“If only I had naturalised…”
“Why didn’t I become a British citizen before all of this happened?”
“How can they deport me when I have lived here all my life?”
These are some of the most common reactions I hear from clients when they are informed that the Home Office is seeking to deport them.
But it is not asylum seekers, students, visitors or others with temporary residence who utter these words.
It is those who have lived most of their lives in the UK, often from childhood, with the distinction of holding indefinite leave to remain or settled status.
Some of them arrived when they were just a few weeks old but are now facing deportation despite having lived in the UK for almost 40 years.
Indefinite leave to remain or settled status essentially means that
- You do not have to apply for a further extension of your leave to remain;
- You can work without the permission of the Home Office;
- You can claim public benefits;
- You are treated as a home student when it comes to paying university fees;
- You can sponsor family members to join you in the UK;
- And if you have any children, they will automatically be British.
The fact remains that you are not a British Citizen.
And if you are not British, you are a Foreigner.
You may have lived here your entire life, speak fluent English, and dress and behave like everyone else in the country.
But the law will still treat you as a foreign national.
You may not speak any language other than English, you may have never even visited your country of origin since coming to the UK, and you may have no family or friends over there.
But the Government will still consider you to be a foreigner.
Many people live their entire lives oblivious to the distinction until a point comes where they get in trouble with the police.
It may be the very first time they have broken the law.
It may not have been a serious offence.
It may have been a complete accident.
It does not matter.
If you are convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of imprisonment of 12 months or more, the law says that the Home Office MUST seek to deport you.
BUT I’M NOT A CRIMINAL
Let us assume this is true.
But the reality is that a single incident can completely destroy anyone’s life.
And even if you are a good upright citizen, your children may make their own mistakes in their journey through to adulthood.
It could be a moment of dangerous driving.
It could be a fight during a night out.
It could be a being caught with a large quantity of cannabis.
It could be a robbery committed during a bad patch in your life.
It could be a one-off domestic dispute.
If you are British, you serve your time, reflect on your mistake and hopefully move on with your life.
If you are a foreign national, this may just be the beginning of your troubles.
- Following the completion of your criminal sentence, you are likely to be detained by the Home Office while they try to deport you.
- You may be detained at a prison or transferred to one of a dozen Immigration Removal Centres dotted around the country.
- This could be located hundreds of miles away from your home.
- Unlike a prison sentence, there is no time limit for the Home Office to release you.
- In other words, they can detain you indefinitely.
- If you are granted bail, you may be required to report once a week to the Home Office.
- The Home Office will arrange an interview with your embassy to try and obtain a travel document for you.
- You will need to explain to the Home Office how deporting you to another country would breach your human rights.
- You will need to get evidence of your family life and ties to the UK.
- You will need to show why it would be unduly harsh for your children to move with you to your country or for you to be separated from your children.
- If your representations are refused, you will have to appeal to an Immigration Tribunal.
- The Home Office may certify your case so that you can only appeal after deportation.
- Unless you claim that you are at risk of persecution or suffering serious harm in your home country, you are not likely to be entitled to legal aid.
- This means that you must either represent yourself or pay thousands of pounds in legal fees.
- Even if you win your case, you will be unable to naturalise for ten years from the date of your criminal offence.
- If you commit another crime during this period, even a minor one, it may trigger deportation proceedings against you again based on your previous crime.
- The Home Office may revoke your indefinite leave to remain and grant you a more limited leave to remain for a period of between 6 and 30 months.
The consequences of failing to naturalise are severe and should not be taken lightly.
A 12 month prison sentence can in practice become a lifelong punishment.
The most common reason for clients not naturalising or registering their children as British is the extortionate costs involved.
With the Home Office charging £1236 for adults and £936 for children, who can blame them!
My advice to clients is always the same:
Beg, borrow, save the money to make these applications as soon as possible.
The risk of not doing so comes at a far greater cost.
To learn more about registering your children as British citizens, see this earlier post: 3 Ways to Give Your Child the Gift of British Citizenship
Visadreams.com, Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, the director and principal solicitor of Riverway Law, a niche UK immigration and nationality law practice based in London. If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your details here.