Central England Law Centre has been funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation to do work in respect of Citizenship for migrant children. This project is run by Inger den Haan who is based in the Coventry office also known as Coventry Law Centre and the project covers both Coventry and Birmingham.
Many migrant parents, especially first generation migrants, assume that their child is ‘ok’ in terms of papers to stay in the UK because the child has been born here. Unfortunately this is not the case (and hasn’t been since 1983) and we know from research that approximately 65,000 children have been born in the UK, yet do not have papers granting them leave to remain or citizenship.
Typically children become aware of this issue when their applications for student loans or national insurance numbers are rejected. At this point they come to us at the Law Centre, or to private solicitors with what is then a crisis situation. They have worked hard through primary and secondary education and obtain a place at university, only to then be told they cannot take it up as they cannot get student finance and in addition have to pay tuition fees at overseas rates (£16,000 per year!). By this time they are more often than not 18, and solutions that were available when they were under 18 have just evaporated.
Every child born in the UK and still resident in the UK at the age of 10 becomes eligible to apply to register as a British Citizen. This is regardless of whether they have limited leave or no leave at all, even if they are illegally here or a ‘failed asylum seeker’.
This is what we call ‘registration by entitlement’, which means that, subject to good character and criminal record checks, it will normally be granted.
This right to apply continues to exist right up to the point the child turns 18, at which time it acutely disappears and the child will have to contend with much more complex and uncertain rules. There is a fee payable to the Home Office to make the application, but in many cases this is a worthwhile investment in their future. In cases where the whole family is without leave to remain, a British child can be the start of obtaining leave for all the family as a British child cannot be forced out of the UK.
One of the tools we promote as part of this project is a website called Path to Papers (www.pathtopapers.com), which allows parents to answer 5 simple questions about their child in order to get an idea of their immigration status. This can be done anonymously without the need to give any login details or even an email address. The website has been developed in a unique partnership between a specialist IT company and specialist children’s legal advisers. You will find Coventry Law Centre (Part of Central England Law Centre) under the ‘find a lawyer’ tab on the website.
The advice given on the Path to Papers website (www.pathtopapers.com) can be trusted and is a good start. Under the ‘links’ section at the bottom of this page you can find links to the appropriate Home Office forms that you can use to apply to the Home Office yourself. The forms can be completed without legal advice.
It is important to know that you will have to pay a fee to the Home Office for the consideration of the application. Currently this is £749. If your child is still young, and you are not at immediate risk of being removed from the UK you can save up for it in stages. Be aware that the fee rises by about £20 every April.
It is important to remember that the Home Office charges the fee for considering the application. That means that if it is refused they still keep the money. So it is important to make sure the form is properly completed and all the evidence is enclosed.
If you are still not sure what to do or need further help you can contact us for some advice. You will not have to pay for this. You can contact Inger at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Coventry Law Centre on 02476223053. You may need to leave a message with reception if Inger is not available.
We are particularly interested in hearing from schools as they offer us a way to reach a number of parents at the same time. We would like to particularly reach parents of children around the age of 10. This is to maximise the time available to solve immigration problems in good time before the time comes to apply for higher education and also because of the so called good character requirement. Anyone over the age of 10 applying for British Citizenship needs to show they are of good character. Applying when the children are younger generally makes this more straightforward. Finally the fee payable to the Home Office for a Citizenship application is currently £749 and rises every year. Parents may need time to save up for this, especially if they are in low income situations or have more children who qualify.
If your child was born in the UK and has now reached the age of 10 you can use this form and accompanying guide to apply to the Home Office. It is good to read the guide before you start:
If your child was born in the UK but has not lived here for 10 years, and one of the child’s parents have become settled (got Indefinite Leave) or became British at some point since the child’s birth you can use this form and guide. This can apply to very young children, and can also apply if the parents are no longer together as long as the British/settled parent is willing to help with it:
Home Office Fee Information: