Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced changes to British citizenship laws aimed at avoiding what the government calls ‘Windrush anomalies’.
Forming part of a wider overhaul of the UK immigration system, the reforms are expected to be positively received by some of the victims of the outdated rules. By its own admission, the government’s errors have resulted in many people being denied citizenship despite being perfectly eligible, and the new rules present a chance to make amends.
According to the Home Secretary, the changes to citizenship laws will form part of a number of changes to ‘the UK’s broken immigration system.’
The new rules are thought to provide the Home Secretary with the ability to overrule current UK residency requirements, which have made it impossible for immigration officials to grant citizenship to people removed from the UK or prevented from returning home as a result of the Windrush scandal.
A report from The Guardian discusses some of those who suffered amid the Windrush scandal, including Trevor Donald, who had been resident in the UK for 43 years. He travelled to Jamaica to attend his mother’s funeral in 2010, but upon attempting to return home, was barred from reentering the UK.
Mr Donald said:
“I was stuck in Jamaica and left destitute until 9 years later UK immigration officials recognised that they had made a mistake in not allowing me to return home. My citizenship application was refused because of the time I’d spent out of the country. The law says I must be in the UK for five years to apply.”
Speaking on the proposed changes to the immigration system, Mr Donald added: “It would be good news. They should make amends for their wrongs.”
The deeply unjust experiences that Mr Donald faced brought the Home Office under intense scrutiny. Even three years after offering an official apology to victims of the Windrush scandal, the government department was failing to learn from the mistakes that caused the scandal in the first place.
Home Secretary’s frustrations
Whitehall sources have indicated that Patel is frustrated due to the rules barring immigration officials from granting citizenship to people who are completely eligible.
The changes are expected to add considerable flexibility to a system that has long been rigid, and enable the Home Office to dismiss residency requirements in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“British nationality law has not changed significantly since 1983. It is outdated, convoluted and littered with anomalies which impact hundreds of people each year. These new reforms will bring about lasting change to our entire immigration system, ensuring it is fair and just.”
It is also thought that changes will reform a law that currently prevents children from acquiring their father’s citizenship if their mother was married to a different person. Additionally, a new system is set to be rolled out whereby children of British Overseas Territory citizens will be able to acquire citizenship more easily.
Although the forthcoming changes are set to be well received, migrants’ rights organisations have implored the government to reappraise the cost of applying for British citizenship alongside the wider reforms of the immigration system.
Currently among the world’s highest, British citizenship application fees are a huge issue for many prospective applicants. The cost of applying stands at thousands of pounds, despite the negligible administrative costs for the Home Office.
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If you’re concerned about your application for British citizenship, contact our client care team today on 0333 305 9375 for immediate help and assistance.
We are deeply experienced in all areas of immigration law, from Spouse Visa application support to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) advice and guidance, and would be delighted to assist with your query.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that British citizenship laws will be reformed as part of a series of changes to the UK immigration system. [Image: Metro]
Current British citizenship rules make it impossible for immigration officials to grant citizenship to those deported due to the Windrush scandal. [Image: FT]
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