Thank you to those who have contacted me about the immigration system and undocumented migrants.
I appreciate the points you make about the challenges that those in the UK with irregular immigration status face, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As you know, the Immigration Rules already enable the status of undocumented migrants (in the UK for some time and otherwise compliant with the law) to be regularised in some circumstances. People in this situation may make an application for leave to remain where there are grounds to do so. This includes:
- Adults who: have lived continuously in the UK for at least 20 years; are aged between 18 and 25 years and have spent at least half of their life living here; or, have lived continuously in the UK for less than 20 years, but there would be very significant obstacles to their integration into the country of return, or;
- Children (under 18 years), who have lived continuously in the UK for seven years where it would not be reasonable for them to leave.
For those who do not meet these requirements, the Government has said that there is provision for a grant of leave where there are exceptional circumstances or compelling compassionate grounds that would mean refusal would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant. Each application is considered on its merits, taking into account individual circumstances.
I appreciate that the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has expressed concern that these routes are complicated and inaccessible to many. However, the Government has said it has no plans to create a new route for people wishing to regularise their immigration status.
I recognise some of the concerns that have been raised about the cost of some immigration and nationality application fees and I agree that they should be reviewed. The 10-year route to permanent settlement through leave to remain requires five applications totalling £12,771 per person. It costs the Home Office considerably less to process these applications. However, the Government argues that the profit contributes to the running costs of the borders, immigration and citizenship system.
Over the last decade immigration and nationality application fees have risen beyond what I consider to be reasonable, often trapping people into paying fees that are beyond their means for years. These costs represent not just a financial but a psychological burden for too many people making a valuable contribution to our country. I believe an immigration policy that acknowledges this reality is now required – one that seeks to address it with an accessible and affordable process that is fit for purpose.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue. I will continue to press the Government to ensure our immigration system is fair and in the national interest, and I will bear in mind the points you have raised.