Children can now apply for a waiver of citizenship fees

Families who can’t afford British citizenship for their children can now get it for free. A new “citizenship fee waiver for individuals under 18” policy was published today. It allows under-18s to apply to have the £1,012 fee on applications for registration as a British citizen waived. The policy applies where the fee is unaffordable because paying it would compromise the child’s essential living needs, although lots of supporting evidence is required.

In February this year, the Supreme Court found that the government was entitled to set the child citizenship fee at a level it chooses, even if unaffordable. The silver lining for campaigners was that the ruling left undisturbed the lower courts’ finding that the government had failed to take the best interests of children into account when setting the fee. The Home Office was still required to review the fee in light of that statutory duty, even if there was no particular hope that it would lead to major reform.

But major reform we have. The only previous example of a fee waiver in citizenship cases that we can think of is in highly niche paternity cases, where the child hasn’t inherited British citizenship from their father because their mother is still married to someone else. This is much wider: the waiver can be requested by anyone under 18 who wants to use any of the main routes to registration as British, including where they have lived in the UK for ten continuous years or one of their parents has settled or become British.

The test for when a fee waiver will be granted is “affordability”: the child and (more to the point) their parent(s) can show that they “cannot afford the fee”. The guidance goes on to define what this means:

Affordability definition:

The applicant and parent(s) are considered unable to pay the fee when they do not have sufficient funds at their disposal to pay the required fee after meeting their essential living needs, and continuing to meet any other child’s essential needs, such as housing and food. This is the primary assessment for whether a fee waiver should be granted.

Essential living needs include:

housing or accommodation, utilities, food, clothing, toiletries, non-prescription medication, and household cleaning items [and] the costs of travel and communication to enable the supported persons to maintain interpersonal relationships and access a reasonable level of social, cultural and religious life.

(…)

Bron: Freemovement dd. 30-5-2022,

(waiver = ‘vrijstelling’)

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