Written evidence from We Belong (NBB0057)
1. We Belong is an innovative new organisation led by young people who migrated to the UK, as children. Our vision is to see young migrants living in the UK being treated equally and fairly in the country they call home. Our focus is on removing the barriers preventing full integration for migrants, so that we can contribute fully to British society.
2. The Nationality and Borders Bill makes some long overdue changes to correct historic anomalies to nationality law. However, it overlooks the plight of young migrants who came to the UK as children and face decades before they can become citizens of the only home they know. These young people want to contribute to the country they call home but face the very real risk of being driven out of legal status and into illegality due to the high cost of Leave to Remain applications and the need to make repeated applications. In this inquiry we are going to focus on Part 1 of the Nationality and Borders Bill (Clauses 1-9 and Schedule 1); addressing the question,” Do these reforms adequately address any remaining areas of unjustified discrimination in British nationality law?
3. Over 330,000 children and young people who came to the UK as children have precarious immigration status. Young people who are given permission to remain in the UK (Leave to Remain) on the basis that they have grown up here and have strong ties to the UK are often put on a ten-year route to settlement, instead of the usual five on Article 8 Private and Family Life grounds. 
4. The young people on the 10-year route to settlement have to pay visa fees of up to £2,593 every two and a half years to maintain their Leave to Remain (LLR). This extortionate cost is rising and is acting as a barrier to regularisation and thus to integration of young people who are British in all but paperwork. Those on this long path to settlement who are unable to afford this enormous fee are pushed into irregular status and find themselves unable to work and therefore contribute to society.
5. Including the final Indefinite Leave to Remain application, this route requires five applications currently costing a total of £12,771 in fees for each individual before they will have secure, permanent status.
6. If a young person can’t afford the fees their entire immigration application is rejected and they lose their legal status alongside their right to work, rent and study, and further integration is hampered. In addition, any residence to date is invalidated and they must accrue another ten full years continuous residence to apply for permanent status. The high costs and the need to make repeated applications can lead to people losing status and having to start the ten years again (JCWI 2021).
7. The Home Office has said in the past that delaying access to settlement is a matter of principle: i.e. that migrants relying on human rights to cure what would otherwise be unlawful residence in the UK should not be allowed to settle as quickly as those who have met the requirements throughout (Court of Appeal 2014).
8. However the Home Office has since than admitted that it recognises "there may be individuals" living in the UK from a young age who "through no fault of their own" have not formalised their status, and is working with those affected.
9. Natasha came to the UK from Nigeria at the age of 7. Natasha was granted Limited Leave to Remain (LLR) when she was 18. When it came to renewing her visa her family couldn’t afford to renew the high fees and Natasha fell out of legal status. Unable to work Natasha became homeless. Living in the shadows of society it was only when she was 26 she was able to raise enough money from family friends to apply for LLR again and restart the ten year route again.
10. She must then renew this status every 30 months over a ten-year period. She will be 36 before she can apply for settlement and 37 years old when she can finally apply for citizenship.
11. We Belong met with the Future Borders and Immigration Minister last December and we shared our concerns about the impact of the 10-year route to settlement on young people who arrived in the UK as children. The minister listened very thoughtfully to our issues and took back our suggestions for further consolidations.
12. Since then, the Minister has spoken most recently at the Amnesty for Undocumented Migrants debate quoting, “I have met the group We Belong to discuss the current process for those who arrived here as children or were born here but did not qualify for British citizenship. We aim to simplify the settlement rules in the near future, as part of our wider work on the new migration system, which will include some changes in response to the points raised by that group, and we will reduce the number of people ending up on the 10-year route to settlement.”
13. We were delighted to hear that the minister is reviewing and simplifying the routes to settlement as well as taking on some suggestions that We Belong discussed. We would be very grateful if the minister, in writing, was able to give more detail on what these proposed changes are.
14. We Belong recommends that there is a shorter, five-year route to permanent status, in the Nationality and Borders Bill, for young people and children who have lived in the UK for more than half their lives ensuring stability for all children and young people with strong ties to the UK.
15. A shorter route to permanent status would ensure that children and young people who have grown up and been educated in this country are able to fully integrate both financially and socially, alongside the benefit of permanent residence. It would reduce the risk of them falling back out of the system if they are unable to raise the funds for application and legal fees and would ease the burden on the Home Office in processing these applications.
16. The Nationality and Borders Bill offers a key opportunity for Government to reform the settlement rules. We would like to see an amendment to the Bill to shorten the route to permanent status for young migrants.
17. We would be happy to give oral evidence to the Committee to discuss this in further detail.
 GLA, London’s children and young people who are
not British citizens: A profile, 2020
 Migration Observatory, https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/migrants-on-ten-year-routes-to-settlement-in-the-uk/, 2021
 Home Office, Leave outside the Immigration Rules, v. 1.0,