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“You can’t look towards your future, because you don’t know if you do have a future”.

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Posted on June 05th 2018

Last week, Simon Israel of C4 News reported on our one of our clients - the Foster family. You can watch the full report here or read more about them and their struggle with the Home Office here on our blog.


Sophia arrived in the UK from Jamaica in 2002 and has lived here since. She came to join her husband who was here legally. Her three children arrived in 2005, aged 10, 7 and 4. After the breakdown of her marriage, the family lost their immigration status. Her ex-husband went on to become a British Citizen.

As a single parent to three children, Sophia repeatedly tried to regularise their immigration status. The Tribunal subsequently found that it was unreasonable to expect the children to relocate to Jamaica and the family were granted leave to remain. By this point they had lived in the United Kingdom longer than they had lived in their own country. They had lost all ties to Jamaica, whilst they had made a life for themselves here.

Legal framework

Ordinarily where an appeal succeeds on this basis the applicants are given leave to remain for 2.5 years, without access to benefits. They must keep on applying to extend their leave every 2.5 years[1]. In order to do this, they have to make a paid application to the Home Office, the fees for which rise every year over and above the rate of inflation. The current cost for this family would be £6132. It takes the Home Office 12 months on average to make a decision on extension applications, during which time it can be difficult to maintain employment as the Home Office hold all relevant papers.People often find themselves in limbo. Only when a person has held limited leave to remain for 10 years can they then apply to settle in the United Kingdom. After holding settled status for one year, they can then apply to naturalise as a British Citizen. The application fees for applying for settled status and then citizenship are even more expensive. To apply for settled status for this family at the end of the 10-year period it would currently cost £9556, again this fee increases year on year. It would then cost them a further £1330 each to apply to naturalise as British. Such fees are beyond most people’s reach, but particularly so for this family. It should be remembered that they have never had recourse to public funds and they have contributed to the NHS and the care system through their employment.

Where a person holds limited leave to remain, they are not just denied access to benefits, but more importantly they are denied stability, certainty and the ability to build a future. These are things the rest of us take for granted. They also experience problems accessing higher education. They are classed as international students so the tuition fees are sky high. It's then a problem securing long term, well-paid employment, as employers can be reluctant to take on an applicant who only has limited leave.

The Foster family – request for settled status

By the time their appeals were allowed Sophia and her children had already lived in the United Kingdom for 12 and 9 years respectively. This means that under the 10-year route, by the time they will be eligible to apply for settled status, they will have been here for 22 and 19 years. JCWI asked the Home Office to grant them settled status. The Home Office have refused on four occasions. On each occasion the decision has been withdrawn by the Home Office or has found to be arguably unlawful by the Tribunal.

The Home Office have recently agreed to make a new decision, their fifth attempt at deciding whether this family should be granted settled status. They face an ongoing struggle with the Home Office for their right to remain in the place they call home. Only once they obtain settled status do they have the right to remain in the United Kingdom indefinitely, free from the threat of deportation.

Sophia explains the anguish this family suffer every day in not being able to lead normal lives, saying: “you can’t look towards your future, because you don’t know if you do have a future”.

Nicola Burgess, Legal Director at JCWI has acted for this family for the last 4 years summed it up. 

“This family are the most hard-working, intelligent and articulate people you would hope to meet. Geraldene and Tissanne have bright futures, but as they were born in a different country they have thus far been denied the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Both girls have had to leave University and have had problems with employers owing to the limited nature of their leave. This is a direct result of the hostile environment which wrongly targets those who can add value to our society, in an attempt to drive down net migration and meet arbitrary targets. In my view, the repeated refusals are perverse. It is clear from reading the last decision that the Home Office caseworker did not even have this families’ full file of papers in front of them when rejecting the claim. This is appalling when the decision is of such magnitude that it affects a young person’s future, their access to services and even their sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, it is not a stand-alone case, it is something we witness daily in practice.

I would hope that the Home Office now grant this family Indefinite Leave to Remain. The former Home Secretary spoke of injecting compassion in to the immigration system. This is one of those cases where compassion and discretion should be exercised. It is plainly unfair for this family to have to complete the 10-year route to settlement, when by this stage they would have spent over £28,000 in Home Office administration fees and have lived in the United Kingdom for 22 and 19 years respectively, with the threat of removal always hanging over them.

The Home Office have made the pathway to settled status and citizenship in the United Kingdom a deliberately difficult, expensive and exhausting process. It forces families to endure a life of uncertainty and fear under the hostile environment, even where, like the children of the Foster family, they have lived in the United Kingdom for the majority of their childhood and young adult lives and were it not for the breakdown of their parents’ marriage, they would all now be British citizens.”


You can support the Foster families’ fight to obtain settled status and a stable fulfilling life in the United Kingdom, free from the threat of deportation, by signing the following petition:



#endthefear  #endthehostileenvironment #granttheFosterfamilyILR.



[1]Prior to changes to the immigration rules on the 9th July 2012 (one of the earlier examples of the hostile environment in action), applicants would have been granted 3 years discretionary leave to remain (DLR), with access to benefits. They would then have been able to apply for settled status after holding DLR for 6 years.

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