LANDMARK HIGH COURT CASE REGARDING CHILDREN BRITISH CITIZENSHIP
Numerous children meet the requirements to register as British either through entitlement through birth in the UK and with one of their parents becoming settled, or if they were born in the UK and have lived the first ten years of their life in the UK. There are also those who can apply to register by discretion of the Home Office taking into account certain criteria where it may appropriate for the Home Office to grant citizenship.
The current Home Office fee for registering children as British citizens is £1012. The Home Office statistics indicate that the cost of processing a child registration application for British citizenship is only £372. Amnesty International UK has called the surplus fee of £640 payable by every applicant “shameless profiteering”. In many cases this extortionate fee is preventing them from submitting the application to register.
The question has arisen as to whether this mandatory fee paid at submission of application is lawful.
In the recent case of R (on the application of Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens and others) v Secretary of State for the Home Department https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2019/3536.html addressed these concerns and Mr Justice Jay acknowledged that children without citizenship are “in an obviously precarious position”. The Judge identified the significance of the link between citizenship and social identity, citing the Secretary of State’s own guidance documents, which state:
“[b]ecoming a British citizen is a significant life event. Apart from allowing a child to apply for a British passport, British citizenship gives them the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of their local community as they grow up”. (Guide MN1, July 2019).
The court ruled that that in setting the fee at this level the Home Office had failed to discharge their duty under s.55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to consider the best interest of children applying for British citizenship
The Court accepted that in setting the fee at this level the Home Office had failed to discharge their duty under s.55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 in that the Home Office had not considered the best interests of the child and this was unlawful.
However the Court did not accept the argument that any fee exceeding the administration cost of processing the application should be scrapped
As a result of these findings, the Home Office should proceed to review the fee with the best interests of the children in mind. Their new assessment could result in a reduction of fee (or fee waiver option) or the conclusion that the current fee is valid.
In the meantime, those who have already incurred the cost of the citizenship fee have no immediate basis to claim a refund.
Acharyas has extensive experience of all aspects of nationality law and naturalisation and registration applications.
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