If your child is living in the UK illegally
Your child will be living in the UK illegally if they came without a visa or they’ve stayed longer than their visa said they could. This is called ‘overstaying’.
If your child is here 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 beyond 16
they'll be able to work or claim benefits when they're old enough
If you're also here illegally, you can apply at the same time as your child. If your child's application is successful, you might be able to stay.
If you're here legally, but your child isn't, you should get help from a specialist immigration adviser.
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. You can read more about finding a specialist immigration adviser.
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 7470
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 10am to 1pm
Calls cost 13p per minute from a landline, and from 3 to 55p from a mobile
If you need extra support
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 outside the UK
Your only option is to apply for ‘leave on the grounds of private life’ in the UK. You can read more about applying for leave on the grounds of private life on GOV.UK.
If your child was born in the UK
If your child was born in the UK, there are different ways to get them a legal immigration status. You can:
register them as a British citizen
apply for ‘leave on the grounds of their private life' in the UK
apply for the same leave as you or their other parent - if their parents have different lengths of leave, you can apply for the longer amount of leave for your child
Register your child as a British citizen
You can register your child as a British citizen after they’ve lived here for 10 years. You can read more about how to register your child as a British citizen on GOV.UK. You should get specialist help to do this - read more about finding an immigration specialist.
Registering your child as a British citizen is the best option, because they:
will be able to work legally
they can continue with their education after 16
can get NHS healthcare
will be eligible for benefits
Apply for leave on the grounds of private life in the UK
You can apply for this for your child after they've been in the UK for 7 years.
The application is more likely to succeed if there are reasons why the child shouldn’t leave the UK - for example, they’re receiving medical treatment here or they need to continue their education here.
You can read more about applying for leave on the grounds of private life on GOV.UK.
The application might be granted with a condition that they can’t get benefits when they turn 18. When you apply, you can ask the Home Office not to put it in. If they do, you can apply for them to remove it later.
If you get leave for your child, you’ll probably have to:
renew their leave every 2.5 years - this costs £993
pay to use the NHS every time you renew their leave - check how much you have to pay to use the NHS on GOV.UK
If you haven’t got the money or paying the fees would mean you didn’t have enough money to live on, you can ask the Home Office to waive the fees. You can read more about when fees are waived on GOV.UK.
You can make sure your child can stay permanently by either:
applying for ‘settled status’ after they’ve been in the UK legally for 10 years
registering them as a British citizen if they’re aged 10 or above
Getting ‘settled status’ means they have the right to stay in the UK. You can read more about applying for settled status for a child on GOV.UK.
Page last reviewed on 22 August 2019