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Families of UK Residents

If you are settled within the UK or have indefinite leave to remain, other family members such as children or elderly relatives may be able to join you in the country.

This page is about the immigration rules for children and other family members. If you are looking for information about immigration rules for partners, see our Partners of UK Residents page instead.

This information only covers people originating from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

Your child may be able to join you in the UK if you are:

  • a current permanent resident; or
  • have indefinite or limited leave to remain

Adopted children have additional requirements for entry clearance.

Children are not ordinarily able to settle within the UK unless both parents are settled within the region, or have expressed a notable intent to do so. The only exceptions to this case are instances of:

  • one parent being settled within the UK or intending to settle, and the other being deceased; or
  • the parent settling or coming to settle within the UK having sole responsibility for the child's upbringing; or
  • one parent being settled or coming to settle within the UK additionally to serious reasoning as to why the child must be authorised to gain entry clearance, and or residency

A parent within this legal category is defined as either a:

  • mother or father
  • stepfather or stepmother of a child whose father or mother is deceased
  • both parents of an illegitimate child
  • in certain circumstances; an adoptive parent

The child must be able to demonstrate that they:

  • are not living independently
  • are not married or within a civil partnership
  • have not formed an independent family unit; and
  • are under 18 years of age

If the parent and child meet the above requirements, and can demonstrate suitable accommodation in place, where the unit can reside without need of support from public funds, permission may be granted for UK residency.

Prior to the child attempting entry to the United Kingdom, permission for clearance must first be obtained. Entry clearance most commonly takes the form of a visa or entry clearance certificate. The child is required to apply to the British diplomatic post within the country they live if they wish to acquire a visa or entry clearance certificate.

If a child wishes to switch from temporary to permanent residency within the United Kingdom, the application can be administered from within the UK, as long as it meets the specified criteria.

Limited leave to remain for children

A child or children living overseas may be eligible to join a parent in the UK who currently holds temporary permission to stay, a legal status which is also sometimes known as 'limited leave to remain'.

It should be noted that children are not ordinarily able to gain entry clearance, or the authority to reside within the UK, in the instance that one parent is residing within another country, as they are expected to remain with said parent unless there are strong reasons that this is not appropriate or reasonable. To that end, the only exceptions to this rule are if:

  • the parent who is residing within the UK is known to hold sole legal responsibility for the child; or
  • there is another critical reason which makes it clear that the child must be authorised to reside within the UK with that particular parent.

If you and your child believe yourselves to meet the above requirements, and you are able to demonstrate that you have access to accommodation within which you can all comfortably live without requiring help from public funds, your child should be able to come and live with you in the UK.

Prior to the child attempting entry to the United Kingdom, permission for clearance must first be obtained. The first step of the immigration process for such cases, entry clearance most commonly takes the form of a visa or entry clearance certificate. The child is required to apply to the British diplomatic post within the country they live if they wish to acquire a visa or entry clearance certificate.

In the instance that a child wishes to gain entry clearance or residency to the UK with a parent who has been granted temporary permission of residence, the child ordinarily will be granted permission to stay in the UK for the same duration of the time period granted to their parent. The period will be of no more than two years, and will not be in excess of six months in the instance of the child entering the country alongside a parent entering the UK as a fiance(e) or proposed civil partner of someone who is already resident within the country.

Upon the extension of the parent’s residency authorisation period, or a clarification of permanent settlement, the child will commonly be given the same permissions.

Immigration of adopted children

This section covers any additional criteria points that an adopted child must meet as part of the legal process required to gain entry clearance or residency within the UK.

To find out the standard areas of criteria for Children requesting permanent residents, or Children applying to temporary residents, please see the basic regulations detailed on pages demonstrating requirements for temporary or permanent residence of children wishing to join a parent in the UK. Those detailed below are addition policies that are applicable only to adopted children.

It is possible for a parent or sole carer to bring their adopted child into the UK if they can prove that they:

  • were adopted when either parent was settled in the UK, or when both of the parents were living together abroad
  • are entitled to the same set of rights as any other children of the same adoptive parents
  • were in receipt of a genuine transfer of parental responsibility and were adopted for good reason, i.e. their original parents were noted as officially unfit to take care for them
  • have cut all contact with their original family; and
  • were not adopted for the purpose of more easily obtainable UK residency authorisation

The child applying must primarily be granted permission of entry clearance within the UK, prior to travel. Entry clearance is often authenticated in the form of an entry clearance certificate or visa. In order to obtain this, the child should initially make application to the British diplomatic post, from their country of current residency when applying.

A foreign adoption order is only recognised within the UK in the instance that it was made within a country on the official 'designated list'. The designated list is a document drawn up of countries that are included within the Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) Order 1973.

Any permanently adopted child within a country detailed on the designated list, will ordinarily be granted authorisation to remain permanently within the UK, if:

  • both the child the parents and other parents are already, or have clearance and intend to settle within the UK
  • both the parent and child's other parent are authorised to settle permanently within the UK, and are both crossing into the country together with the child; or
  • the parent has permission for permanent settlement and is entering UK with the child, joining the other parents who are also located here; or
  • the parent with authorisation has sole responsibility for the adoptive child

If the child was adopted within a country on the designated list, and is entering the UK with a parent who has temporary authorisation of residency, also known as 'limited leave to remain', the child will then ordinarily be permitted to stay for up to 12 months.

In the instance that the adoption order was issued within a country not on the designated list, the child then may apply to enter regardless, and be officially adopted through the UK courts. In this actuality, authorisation is commonly granted for up to two years.

The child will only become a British citizen automatically, if adopted through the UK courts, with at least one of the adoptive parents as a British citizen upon the issuing of the adoption order.

Intercountry adoption

If a child is entering the UK in order to be adopted, one of the processes used is known as Hague Convention on intercountry adoption, for this method of adoption adoptees must:

  • have one or two prospective parents with sole occupancy of suitable accommodation, specifically set out to house and support the child, without aid from public funds. The perspective parents must also both be habitual residents within the UK
  • be the subject of an agreement made under the Hague Convention; and
  • be entrusted to the prospective parents through the authorities of the country from which they are leaving; and
  • be under 18 years of age

The above brief guide to intercountry adoption immigration rules is just an introduction to other requirements that are to be met prior to adoption authorisation from another country. Further information including any addition requirements can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Registering a child for British citizenship

This section covers at length the legal requirements and procedures for any person under 18 years of age who would like to register as a British citizen. Under this section, any applicants that are under 18 years of age are referred to as a ‘child’.

Applications for registration should only be made after close consideration for all the legislation, policy and processes. This is because a fee is applicable for any application, and there are no refunds granted to those that are unsuccessful. Therefore, it is vital that anyone looking to apply should have their eligibility checked over thoroughly, and that the procedures should be pored over at length by whoever intends to make the application.

To be applicable for registration as a British citizen applicants must use form MN1 available from the GOV.UK website, additionally the child must be under 18 years of age upon the day of application. The registration will expire as the child turns 18, requiring a new application for registration or alternatively naturalisation as an adult.

Any children who have been granted automatic authorisation to become British citizens are not required to register in this fashion.

A child can meet the specified criteria requirements for registration as a British citizen through a number of different ways that can often depend upon the child's circumstances. Child applicants are able to apply for registration as a British citizen through entitlement or discretion. The terms of these categories are further detailed below.

If the child has a right under British nationality law to apply and be registered as a British citizen this is considered an entitlement.

In the instance that a child is not entitled to application for registration of British citizenship, any registration exceptions can be judged at the discretion of UK Visas and Immigration. Any extraordinary instances will be considered through the specific circumstances of the child's case, and as to whether it is practical for registration as a British citizen to be granted. When the child is applying for registration at the discretion of UK Visas and Immigration, as much evidence as possible needs to be provided to sustain the case.

It is not uncommon for families to include children with an entitlement to registration additionally to other children without. When families form an application within these circumstances they are asked to indicate on the form if they still want to register the noted children with automatic entitlement to British citizenship in the instance that the other applicants are unsuccessful. If the parents do indeed choose to do so, it could be the case that the children will have different nationalities.

To form any application for registration, the child must be under 18 on the date of the application's receipt, and be of genuine character if 10 years or over at the date of application.

There are also additional requirements set out that need to be met, and the specifics of these can be found under certain sections of the British Nationality Act 1981.

Immigration rules for elderly dependent relatives

This section covers the policy and legislation surrounding ways of which an applicant can come to the United Kingdom and live permanently as an elderly dependent relative of a British citizen, or a national with permanent residency currently residing within the UK.

Those that are parents, grandparents or dependant relatives of any British citizen or persons settled within the UK; applications can be made for indefinite leave to enter or remain within the UK as a ‘settled relative’.

Authorisation can also commonly be granted not only to partners and children under 18, but also widowed mothers and fathers, parents and; or grandparents aged 65 or over, that are travelling together, or joining a settled person within the UK.

To apply to be a ‘settled relative’ sufficient evidence must be provided to support that:

  • they depend solely or primarily on the specified settled relative for finance
  • they (and any dependants) are fully able to maintain and provide housing for themselves, without any support from public funds, within accommodation which the settled relative expressly owns or exclusively occupies; and
  • they have no other close relatives within their own country of residency that are able to financially support them

Within exceptional circumstances compassionate consideration may be granted to those who meet the fore mentioned criteria requirement that are:

  • sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles and aunts over the age of 18; and
  • parents and grandparents under the age of 65

Prior to travel plans permission must initially be obtained to enter the UK as an elderly dependent relative. The entry clearance, takes the form of a visa or an entry clearance certificate and should be applied for through the British diplomatic post within the country of residency at application.

For those that are already UK residents and wish to apply for permanent settlement as a settled person's elderly dependent relative, see application form SET(F), downloadable from the GOV.UK website.

Asylum seekers, refugees & immigration advice

This section covers legal channels open to asylum seekers, for application to be reunited with any family members left behind during their flee to the UK.

Those who flee to the UK in seek of asylum are able to include any dependants within their application for asylum, if the dependants travelled with them to the UK. It is recognised, and taken into account however, that families can become fragmented when seeking asylum, especially when the speed and manner of which a person has fled has been affected by the seriousness or immediacy of the situation.

In the instance of a recognised refugee being given humanitarian protection within the UK, the UK’s family reunion programme allows applicants to be reunited with their family members that they were close to prior to the split for asylum.

Only a pre-existing family (husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner, or any dependents under 18 who formed part of the family unit upon asylum) are eligible to apply for entry clearance to the UK under the family reunion programme under the Immigration Rules. It is not uncommon however to allow family reunion for additional family members in some exceptional circumstance demonstrating compassionate reasoning as to why their case is to be considered outside of the Immigration Rules.