A few months ago I had a baby who had the unfortunate honour of being born stateless. How could I have a stateless baby in the UK? My husband and I are both Australians living in London on a Tier 2 visa.
Unlike the Americans, the Brits don’t automatically claim babies born in the UK as their own and Australia requires you to apply for citizenship. In fact, birthright citizenship is actually very rare, with only 35 countries in the world who do automatically grant citizenship to babies born on their soil.
So what happens if your baby is born stateless in the UK? It can be an expensive and time consuming process to gain a passport (and visa) for you little pirate. If you’re in the same situation, it’s probably best not to promise a trip home with the baby in the first few months.
Here’s a helpful guide on what to do to avoid getting trapped in the UK with your baby forever.
You may also be interested in reading Visas & Passports
WHO DOES THIS APPLY TO?
Not sure if this applies to you? There are a few situations that could result in your little one ending up stateless:
- Neither parent is a UK citizen
- Neither parent is considered settled in the UK (you’re considered ‘settled’ if you’ve been in the UK for 5 years and have indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residence status)
If both parents are in the UK on a Tiered visa (Tier 1-5) this is very likely to apply.
TOTAL TIME AND COST
All up you’re going to spend at least £330 to get your baby a passport – this includes the birth certificate, citizenship fee and passport fee. You could spent a bit more depending on your council, and more again if you pay a rush fee. If you’re really in a hurry, super organised and a little bit lucky – you can get to this point in about 6 weeks. However, it can also take up to 6 months.
Getting a visa sorted is a whole other can of worms. If you’re on a Youth Mobility visa then your baby isn’t eligible for a visa. Therefore you won’t be able to re-enter the country after you leave.
If you’re eligible and you’ve got unlimited cash to throw at the problem, you’ll be able to sort it in a couple of days – but it can be seriously expensive. A next-day 5-year Tier 2 Dependant visa with health surcharge would set you back over £4,000 but your employer might be willing to foot the bill – it’s worth the ask.
HOW TO GET A PASSPORT FOR YOUR BABY IN THE UK
- Get a British birth certificate
- Apply for Australian citizenship
- Apply for an Australian passport
- Get a British visa
Step 1: Get a British birth certificate
Average time taken: 1-6 weeks
Rough cost: £4-11
The first thing you need to do once the baby arrives is to get a birth certificate. In the UK, birth certificates are the responsibility of each council. It’s easiest to get the birth certificate through the council in which the baby was born. Each council has their own process so google “Register a birth” plus your local council name.
What to take: The baby’s red book and/or a letter from the hospital plus ID for both parents. If you’re married, only one parent needs to go along. If you’re not married then you both need to attend (but you don’t have to take the baby).
Tip to speed it up: Technically you shouldn’t book an appointment until after the baby is born. But if you get a little ‘creative’ about the details then you might be able to make an appointment ahead of time (just make sure you’re certain the baby will be there by then). This is particularly useful if your council has a long wait. You must register a birth within 42 days so generally you can’t make appointments further out than that.
Step 2: Apply for Australian Citizenship
Average time taken: 4 weeks – 4 months
Rough cost: $230 AUD
The next step is to apply for Australian citizenship. The category you’ll use is Citizenship by Descent. This part is a bit of a pain as there are quite a few steps involved but you should be able to get most of it done without leaving home.
What you need:
- Get passport photos of the baby
- Scan copies of the parent(s) documents that prove their Australian citizenship as well as their current address – Australian passport, Australian birth certificate and a utility bill will do. You may also need to provide additional documents if you weren’t born in Australia
- Scan the baby’s birth certificate
- The identity declaration form completed by someone who meets the criteria
- One of the passport photos certified by the same person who completes the Identity Declaration
- The online application form completed and the fee paid
Tip to speed it up:
- Try to get as much prep work done before the baby arrives as possible. You can complete a lot of the online application form with info about the parents and use placeholder information about the baby.
- You can also print the Identity Declaration form ahead of time and line up someone to certify everything for you. The main things that are difficult to organise are the passport photos. You can try to do these at home by yourself against a white sheet and then have them printed online. Since you need to scan them back into the computer, I found they weren’t as strict on the quality as they are for passports.
- The Home Affairs website advertise their average processing times (updated monthly) as between 2-4 months. Though we received our certificate in 4 weeks and friends have gotten theirs in 3 weeks. I think it mainly comes down to how straightforward your situation is. Being sure to include all required and suggested documents can only help.
- Some of the requirements in the form don’t apply to a baby (such as knowing the person for 12 months) and proving they are of good character, so don’t worry about these!
Step 3: Apply for an Australian Passport
Average time taken: 6-9 weeks
Rough cost: £199 + £120 rush fee
Now you need to trek into London and get the baby their first passport.
What to take:
- Passport photos
- Application form (including section completed by guarantor)
- Citizenship certificate
- Parent’s ID
- Payment method
Tips to speed it up:
- Unfortunately, if you wait until the citizenship certificate arrives in the mail, you might be frustrated to discover that there’s often a 3-6 week wait for an appointment at Australia House. And that’s once you finally get through on the phone to make an appointment! The staff on the phone are really accommodating and there’s no penalty for changing an appointment. So once you’ve got the citizenship application complete, call and book an appointment for about 6 weeks’ time. If you haven’t got the certificate in time, call a few days beforehand and reschedule.
- It takes about 3 weeks to process a passport ordinarily, but for a fee you can speed up that process to 48 hours.
Step 4: Apply for a British Visa
Average time taken: 2 days – 8 weeks
Rough cost: This varies widely on the visa type and length. Tier 2 costs £610, plus £400/year for the health surcharge. Optional rush fees range from $411 AUD – £800
The final step in the process is to apply for a British Visa for the baby. If you’re on a Youth Mobility visa unfortunately you aren’t entitled to a visa for your dependants so if you leave the UK with your baby then you’re not guaranteed to be let back into the country. If you’re on a visa that allows dependants you’ll need to complete the PBS dependant visa application.
Those itching to make the most of the European summer will have to apply within the UK and wait it out. However, if you’re really eager to introduce the baby to the relo’s back home then you can head back to Australia without a visa and sort it out while you’re there.
Tips to speed it up:
- If you are sponsored by your employer, enlist them to help out in the process and hopefully they can take care of most of this for you.
- The quickest way to get the visa is via the priority service in the UK but that will cost you £500 or £800 for a 5-day or next day decision. This will be your main option.
- If you apply from Australia a decision is made within 3 weeks or for an extra $411 AUD within 5 days.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elle is a Sydney native who moved to London in April 2016. She worked as a contractor until late 2018 when she had her first baby. She loves West End musicals and cycling. If the flight London to Sydney was under 5 hours she’d never leave.