Citizenship - the project
Coventry Law Centre has been funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation to do work in respect of Citizenship for migrant children. The project covers Coventry and Birmingham. Why?
Many migrant parents, especially first generation migrants, assume that their child is ‘ok’ in terms of papers to stay in the UK because the child has been born here. Unfortunately this is not the case (and hasn’t been since 1983) and we know from research that approximately 65000 children have been born in the UK, yet do not have papers granting them leave to remain or citizenship. Many parents and professionals are not aware that children born in the UK can have no permission to live here.
Typically children become aware of this issue when their applications for student loans or national insurance numbers are rejected. At this point they come to us at the Law Centre, or to private solicitors with what is then a crisis situation. They have worked hard through primary and secondary education and obtain a place at university, only to then be told they cannot take it up as they cannot get student finance and in addition have to pay tuition fees at overseas rates (£16000 per year!). By this time they are more often than not 18, and solutions that were available when they were under 18 have just evaporated. If they have no papers at all they will also not be allowed to work and could struggle to rent a home, get NHS treatment or even get married.
Every child born in the UK and still resident in the UK at the age of 10 becomes eligible to apply to register as a British Citizen. This is regardless of whether they have limited leave or no leave at all, even if they are illegally here or a ‘failed asylum seeker’. This is what we call ‘registration by entitlement’, which means that, subject to good character and criminal record checks, it will normally be granted. This right also applies to people over 18 who were born in the UK and spent their first ten years here, but as they get older they will find it much harder to provide evidence particularly of the first five years. There is a fee payable to the Home Office to make the application, but in many cases this is a worthwhile investment in their future. In cases where the whole family is without leave to remain, a British child can be the start of obtaining leave for all the family as a British child cannot be forced out of the UK.
One of the tools we promote as part of this project is a website called Path to Papers, which allows parents to answer 5 simple questions about their child in order to get an idea of their immigration status. This can be done anonymously without the need to give any login details or even an email address. The website has been developed in a unique partnership between a specialist IT company and specialist children’s legal advisers. You will find Coventry Law Centre under the ‘find a lawyer’ tab on the website.