WHAT IT MEANS TO BE REGISTERED AS A BRITISH CITIZEN
I was born in Nigeria and lived there until the age of seven, which was when my father brought my brother and me to the UK, driven by the hope that his children will have better life prospects and opportunities in this country. My mother was already here, and she was delighted to see the both of us after being apart for months. It was December 2004, slap-bang in the middle of winter, and I remember feeling cold for the very first time in my life! These new words quickly entered my vocabulary due to the difference in weather: coat, scarf and gloves!
For a very long time I remember things being tough financially, and the pursuit to acquire legal status in the UK overshadowed much of everyday life and defined the atmosphere at home, which was sometimes tense, sometimes filled with fear and uncertainty, sometimes hopeful. Though I was left to be a spectator to the process – my parents scarcely explained the details of our legal situation to me because they did not want me to worry – I was not completely unaware that, whatever legal situation it was in which we were, it made me different to my peers. Different in the sense that I felt less free, less secure about my future and more anxious about my place in the country I had grown to call home.
This reality dominated my childhood and much of my teenage-hood, and I suffered from depression and anxiety between the ages 14 and 17 as a result, from which I recovered after seeking professional help through counselling. During those tough years school was always my main escape. I found solace in dabbling my hands into a variety of extra-curricular activities, from drama productions to chess club to a variety of sport clubs. I also made great friends who did not know about the situation surrounding my status and treated me as a fellow British Citizen. I had no control over my legal status, nor over my family’s financial situation, but I believed there was one thing I did have control over: my education.
My greatest focus was, and still is, my education. I always endeavoured to do my best academically, despite the uncertainty that surrounded my future, because I value education and knowledge deeply, and because I believe that education provides a way out of poverty and the hardships from which I witnessed my parents endure. Therefore, it was heart-breaking to find out when I was applying to university that I was not eligible for a student loan because of my ‘Leave to Remain (LTR)’ status, which I was granted in the summer of 2013. Thankfully, it was not long after I and my family became aware of this barrier to the future of my education in this country that my father came across Just For Kids Law and the Let Us Learn campaign. Through Let Us Learn I was able to get in contact with Solange and the work being done by the PRCBC. Solange took up my case and assisted me in making an urgent application for British Citizenship because my 18th birthday was fast approaching, and I received amazing support from teachers, my pastor, friends and family friends, who wrote letters to support my application.
My application for British Citizenship was rejected twice, and there were moments when I was so unsure about whether my application would be successful that I shifted my focus to how I could access student finance with LTR status. I still remember the day when I got the call that my application had been successful and that I am now a British Citizen. I cried tears of joy, and it felt like a soul-crushing weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I have now started my first year as a medical student at Plymouth University, and I visited Nigeria this summer for the first time since I left when I was seven. My life so far has definitely been a journey filled with ups and downs – thanks to Solange and the work done by PRCBC, I can now look forward to the future with great excitement.
I am 19 now, but, I was only 8 years when we came to the UK. My mother, two brothers and I came in legally, so I knew that being here wasn’t the issue. At first things were generally ok, but over the years things became more difficult. I am the eldest and quite easily understood that things were not working out as we hoped.
We were always together, but status limited so many opportunities and put us in some very “undesirable situations”. For example, we were housed in the summer “house” of a family who charged us £350p/m for a single 3m x 4m room – one bed, table stove and shower. At the time, my mother was not working and had to do cash in hand jobs to make up the money. Yet, at no time did the “landlord” take time to question the struggles we had to face in order to afford the box we were given to live in.
Over the years, we were ill-advised by a very manipulative “charitable” organisation, incompetent local council representatives, unsympathetic school systems and a barrage of deceptive lawyers. I remember many times thinking how there wasn’t anyone rooting for us to do well; will no one give us a fair shot in the world?
Most of my issues revolved around my lack of permanent status in the UK. As a Trinidadian, I only received limited leave to remain for short periods of time. I wasn’t here illegally, so I was no one’s problem but I was not considered British either. I couldn’t get my head around this situation.
The first times we genuinely dealt with people who were driven to help others with little to offer them in return, was at PRCBC consultation. Once my case was presented to Sue and assessed by Solange, there was so much hope and willingness to do the best for me in their attitude. For the first time, I was not treated as an outcast. They did not see my circumstances as a setback, but rather an advantage to show how cruel, not knowing your rights to be registered, can be.
PRCBC took up my case in 2016. I had to collect evidence of my integration into British life. This was not difficult, as I was nearing the age of 18, being British was all I knew. The initial ruling was a rejection to the application to become a British citizen. However, Solange and the team reassured me that this was to be expected. She was tenacious, doing everything possible to get the outcome we deserved under the law.
In the following months, PRCBC kept us updated with our case, always reminding us that PRCBC still cares and will remain determined to help us till the end. I believed her 100%!
On December 15th, the exact date we arrived to the UK 10 years prior, I received an email from PRCBC stating I have been granted my British citizenship! Words cannot describe how I felt at that moment in time. I was an hour into my Art exam when I saw the email. I ran to the toilets (with permission of course) and cried and laughed on the phone to my mum and then to my head teacher (who was very supportive throughout the whole procedure). I was of course ecstatic with the results of the case, but more than anything, I was overwhelmed by the passion, determination and dedication PRCBC showed us.
Despite all I have been through, here were people who cared about me and wanted to give me greater opportunities under the rights of our British system. I am extremely satisfied with the services we were given; I now have a house with my own room, I can apply for university as a British student, I am able to work and I finally have a legal status which recognises and represents who I truly am – BRITISH.
“Dear Legal Status,
Why is mine different from all the rest?
always have to settle for so much less.
We are traveling today. Well, they are anyway.
And I must sit here on my bed, thoughts of shame has filled my head.
Why? Because mine is blue and their ones’ Red.
Please Legal status for just this trip,
Solange please can this be fixed?
Yes Daryl, but we must act quick
This is my team, so highly skilled
they’ll help you with your citizenship.
I’ve asked all my friends to come forth
and write letters of their support
we’ll send them off to the UKVI;
with the aim to support my citizenship.
And Solange what of this high registration fee,
nothing in this world is free!
Legal status an email has come through.
It’s Solange she says we’ve been refused
Oh dear Lord, what are we to do
Don’t worry Daryl you’ll get emergency funding from the LAA
A certificate should arrive shortly.
She has submitted a Judicial Review.
Solange’s message has been delivered
The UKVI has reconsidered,
they have reviewed their initial decision.
They have granted us a new position
So here I sit at the ceremony,
my sister sat here next to me,
through all the fear and uncertainty
we’ve taken home a victory
Oh Legal Status can’t you see,
Now both of us can be free
Thank you Solange, Sue and PRCBC.
I was born in Trinidad and moved to the UK when I was 5 years old. I’ve lived here for 14 years and only been to Trinidad once in 2013 for about two weeks where I didn’t recognise anything!
I’ve done all my schooling in the UK and have made some fantastic friends that I class as family who have supported and helped me through it all. Words can’t describe how much work the PRCBC team has put in to help me got my British citizenship! I got referred to PRCBC by Just for Kids Law where I met Solange. Still, my case kept getting rejected by the Home Office due to my parents’ status but she didn’t let me give up, we did an internal Home Office review and a judicial review and we got prepared to take it to the High Court! That whole process was overwhelming and I did have doubts but I still pushed due to how far we had gotten.
The Home Office then wrote back and said they may reconsider their decision again if I withdraw my judicial review. This was a step in the right direction and gave me hope that there is a chance and they had realised we had a strong case. In the end, they granted me my citizenship and I believe this is all down to PRCBC team who didn’t let me give up. They put together a strong case with all the letters and statements I collected from friends, school and teachers. At first it felt like too much was being asked for but in the end, it was all worth it and got me to open my eyes about how the system works, how many young people are going through this and that it was not only me. I was so unaware of the process and how much was required.
I’ve always felt that the UK was my home. It is the only place I know and lived in for the majority of my life. Getting my citizenship has made it feel more real because I don’t feel different from my friends anymore and I finally belong somewhere that I can call home. Words can’t describe how I feel or what this means. I’m grateful for the work that Solange and her great team of volunteers have done for me because it is life changing.
I was born in Nigeria and moved to the UK when I was 6. I have continued to live here ever since, and I can barely recall anything about my homeland. I have a fantastic set of
friends here, a hugely diverse society with a throng of culture all amalgamated into one. Words can’t even comprehend how happy and fortunate I am to be registered as a British Citizen. I had never really considered myself anything else, to the extent that on application forms, I would consider myself both Black British and Black African.
I was never really conscious of the fact that I was in fact ‘different’ from the rest of my age peers, we all got along, shared similar interests – football, cycling and similar television shows. The only thing that made us ‘different’ was our passports. As an adventurous child, this wasn’t the priority I had in mind, I was always told to get good grades and “be good in school”, which I was.
Then things began to get much more difficult, my father lost his job. We were then evicted out of our flat. An endless cycle of moving houses consistently, packing, unpacking, repacking, unpacking. It got to a point in which over a span of 10 years, we had moved homes 9 times. I was never really conscious as to the reason why.
Until during my teenage years, our school arranged for us to go on a trip to Spain. I jumped for joy at the prospect of exploring new terrain. I forced my father to sign the slip – constantly tired from working, my father signed without reading the slip. Bags packed, clothes ironed, we arrived at the airport, for me to be told that I wasn’t allowed to travel due to my ‘documents’. It finally dawned on me that I was ‘different’ from my peers.
Time had passed. It got to the point where we had finished GCSE’s, finished our first year of A levels, we were being informed about the possibilities of going to university. A new challenge, a fresh start, the prospect of endless opportunity – if you had EU or British citizenship that is. Due to ‘my documents, I was confronted with the prospect of not going to university.
Speaking to various members of my distant family regarding the issue, I was first directed to Just for Kids Law. From there I was referred to PRCBC, who tirelessly helped me gain citizenship – to which I am forever grateful. Not only that but as a client and then PRCBC Ambassador, I’ve also learnt a lot about British Citizenship.
I was born in Bangladesh. I came to the UK when I was 8 years old. I was put in foster care when I was 9 with a lovely family, Terry and Mary Hamilton. They have brought me up ever since.
I have also changed my surname to Hamilton. I started going to secondary school and passed all of my GCSEs. Meanwhile, the Home Office was trying to send me back to Bangladesh.
While I was attending school Terry and Mary helped me to stay in the UK by taking me to immigration court, interviews with the Home Office and regular trips to Bristol to talk to a solicitor about getting me to stay. All I received was discretionary leave to stay. They refused to give me citizenship. This was a constant worry and strain on my life. After a visit to GARAS they advised me to go and see Solange Valdez in London. We made an appointment with her and she even made a Saturday available so we could travel to London. We were impressed by her friendliness and professionalism. She made us feel very welcome and understood how I felt. I am now a British citizen and my future is happier. I have a family (mum, dad and sister), a car and qualifications. I can now go on holiday abroad with my family. Without Solange Valdez and the support of her team this would not have been possible.
I was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the UK when I was two years old following the death of my grandmother. I grew up here with very few memories of where I journeyed from. Instead I learnt so much in this safe and diverse society, gaining friends and opportunities many don’t get the chance to appreciate. I didn’t think of my immigration status but as I became older I realised that a lot of the reasons why my life was different to most of my friends was because I only had Discretionary Leave to Remain.
This fact really hit home when I started to think of my academic future and what I wanted to study. I had so many ambitions, that were suddenly seeming inaccessible so I looked for help and found Just For Kids Law (LetUsLearn). They were very helpful and referred me to the best organisation and people they knew who could help me, the PRCBC.
PRCBC were diligent, organised and very understanding to my unique situation. With PRCBC’s generous help I began gathering relevant documents and supporting letters, then applied for British Citizenship in 2015. I had struggled in getting the Home Office registration fee. The PRCBC let me reimburse them for the cost of the Home Office application fee over the next few months while we waited. The response from the Home Office in early 2016 was a refusal, but we asked for a review in March 2016. And after a long wait in December 2016, I attended my citizenship ceremony, a result that could not have happened without the hard work of Solange Valdez and her colleagues.
However, my situation is not unique and I now know that there are so many other young people like me who are unsure about the security of their future goals- but to know that such a charity exists, that can bring so much hope and happiness is really uplifting. The vision this charity has is what brought me and many people out of obscurity and I will always be so grateful for the freedom I feel. I am now a Msci Geology undergraduate at the Royal Holloway. I can travel in and out of the UK and no longer worry about the nightmare of further extension of leave applications, etc.
I was born in India and arrived in the UK aged 5. I remember my first day in London, seeing the red buses, the beautiful architecture and the kind people of the UK with that very distinctive British accent, which all felt like a fairy tale. I may not be born in Britain but I am definitely moulded by the beautiful culture and the amazing opportunities. Furthermore, whilst being part of the RAF Air Cadets for several years, wanting to serve the Nation became my ambition. 13 years on, with faded memories of India, growing up and being educated in Britain, I knew that I would not be able to call any other land my Home. Yet I was made aware that I am not in fact a British Citizen when filling in my University application. With a heavy heart and the possibility of being considered an International Student looming over me, I decided to look for help. When getting help from school, the teachers were surprised of my status and thought I was in fact British a long time ago.
Several weeks passed and I was eventually directed to PRCBC. This is where my life took a very important and positive turn. Getting in contact with Solange Valdez, the founder of the charity, was very easy and all my queries were answered and the anxiety of hitting adulthood and not knowing what to call ‘Home’ was taken away. After a meeting with Solange, my application was sent off with hopes and prayers.
After many months of waiting, the confirmation for me to be registered as a British Citizen came through! A huge weight was lifted off my family and I, and we will be forever grateful to the PRCBC team.
On the 10th January 2017, my Oath Ceremony took place – a very British ceremony, in which aspiring British Citizens came together to become fellow citizens of Britain. The oath, the pledge and the entire experience itself was breath-taking and filled me with pride as I now knew I was a part of a nation that serves its people, tolerates everyone’s differences and moves together in a positive direction, allowing individuals to reach their potential as well as a society to prosper through all the opportunities. I think the most memorable part of the ceremony was when everyone stood together to sing the National Anthem and there was aura of importance and pride that filled the room – The pride of being British.
This would not be possible without the professionalism of Solange and her team. I found myself discussing many times with my parents how lucky I am to come across such a charity. I hope the charity continues to prosper and help the people who need it. I hope if you are reading this as an applicant, you have full faith in the team and process as they will go the extra mile to keep your comfort and ideals in mind. I would like to personally thank PRCBC again for all the help and work they have put in for me. A British toast to making a world a better place and opening doors for all our young people!
I was born in Zimbabwe and came to the UK when I was 3 years old. All my memories as a child were in the UK however I later learned that I was not a British Citizen.
I always knew I was different however my status only became clear to me as I got older and began to think about my future. When I was 16 just finishing my GCSE’s it became time I needed to start thinking about my career path, whether I was going to go to university, what I was going to study etc. I did some research and went on a few work experience placements in hospitals. I found a career path in theatre wards that intrigued me. Once I decided what I was going to study I looked into the university application process. It was then I found out that with my status (discretionary leave to remain) I would be categorised as an international student. I knew my family would simply not be able to afford these fees. I felt as though I was trapped. I had grown up in the UK. The UK was all I knew. To me it was home and I was being categorised as if this was not the case.
My mother kept faith and made me believe that everything would work out. I started sixth form the following academic year, studying the subjects I knew would get me into the healthcare course in my dreams – I didn’t stop having faith. I would sit in assemblies and listen to my tutors say “Nothing will stop you from going to university” and at the back of my head there was certainly something stopping me. I spoke to many people about my situation and it was then I was referred to PRCBC.
Shortly after being referred I met Solange Valdez and Sue Shutter, we began the application process. The process was not an easy one at all especially as I was going through my A levels. However knowing I could become the professional I wanted to be, motivated me. After one refusal and a pre-litigation challenge, I received my citizenship on 13th June 2016. This was a day my mother had been waiting for since we came to the UK together. A huge weight had been lifted from both our shoulders and I finally felt free.
We simply could not have achieved this without the amazing help of PRCBC. The work of this charity has not only enabled me to start studying to be an operating department practitioner (ODP) in September as I am now eligible for the NHS bursary, but has also opened so many new doors for me. I now do not have to worry about any immigration controls, like applying for my visa renewal every 2.5 years and the fees and other costs; and I can now travel the world freely. I cannot thank PRCBC and its volunteers enough for making my future look as bright as it currently is looking.
I am 19 years old and was born in the UK and have never travelled outside the UK. I spent some of my childhood years in care. I had always assumed that I was British. I felt absolutely shocked and sickened after learning that not only was I not British but that I also had no lawful status in the UK.
I was referred to PRCBC’s monthly Saturday slots by my support worker. I was then advised by PRCBC that I have a right to register as British by entitlement. I was upset to learn that I have had this right since I turned 10 and that I could have been registered even before then. I was disappointed that the local authority who had been responsible for my care during my childhood had not done anything about my status and my right to register as British.
I have a small child and the adult application fee of £913 to register as British was really difficult for me to raise. After months of getting help raising the fee, PRCBC helped me submit my application to the Home Office. It had also taken some months to get papers to show that I had lived in the UK during my first ten years since birth. This meant having to contact my old primary and secondary schools and getting social services records. At one stage, I couldn’t even afford to travel to my appointments to see Solange or get the money together for a copy of my British birth certificate and a passport sized photo. Due to my lack of status, my daughter and I had no access to normal support, and I also had no right to work.
It was a really scary time for me to find out that I had no status in the country that I was born in and where I had lived since birth. It was also stressful and upsetting to get all my bits of documents together, but PRCBC were persistent in supporting me through the process and trying to persuade me not to give up. They rang and chased me when I was too low to attend some of my appointments with them.
I came to the UK when I was three years old, and I only became aware of my situation regarding my status whilst enrolling at Sixth Form, where it surfaced as a real problem, it became more crucial than ever to do something about it. Not having lawful status affected my normal day to day living, and my access to support. After a number of applications and rejections for settled status (ILR), I was introduced to PRCBC. PRCBC helped me regain a positive outlook on my future something which was slowly fading before, I had been accepted on a course at a Drama School I had been auditioning for, which became a driving force in my hopes and efforts to get registered and secure my place. The initial application for registration was refused, however it was challenged in court, and with the hard work of PRCBC within some months the decision was overturned. Being registered as a British citizen allowed me to pursue my ambitions without the fear of complications due to my status. Before PRCBC I was totally unaware I was able to apply to register as British. PRCBC’s work has enabled me to take up endless opportunities. Without its help, I wouldn’t look at life the way I do today. I’ve regained a passion to experience, grabbing all opportunities with both hands. I feel that I can now fully participate and contribute to society. There are probably many young people out there with the fears I once had, but with a Charitable organisation like PRCBC, I can now say help is at hand.
I am 20 years old and I was born in London. I have never travelled outside the UK. My father was British at the time of my birth, but not married to my mother. I’m to be deported and can’t appeal from my country of birth where I lived all my life.
My settled status (ILR) has been taken from me by the immigration people. I was convicted of an offence after I was a fool to mix with the wrong crowd when I was 15. I was transferred to an immigration removal centre after I completed my prison sentence. Social Services withdrew training and support they were to give me on my release from prison.
Prior to my immigration detention, I had assumed that I was British. After my detention and having been told that I was not, I began to assume that having been born in my country was just as good as having British citizenship. It is not, I’m to be sent to a country I have never been. I’m really not following any of the things that have been happening with my case. I was given a licence by the Parole Board and thought I would be free and start a new me.
Before now, I had not known what “detention”, “immigration” and “legal aid” were all about. Maybe, I was just too “British” and too “young” to pay much attention. I had also been all too worried and anxious about becoming an adult. In the last five years, like many young persons, I had been “stressing” myself about further education and my chances of getting work and how I would be able to support myself.
Since my detention, I have been given some rushed and ‘bear’ poor advice on my immigration detention. I have also been told that there is no legal aid for advice on my stay in the UK. I’m so petrified of my situation that since my detention, I have been wishing to end it all. What’s the point of it all? Where is the country where I was born proposing to send me to?
I have recently been referred to PRCBC and been getting free phone and e-mail guidance from a solicitor. I now know that my right to register as British was never taken seriously by those looking after me as a child. I now get that I could have registered as British as soon as I turned 10 or even before that, as my father was British at the time of my birth. I continue to have a right to register as British by right, but my criminal conviction means that my application as a Brit is unlikely to succeed.
I was born in Jamaica and first came to the UK at the age of 5 in order to join my mother, who had moved to the UK a few years before me. I remember next to nothing of Jamaica, most of my memories being little other than ephemeral snatches of fleeting events that may have occurred but possess no real definition. I’ve lived in Britain for more than half my life and have no coherent recollection of my birthplace; not that I disavow being Jamaican, it’s simply that there is no difference between myself, a Jamaican born British immigrant, and a British born Jamaican heritage individual. I mean I could never claim to be Jamaican simply because although I had been born there, I had never really experienced what it meant to be Jamaican.
My mother never shied away from explicitly stating the situation to me, concerning our lack of status and due to my older sister going through the same thing I was aware of how difficult things would become should I not receive status by the time I became an adult. The idea of being sent back to Jamaica without any hope of access to Britain horrified me because I knew that Jamaica would be completely alien to me.
I have always felt Britain was my home. The process of getting British citizenship was an extremely stressful process only made simpler by the excellent support and fastastic work of PRCBC.
Since getting citizenship I have begun an internship at Just for Kids Law (JFKL), and excellent charity organisation aimed at helping vulnerable young people. I have been working at JFKL for the past 4 months as I try to gain skills that will help me in university and in life.
Gaining British Citizenship has allowed me to continue my life without worry about immigration controls such as the need to find the funds to reapply in 2.5yrs. I have gained the ability to look beyond the immediate and begin to plan for my life to come.
I arrived in the UK when I was five years old to be with my mother. It was the first time I had travelled outside of Jamaica and the cold was a nice surprise.
I have spent more than half of my life in the UK; I went to primary school, secondary school and sixth form in London. I’m now at the University of Bath studying Psychology. I have made some life long friends and experienced opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to back in Jamaica. But during my time in the UK I had made a life for myself. For a long time I’ve felt like the UK was my home but becoming British in July solidified that hope and dream. I feel fully integrated and like I truly belong now. My future ambition is to become a psychologist as I hope to make an impact in society by taking the stigma surrounding mental health in young people.
Without PRCBC, I wouldn’t be where I am. I am now attending university, which has been my dream. Before I met Solange, I was of the impression that there was nothing more I could do for my situation but wait until I could apply for permanent stay (ILR). I had applied for my British citizenship and had been refused. I had asked for an internal review and paid a UKVI fee of £80 and this again got refused. I was very disappointed and upset with the decision but PRCBC gave me hope. I was told I could challenge the review decision in the high court. I think that the work PRCBC does is invaluable and unique. It provides support and assistance to young persons who find themselves wanting to become British but don’t have the knowledge of the law and the financial means to pay for good specialist advice. When I applied for citizenship I went into the process blind, unaware of what was required of me and when given a refusal the explanations were equally as vague. PRCBC provides clarity to it all.