On 23 November, the High Court considered a challenge to the high cost of fees for a child’s citizenship application.
A child is a British citizen automatically if born in the United Kingdom at a time when one of their parents is British or settled (i.e. has permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain). When Parliament made this law, they also intended for children who could show a clear connection to the United Kingdom to be able to claim citizenship, regardless of their parents’ status – children therefore have a right to register as British if they were born in the UK and have lived here for the first ten years of their life.
This case was brought on behalf of a child, known in this case as ‘VF’, who was born and brought up in the UK. As VF was not born to British or settled parents, she is not automatically British. In order for her to register as British, she needs to pay a Home Office fee of £973. VF, and many other children like her, cannot afford the fee.
The actual cost to the Home Office of processing a citizenship application is £386. The remainder, £587, generates a profit for the Home Office, as part of plans to make the Home Office “self-funding”. There isn’t an exemption or fee waiver, even if a child is in local authority care or their parents are on a low income. This stops children acquiring a citizenship to which they are entitled purely because of their financial status.
The High Court was asked to declare the profit making element of the fee ‘unlawful’. In this case, VF was able to crowd fund to raise money for the application, and was subsequently registered. The High Court acknowledged that thousands of children were affected but declined to rule because the matter had become academic as VF had been registered as British.
Amnesty International and the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) are campaigning in this area and you can read more about this here: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/childrens-human-rights-network-blog/uk-price-citizenship
If you think you or your children are eligible to register as a British citizen, or would like to know more about this application, please do not hesitate to contact us for an initial consultation.