Maria is Mexican; her mother brought her to the UK when she was a child of seven. She went through primary and secondary school here, made friends, played in sports teams and, of course, speaks perfect English. But, at the age of seventeen, she wanted to study graphic design. She was shocked to discover she could not enrol at college because she was in the UK without permission. Her mother had come as a visitor and ‘overstayed’ – stayed here well beyond the terms of the visit visa. Maria was in the same position. She had no right to study, to work, or to rent property. She was also at risk of being detained and removed from the UK by the Home Office.
Maria’s story is not unusual. She had to make applications to the Home Office asking to stay in the UK because she had built up a private life here. She had to keep renewing her permission until she had lived in the UK lawfully for ten years. At that point she was able to get Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), also known as settlement. ILR is a permanent status in the UK and the gateway to British Citizenship.
The ten-year route to ILR is generally for those who have broken immigration laws but are allowed to stay in the UK on human rights grounds. People who do not break the rules usually only have to live here legally for five years before they can get ILR.
Basically, if you break the rules, you pay for it by waiting longer to settle. Until recently, children and young adults who had broken the rules had to wait ten years to settle.
Ten years is a long time. Each time Maria renewed her permission to stay in the UK, it cost her over £2,500 in Home Office fees. A harsh outcome for a young woman who, through no fault of her own, found herself in the UK illegally.
The Home Office has now recognised that people like Maria are simply not at fault and were not responsible for breaking the rules. Maria’s mother broke the rules and Maria was a child who had no idea what was happening. She could not possibly have taken steps to put it right. What’s more, Maria is fully integrated into British society. In her spirit and soul she is thoroughly British because she has spent all her formative years here.
So, young people between 18 and 24 years old, who find themselves in Maria’s position, can apply to stay in the UK . They can apply to settle (get ILR) after five years instead of ten. This is a very welcome development.
The Private Life rules also allow children who were born in the UK to apply for settlement after living here for seven years. This means that, even if the child 's parents are here without permission, the child can apply for settlement once they are seven years old. Again the law recognises that, by the time a child reaches seven years old, it is unreasonable to expect them to leave the UK if they have spent all their life here. So why not grant them ILR when they are seven. Simple common sense.
We have helped many children and young people to find security in the UK using immigration laws. Find out how one of those clients went from abandoned child to settled adult with our help in our last news post.