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UK’s £1,000 child citizenship fee ruled unlawful by appeal court

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Author: Diane Taylor

Home Office fees of £1,000 for children to register as British citizens are unlawful, the court of appeal has upheld in a landmark ruling.

The high fees that children or their parents are expected to pay to secure British citizenship have been controversial for many years. Children who have a right to register as British citizens but may be prevented from doing so because of the high cost or lack of access to legal advice risk losing out on rights and benefits.

Thursday’s ruling found that ministers had failed to assess and consider the impact of this fee on children and their rights, pointing out that for some families it was “difficult to see how the fee could be afforded at all”.

The Home Office charges £1,012 for a child to register for citizenship. However, the process costs about a third of that, at £372. The Home Office says the profit is used to fund other areas of its work.

In December 2019, a high court judge ruled that the fee was unlawful after finding it prevented many children from being registered for citizenship, leaving them feeling “alienated, second-best and not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK”.

The Home Office appealed against the high court’s ruling that the department had failed in its duty to assess the best interests of children and give primary consideration to these interests in setting the fee.

The court of appeal rejected this appeal and the department must now reconsider the fee and ensure that children’s best interests are taken fully into account in doing so.

Responding to the judgment, Carol Bohmer, the chair of the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, which brought the case, said she was “delighted” the courts had again held that the “scandalously high” fee was unlawful.

“We will continue in our mission so no one is in future forced to grow up in the UK suffering the alienation and isolation that is currently the experience of so many young people,” she said.

Bohmer, along with the project’s founder, Solange Valdez Symonds, have been campaigning for eight years to reform citizenship fees for children.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Citizenship registration fees are charged as part of a wider fees approach designed to reduce the burden on UK taxpayers. The Home Office acknowledges the court’s ruling and will review child registration fees in due course.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/feb/18/uk-unlawfully-charging-1000-for-children-to-become-citizens

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