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If your child is living in the UK illegally

This advice applies to England

If your child is living in the UK illegally, you should apply for them to live in the country legally before they’re 18. It’s a good idea because:

  • the application process will be easier if they’re under 18
  • they can continue with their education (they can’t study beyond 18 if they’re here illegally)
  • British citizens can work and receive benefits once they’re 18
  • British citizens can't be deported

Once your child has a legal immigration status, you can apply to live in the UK legally as their parent.

If your child is over 18 they'll have to legalise their status as an adult.

Get specialist help

You’ll always need the help of a specialist immigration adviser to register a child who’s living here illegally - the application is a complicated process.

To find out more about your options before visiting an expert, you can call the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. They provide free, confidential advice to people living in the UK illegally. 

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Telephone: 020 7553 7440
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 10am to 1pm 
Calls cost 12p per minute from a landline, and from 3 to 45p from a mobile

A specialist immigration adviser will tell you the best way to legalise your child's immigration status - don't worry, it'll be completely confidential.

They'll also be able to give you advice on your own immigration status if you're in the UK illegally. 

If your child was born in the UK

If your child was born in the UK, there are two ways to get them a legal immigration status - register them as a British citizen, or apply for ‘discretionary leave to remain’.

Register your child as a British citizen

You can register your child as a British citizen after they’ve lived here for 10 years.

It’s the best option, because:

  • your child will be able to legally work
  • they can continue with their education after 16
  • British citizens can get NHS healthcare and are eligible for benefits

It costs £749, and the application is guaranteed to succeed.

Apply for discretionary leave to remain

You can apply for an immigration status called ‘discretionary leave to remain’ for your child after 7 years.

Decisions made on an individual basis so there’s no guarantee the application will succeed, and they won’t be eligible for any benefits when they reach 18.

If you get discretionary leave to remain for your child, you’ll have to:

  • renew it every 2.5 years (costing £649)
  • pay a £500 NHS fee every time you renew their leave
  • apply for citizenship eventually if you want them to live in the UK permanently 

If your child was born outside the UK

Your only option is to apply for discretionary leave to remain.

They’ll be able to live and work in the UK, but won’t be entitled to benefits when they reach 18.

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