Why is British Citizenship important to children and young adults?

The importance of British citizenship is highlighted by the Secretary of State on her British citizenship application form guide. This points out that

“Citizenship is a ‘significant life event’. Apart from allowing a child to apply for a British Citizen passport, British citizenship gives them the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of their local community as they grow up.“

British citizenship to a child and young adult is about identity, integration, sense of belonging, confirmation that this is their home, having the same rights and feeling part of their peer group and much more.

British citizenship also means that the child and young adult obtains all the advantages of citizenship, including the right to remain in Britain, freedom from immigration control, access to student loans, employment, health services and other social benefits. The child and young adult also enjoys all rights as a citizen of the European Union. At its worst, a child or young adult who is not registered is at risk of being removed, often to a country s/he has barely lived in and knows nothing about.

From our own experience, and the experience of those who work with children and young adults, it is of psychological importance to be registered as British citizens. Doing so would give these young persons a greater sense of identity in the UK (see pages 22-29 of legal research report: Systemic obstacles to children’s registration as British Citizens).

The best estimates indicate that there are between 120,000 and 140,000 young persons living in Britain without the legal right to reside under current immigration laws. Of these, approximately 65,000 young persons were born in Britain, were educated here and speak English.

The British Nationality Act 1981 provides for registration of children as British citizens by entitlement or at the discretion of the Secretary of State.

Why are children not being registered as British Citizens?

Our legal research confirmed that many children born in the UK or living here from an early age do not have British citizenship or any leave (permission) to remain in the UK. However, many are entitled to British citizenship, and others, while not entitled, may be granted citizenship at the discretion of the Home Office.

Some of these children neither know they do not have permission to be in the UK nor that they may apply for citizenship (or for permission to stay in the UK). Similarly, parents, foster parents and corporate parents (social services) often do not know these things; and in some cases appear to prefer not to know.

Among key problems currently are:

  • No steps taken by those responsible for the welfare of children to protect these children’s right to register as British
  • Lack of awareness – children, parents, others working with children
  • Affordability of the registration application fee of £973 for children and  £1,163 for young persons 18 or over
  • Absence of legal aid for advice and assistance in registration applications (evidence acquisition may be complex and costly, and law is not straightforward and accessible)
  •  If refused registration, there is also no legal aid at Home Office internal review stage and a £321 Home Office  review fee is required
  • Application of the good character test for children 10 or over (and Home Office’s  guidance that treats test same for children as for adults)
  • Poor decision-making on part of Home Office, poor application of discretion, poor guidance, absence of consideration of section 55 of 2009 Act, UNCRC duties and/or right to private and family life
  • Removal of the 7 year ILR children’s concession

Updated on 10/4/2017

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