More than 100 education leaders call on Sajid Javid to cut ‘costly’ child citizenship fees

'Parents are getting into debt because they want citizenship for their children'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 01 August 2018 15:35 BST
A letter has been sent to home secretary Sajid Javid calling for the citizenship fees to be cut
A letter has been sent to home secretary Sajid Javid calling for the citizenship fees to be cut (PA)

More than 100 education leaders have signed a letter urging home secretary Sajid Javid to reduce sky high child citizenship fees to ensure families do not have to go to “upsetting” lengths to save.

Parents are working multiple jobs, getting into debt and going without food to ensure they can pay for their child to obtain citizenship – which costs more than £1,000, school staff have said.

UK citizenship fees are almost 10 times the cost of France, Sweden, Belgium and Spain and five times more than the “EU 15” nations on average, research from charity Citizens UK has found.

The charity is calling for the Home Office to reduce the “unaffordable fees” – which currently stand at £1,012 per child – to around £350 to ensure these children are given equal opportunities.

They say some school pupils – who were born in the UK – are being priced out of citizenship, while stretched families are seeking food vouchers and taking out loans to save up enough for the fees.

The letter, which has been signed by headteachers and senior academics, says: “Schools who have multiple pupils in this situation have noticed a real and significant detrimental impact from the cost of this application, including an increase in food insecurity and lack of basic needs being met.

“This often leads to schools having to step in to fill the gap by providing clothing, food and emotional support as well as subsidising additional extra-curricular activities.”

It adds: “Without citizenship young people are ineligible for student loans and home fees and are effectively blocked from going to university. If we are serious about social mobility, then this barrier to education must be removed.”

An estimated 120,000 children in the UK – many who have been living in Britain for most of their lives – are being charged these high fees to register their citizenship rights, the charity highlights.

Recent analysis calculated that the Home Office has made almost £100m in profit from children registering as British citizens over the last five years.

It came after The Independent revealed that the government had been accused of using UK-born children of immigrants as “cash cows” by charging extortionate sums for citizenship.

Nicola Noble, head teacher at Surrey Square School, said: “Most of the children affected have lived in Britain their entire lives and now their parents – the majority of which are in low paid jobs – are forced to go to upsetting lengths to save for costly citizenship fees.

“We see the impact of the Home Office’s fees on a daily basis. The need for food vouchers at our school has increased because parents are going without to save up extra money and some parents are working multiple jobs to scrape together enough funds for the citizenship application.”

She added: “Many parents have been forced to take out loans and are getting into debt because they are so determined to secure citizenship for their children, to give them the possibility of going to university without paying huge foreign student fees.

“It is deeply worrying that the Home Office is making a profit on the back of hard working families.”

Sarah Holtam, co-chair of Citizens UK Council, said: “Not only are these fees are incredibly high, but that they are also much more expensive than anywhere else in the EU-15. We simply don’t understand why the Home Office is charging so much for citizenship given the harm it is doing to communities proudly living and working in Britain.”

Daniel, a 15-year-old who has been in the UK since the age of three, was prevented from going on school trips and risks missing out on college because his mother could not afford to apply for citizenship.

He previously told The Independent: “It’s stopped me doing a lot of things. I felt like I was different from everyone else. You’d think me being British would be something that would come naturally as I’ve been here as long as I can remember. It’s been really limiting.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Fees legislation allows the Home Office to take into account the wider costs involved in running our border, immigration and citizenship system, so that those who directly benefit from it contribute to its funding.

"Fees are kept under review, and when setting new fee levels, we consider a number of factors including the cost of processing the application, likely benefits of a successful application, and the wider cost of running the border, immigration and citizenship system.

“The principle of charging at above cost for immigration and nationality fees was first approved by Parliament in 2004.”

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