The day has arrived where the Home Office has been called to account by the courts for their massive charges over and above the cost of processing immigration applications. We wrote about increases in immigration fees in September of this year, highlighting the cost of applications to the Home Office versus the cost of processing those applications.
The High Court decision
A judicial review challenge to the lawfulness of the Home Office charge of £1,012 for a citizenship application for a child, known as ‘Registration’, has been successful. The case was brought by The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens in respect of two child applicants: ‘A’ and ‘O’. The department responsible for the processing of the application lists the processing cost of a child citizenship application at £372 per application. Any minor mathematician will note that the Home Office is making £640 profit per application. The High Court has ruled this to be unlawful.
Why should we care about high fees?
The high fee prevents many children registering for British citizenship, and as a cynic that has worked in the immigration field for 15 years, I can guess at the reason for this: there are many families that are in the UK unlawfully, either working unlawfully or receiving money from benevolent friends or members of their community. A child that was born in the UK and has resided in the UK for 10 years can register to become a British citizen. This often has a knock-on effect for their family, as the parents of a British citizen child can apply for leave to remain as the parent of a British child and any other children of that relationship are likely to be granted leave on a discretionary basis. The meaning of this is, of course, that the grant of British citizenship often means that whole families are able to regularise their status in the UK. I imagine that the considerable hikes in fees that this category has suffered from in recent years come from the Home Office recognition of the impact of the grant British citizenship on a child. There are much wider implications than just that grant.
The wider social impact
The High Court, however, as noted a social knock-on effect. The effect is that children that feel British and are entitled to British citizenship often feel ‘alienated, excluded, ‘second-best’, insecure and not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK’.
There are other repercussions, of course. Many children in care are supported by social services. Social services often do not want to part with the funds to pay for the child’s British nationality application. This means that children looked after by the state, that have an entitlement to British nationality, have not had applications made on their behalf due to the cost implications.
Many children are entitled to register as British nationals are not entitled when they become adults. Children who have been through the care system are more likely to become involved in criminal activity through the fault of their societal upbringing than a child who hasn’t been through the care system. Whilst this is a generalization, it is statistically correct. A child that might have been born in the UK and lived their entire life in the UK that has been entitled to British citizenship for many years may find themselves the subject of deportation proceedings to a country they have never been to, have no knowledge of and have no family in. The repercussions of this fee have been widely felt by those criminal deportees. It may be that your sympathies do not lie here, however, be mindful of the fact that a child born in the UK, raised in its care system, is a product of life in Britain not life in that other country.