A new citizenship fee waiver for children was published today by the Home Office, allowing individuals under 18 years of age to apply to have the £1,012 fee on applications for registration as a British citizen waived.
The policy applies where it is "credibly demonstrated” by the child or their parents that the fee is unaffordable after meeting the child’s essential living needs.
The decision marks significant progress in helping families currently priced out of British citizenship from applying and heeds the call of campaigners who have been pressing the Home Office for a number of years to reform the current registration fee.
In February, the Supreme Court handed down a decision on whether the Secretary of State could lawfully make a child’s right to be registered as a British citizen conditional on paying a substantial fee.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Home Office, stating that Parliament has authorised the Government to set the fee. At £1,012, this meant that many children would be unable to afford citizenship.
However, the Court's judgment left the findings of the Court of Appeal intact, namely, that the Home Secretary had "fallen far short" of showing that she had assessed and given effect to children's best interests when setting the fee, pursuant to her duty under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.
This followed a Court of Appeal decision in February 2021 upholding a High Court ruling that that the £1,012 fee the Home Office charges children to register as a British citizen is unlawful.
The decision was the result of landmark legal challenge brought by the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) and a child, known as O, against the Home Secretary, challenging the legality of the fee system. Mishcon de Reya acted for PRCBC on a pro bono basis.
In response to the Supreme Court decision, over twenty community, children’s and legal organisations, including Mishcon de Reya, joined a call to amend the Nationality and Borders Bill.
The joint briefing proposed the removal of unjust fees from the citizenship registration process and was debated in the House of Lords. A subsequent review of the fee system by the Home Office has ultimately led to this announcement.
Partner Maria Patsalos, who acted for PRCBC, said: "We are very proud to have been part of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court appeals that have led to this significant breakthrough. Wealth should never be a requirement for children to access their citizenship rights."
Full information on the affordability fee waiver is on the gov.uk website.