By Chimere Nwaegbu,
The current British child citizenship application fee is £1,012. There is also an additional £19.20 biometric enrolment fee and £200 biometric appointment fee.
After the recent judgement in R (Project for the Registration of Children As British Citizens & Anor) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Court of Appeal declared the fees as unlawful and have granted the claimants appeal to the Supreme Court.
In December 2019, Jay J of the High Court ruled that the fee was unlawful after finding that many children and their parents were not able to pay the fees.
Currently, there are two grounds for British Citizenship.
A person born in the UK who is not automatically a British citizen is entitled to be registered as a British citizen:
- if before they turn 18, their mother or father become British or settled in the UK, and an application is made for registration,
- if at any time after the age of 10, if the first 10 years of their life, they have not been absent from the UK for more than 90 days in any year.
It was found that the high fee was the only thing standing in the way for citizenship for many children.
The Secretary of State has the power to set application fees considering a wide range of factors. The Home Office have stated: “Citizenship registration fees are charged as part of a wider fees approach designed to reduce the burden on UK taxpayers”.
Currently, the Home Office charges £1,012 for a child’s application, while it only costs £372 for the government to process it. This totals a £640 surplus.
Child’s best interest challenge
The Court of Appeal agreed with its lower court that the Secretary of State failed to conduct any kind of assessment of the best interests of children when setting the registration fee.
The High Court’s decision that the Secretary of State breached her duty under section 55 was upheld.
The Ultra Vires challenge
A second issue was brought forward. The claimants submitted that it was unlawful to set an unrealistically high fee, where it would not be affordable to a large group. They put forward that the regulation was ultra vires (beyond the powers) the fee setting power.
Jay J of the High Court rejected their submission on the ground that he was bound by Williams.
The Court of Appeal concluded the same. The challenge to the lawfulness of the regulations was dismissed.
The Secretary of State must review the fee regulations to consider the best interests of children. However, this does not mean that the fee will change.
Additionally, the Court of Appeal has granted the claimants appeal to the Supreme Court for the ultra vires issue.
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