New Home Office Concession Will Fast Track Settlement for Young Adults
For migrants who come to the UK to settle permanently, having a sense of security and belonging is essential. As a settled migrant, it is possible to then apply for citizenship and then a British passport, use the NHS, apply for public funding, and have the same rights and privileges as a British national. Unfortunately, there are many young people in the UK who came to the UK or were born in the UK to migrants who never had their immigration situation properly finalised and have to wait for ten years to gain the right to settle here (assuming they are not eligible under the family migration route). In this article, we will outline a new Home Office concession that will enable young adults who are the children of migrants who came to the UK to secure settlement after five rather than ten years.
The plight of thousands of children of UK migrants
In May 2021, the BBC documentary series, Panorama, covered the plight of many young adults who have lived in the UK for most of their lives but are still not legally classified as British nationals. As the children of migrants who came to the UK, these young adults have fallen foul of the immigration system simply because their parents didn’t know that they needed to resolve the immigration status of their children. As a result, many people who were born in the UK or came to the UK as young children now feel like second class citizens unable to access services such as further education. The programme featured 18-year-old Marheraj Ahmed, who arrived from Bangladesh at the age of five, with his parents, who were first-generation migrants. Marheraj has a dream to study medicine and become a doctor. Even though he won a scholarship and then attended Eton, when he then applied to study medicine, his application was refused. The reason for his refusal is his immigration status, as he is still technically on a temporary visa and hence classed as an international student subject to full international fees (£30,000 per year). In addition, he is not eligible for a student loan. According to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), Maheraj is not alone as there are an estimated 180,000 children in the UK who are not classed as British citizens despite living in the UK for over ten years.
While these young adults can technically apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) by using the ten-year-long residence route (and have spent at least half of their life living continuously in the UK), this is a process that is expensive, time-consuming, leaves children in limbo, and even once granted, does not provide immediate citizenship. Historically, the Home Office has taken the view that making people wait for ten years ensures greater compliance with the immigration rules, but this is about to change.
What is the new concession?
In the new concession, the Home Office acknowledge that the reasoning for the ten-year settlement policy (i.e., a probationary period to encourage lawful compliance) is simply not relevant for everyone; “However, for some cases the public interest factors which underpin the 10-year settlement policy – namely, the need to serve a longer probationary period before qualifying for settlement, and the principle of encouraging lawful compliance – may be less relevant”. It goes on to say this is particularly the case for those who were born in the UK or entered as children but are now young adults (aged 18-24), as they “cannot be considered responsible for any previous non-compliance with immigration laws and are fully integrated into society in the UK”. On this basis, the Home Office now believes that the qualification period should be reduced from ten to five years; “For these individuals, it will not usually be proportionate to expect them to have to complete a longer (10-year) route to settlement. Where that is the case, they should be able to settle after five years’ Continuous leave”.
The new rules now state that to be eligible for this five-year rule concession, the following criteria must be met:
- Be aged 18 years or above and under 25 years of age and has spent least half of his/her life living continuously in the UK (discounting any period of imprisonment);
- Have either been born in or entered the UK as a child;
- Have held five years limited leave; and
- Be eligible for further leave to remain under paragraph 276ADE (1) of the Immigration Rules and have made an application under those rules.
Related to the above criteria, when considering an “early” indefinite leave to remain application, UK Visas and Immigration case officers are required to take into account several factors, including:
- the person’s age when they arrived in the UK
- the length of their residence in the UK (including unlawful residence)
- the strength of their connections and integration to the UK
- whether unlawful residence in the past was the result of non-compliance on the part of the applicant or their parent/guardian whilst the applicant was under the age of 18
- efforts made to engage with the Home Office and regularise status
- any leave currently held and length of continuous lawful leave
- any period of any continuous leave held in the past
- whether (and the extent to which) limited leave to remain will have a detrimental
- impact on the person’s health or welfare
The guidance states that if one or more of the above factors applies to a given case, the case officer is required to consider if it would still be proportionate to expect the applicant to wait the full ten years.
There is no doubt that this represents an important change by the Home Office, and one we hope will bring some peace of mind to those caught up in such unnecessarily complex and unfair immigration policy. If you need help with securing your early ILR as a child of a migrant to the UK and then British citizenship, speak to an immigration Solicitor who can handle the process for you.