As of 10th September 2015 the British Nationality (Proof of Paternity) Regulations 2006 will be amended.
Currently, a birth certificate issued within 12 months of birth is sufficient to establish paternity for the purposes of British Nationality applications. The new rules will mean that a birth certificate naming the father will not in itself satisfy the requirements for proof of paternity. Prior to 10 September 2015 anyone could be named as the father on a birth certificate even if they are not the natural father.
In an Explanatory Note of 17th August 2014, the Home Office provided the following explanation:
‘For the purposes of the British Nationality Act 1981, a child’s father is (a) the husband, at the time of the child’s birth, of the woman who gave birth to the child, or (b) a person who is treated as the father of the child under section 28 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 or where none of those paragraphs applies, any person who satisfies prescribed requirements as to proof of paternity.’
The amendment will mean that ‘being named as the father on a birth certificate (…) is no longer a prescribed requirement as proof of paternity. Instead, in all cases relying on section 50(9A)(c) to establish fatherhood, the person must satisfy the Secretary of State that he is the natural father of the child.’
The insertion of the word ‘natural’ is an addition to the phrasing of the legislation, and establishes a higher burden of proof onto the applicant to prove that the named father is indeed the ‘natural’ father.
Under the new rules, a birth certificate would be one of a list of documents capable of evidencing paternity, but it will no longer be the prima facie proof of paternity. For example, DNA evidence may now be submitted as part of the application to rebut the assumption that the named father is the natural father. Other factors such as the whereabouts of a man at the time of the child’s conception may also be provided as evidence to discount the veracity of the named father on the birth certificate.
In practise this means that people who make an application for a British passport for their children on the basis that the father is British or has Indefinite Leave to Remain will need to provide additional evidence as proof of paternity.