By Isabelle Cooper, published 26/04/2021
The £1,012 application fee for Child Citizenship has recently bee ruled unlawful by the Courts of Appeal. The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) brought the case against the Home Office in 2019. They argued that the extortionate price literally prices people out of their statutory right to British Citizenship. Furthemore, they pointed out that the application only costs the Home Office £372 to administer, earning them a £640 profit.
The Court ruling orders the Home Office to reconsider the fee and carry out an assessment on the consequences for child welfare. The Courts concluded that if a child is eligible for British citizenship it is in their best interest to register as British. This is something the Home Office previously failed to recognise.
Year-on-year the Home Office has increased the price of various immigration applications.
Child citizenships fees cost £35 in 1983, £200 in 2005, £699 in 2014 and £1,012 in the present day. Whilst the administrative costs have marginally reduced.
The 2004 Act (Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration Act) permitted applicantion cost to exceed the administrative fee. This was justified in order to subsidise other areas of the department, and ultimately gave rise to price hikes.
The claimant ‘O’:
PRCBC, the first and only organisation to focus directly on children and young adults and their right to British citizenship, has been supporting the claimant ‘O’. She was born in the UK in 2007 and is a Nigeria citizen via descent.
Since ‘O’ has never left the UK, when she turned 10 she fulfilled the criteria for British Citizenship (under section 1(4) of the British Nationality Act 1981).
However, her family is destitute and has been financially supported by their local authority since 2015. She is one of three children with their single-parent mother.
Her mother was unable to raise the (then) full registration fee of £973. So, with the assistance of PRCBC, she instead submitted an application paying the (then) administrative fee of £386. However, the Secretary of State refused to process the application. O’s application has been the subject of litigation ever since.
Case Ruling Specifics:
The challenge against the Home Office ultimately succeeded on account of Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. This section states that the Secretary of State has a duty to ensure child safeguarding and welfare standards are met. The Court of Appeal agreed that the Secretary of State had failed to conduct any kind of assessment concerning the best interests of children.
PRCBC made the further argument that the fee was unlawful also because its effect was to deprive many children of their statutory right to British Citizenship. The claimants argued that so long as an unrealistically high registration fee persists, the registration entitlement is effectively null and void. Without the ability to pay the fee, the ability to benefit from the entitlement is lost. Thus the regulation is unlawful because it is ultra vires (Latin: beyond the powers) the fee-setting power conferred by section 68 of the Immigration Act 2014. Due to a previous court decision, the judge had to dismiss this argument. However, it agreed it was very persuasive.
Brief History of British Citizenship:
Before the British Nationality Act 1981, anyone born in the UK was entitled to British Citizenship. As was the case for nine centuries. This new legalisation modified the jus soil approach to citizenship; someone born in the UK is only a British citizen if one of their parents is either a British citizen or is legally settled in the UK.
The PRCBC ‘are delighted the courts have yet again held this scandalously high fee unlawful’. It provides hope for those critical of the Home Office, especially in the context of the ‘New Plans for Immigration‘.
However, this does not mark the end of this struggle. PRCBC and Amnesty continue to call upon the Home Secretary to:
- Remove any element of the registration fee over and above the actual cost of administration
- Exempt the entire fee in the case of children in local authority care
- Introduce a waiver of the fee in the case of any child who is unable to afford the administrative cost of registration
We look foward with hope and apprehension to the Home Office’s response to the Court Ruling.
April 30,2021 at 2:47 pm