Coram - Home Office must not profit from children’s immigration and citizenship applications

Published: Thursday 4th April 2019

Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) has today joined Citizens UK, Let Us Learn and others to call for the Home Office to stop making a profit on children’s immigration and citizenship applications, on the day the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) publishes his report on fees.

CCLC welcomes the ICIBI’s recommendation that the Home Office focus on the effects of high fees on children, and ‘demonstrate that it has fully considered these effects in determining fee levels [and] the availability of waivers’.

For a young person who has grown up in the UK, a one off application for limited leave (permission) to remain costs £1,033 and will normally result in 2 ½ years’ leave. On top of this, there is an immigration health surcharge of £400 per year bringing the total £2,033 up-front. An application for settlement – indefinite leave to remain – is even more expensive, costing £2,389.

As most young people will need to have had ten years limited leave before they can apply for settlement, the total cost of getting settled status in the country they grew up in is staggering £10,521. The cost for a family of four to obtain settled status in the UK is the same as a deposit on a detached house.

These fees are largely profit to the Home Office; an application for indefinite leave to remain, which has a fee of £2,389, costs just £243 to process – so 90% of the fee is profit. It is extremely difficult to get a fee waiver, leaving families forced to choose which child is the highest priority to help, or to borrow money from loan sharks, at very high interest rates, leaving them trapped in a cycle of debt.

In the light of this report the CCLC is calling on the Home Office to:

  • Stop making a profit on children’s applications. 
  • Amend and extend the fee waiver system so that those who cannot afford to make the application are not forced into debt  
  • Make fee waivers available for citizenship and indefinite leave to remain applications.
  • Introduce certainty around any fee increases so that they match inflation and other government increases.

Each year, families are expected to pay more in immigration fees than the average UK household would pay for food. Between 2012 and 2017, the application fee for a dependent child’s indefinite leave to remain application increased by 363%, while the average weekly wage rose by only 9%. Over the same period, the application fee for citizenship for a child increased by 77%.

The report also recommends that the Home Office ‘review the routes to settlement, including assessing the negative effects on individuals and families of requiring repeated applications’, which CCLC has called for for many years.

Dr Carol Homden CBE, Chief Executive of Coram, said: “We welcome this report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. There must be an accessible route to citizenship so that all children and young people who have grown up in the UK and are eligible to settle have a right to stay here. Most children who have grown up in the UK still have to make at least five applications and face over £10,000 in fees and charges, while living in a state of insecurity. The government should take action to ensure that these young people – who are British in all but their paperwork – can secure permanent status.”

It is vital that action be taken urgently to ensure that fees are not an impediment to long-resident young people living lawfully in UK, and do not keep migrants in a cycle of forced destitution.

Notes

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s report ‘An inspection of the policies and practices of the Home Office’s Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Systems relating to charging and fees’ is available here.

CCLC submitted joint evidence to the inspection with young campaigners Let Us Learn in July 2018.

The fee tables for 2019 are available here.

The full extent of this barrier was laid out in CCLC’s 2018 briefing The fee barrier: can you afford a place to call home?