evidence to be admissible to the Home Office, UK Visas and Immigration and HM Passport Office, there are certain collection standards that must be met.

This includes ensuring the DNA samples are collected under chain of custody conditions. When samples are collected under chain of custody, a trained sample collector will collect the DNA samples from each donor, and photographic identification must be provided by the sample donors.

Consent (usually a signature) must also be given by each donor for their DNA samples to be used in testing.

For children under the age of 16, consent must be provided by a parent or guardian with parental responsibility for the child.

Anyone aged 16 or over must provide their own consent for the DNA test to be performed.

How is an immigration DNA test performed at the laboratory?

Once the DNA samples have been collected and safely transported to the laboratory under chain of custody, geneticists extract the DNA from the cheek cell samples using the very latest methods and techniques in DNA analysis.

Our DNA laboratory analyses up to 42 DNA markers (loci) to determine whether two or more individuals are biologically related.

The DNA test looks at Short Tandem Repeats (STR markers), specific locations on a chromosome made up of sequences of repeated DNA.

Every person has two copies of each STR marker, known as alleles: one inherited from the father and one from the mother.

The two alleles observed at each STR marker are then compared between the tested individuals. If enough matching markers are found, this provides evidence of a biological relationship.

Statistical calculations are then performed to determine the probability of the tested individuals sharing a relationship.

How does sample collection work when a family member lives abroad?

Home Office approved laboratories like AlphaBiolabs are well-versed in collecting DNA samples from individuals living abroad.

We operate alongside a large international network of sample collectors, who work closely with immigration centres, consulates, and embassies worldwide to ensure you receive a fast and efficient service.

When collecting a DNA sample from a foreign location, a sample collection kit will be sent to the required foreign location, and an appointment can be arranged via a local GP, medical practice, hospital, or another approved clinic in the applicant’s country.

The DNA samples are then collected (both in the UK and abroad) under chain of custody, with the donor(s) required to provide a form of ID, including photographic identification.

Our legally-instructed DNA tests for visa/citizenship and passport applications are accepted by the Home Office, UK Visas and Immigration, HM Passport Office, and UK courts.

What will the Home Office look for when reviewing my DNA test results?

Depending on the reasons for the DNA test, your results will be reviewed by an immigration, nationality and asylum caseworker, immigration and border force officer or passport examiner.

When reviewing your results, the caseworker or passport examiner is required to carefully review the DNA testing laboratory’s explanation of the headline results when considering your application.

If the results do not verify a biological relationship between you (the applicant) and the other sample donor (family member), your case will be referred to a senior official for further consideration.

Where can I buy a DNA test for my citizenship/visa or passport application?

If you’re applying for British citizenship/a passport and require an immigration DNA test, it’s easy to get a quote now by contacting us directly, or instructing a specialist immigration solicitor to manage the process for you.

As a UKAS-accredited testing laboratory, we have worked with British Embassies and some of the largest specialist immigration solicitors in the UK for 18 years.

Our DNA immigration tests are recognised and admissible to UK courts, the Ministry of Justice, the UK Border Agency, the UK Visas and Immigration Service, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and HM Passport Office – so you can be sure your case is in good hands.

We also operate alongside a large international network of sample collectors, who work closely with immigration centres, consulates, and embassies worldwide to ensure a fast and efficient service.

Better still, we offer free sample collection for legally-instructed DNA tests at our 11 nationwide walk-in centres.

For expert advice on which DNA test is best for you, call our friendly and knowledgeable Customer Services team on 0330 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com and a member of the team will be in touch.

Immigration DNA testing

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Last reviewed: 01/08/2022