Comment Writer Estelle Dragan criticises the Home Office’s treatment of individuals that grew up in Britain but do not currently hold British citizenship
The personal really is the political for me.
In the midst of post-Brexit vote panic, I would like to highlight how demoralising this political turmoil can be for individuals. I would also like to expose the ludicrous criteria used by the Home Office to reject citizenship and permanent residency applications. My troublesome bid to acquire British citizenship exemplifies this.
I am a second year student who has lived in the UK since the early age of 6. I was born in France to a French father and a British mother, and moved to the UK with my mother and sister after my parents divorced. I began the process of obtaining British citizenship after the Brexit results to safeguard against any risk of loss in rights EU nationals could face after the implementation of Brexit.
Pre-Brexit, we didn’t feel the need to apply due to high costs and equal rights between UK and EU Nationals in the UK. As I am over 18 and my British mother was born abroad, I am required to apply for a permanent residence permit which, if accepted, can then be used to apply for citizenship via naturalisation. This, again, will require proving my ‘Britishness’ by taking a national citizenship test.
However, my application for permanent residence was denied due to not having Comprehensive Health Insurance as an EU National student. This was a requirement that I and many other EU Nationals were not aware of before applying. The Home Office’s decision means that I have to wait another 5 years to apply again with the evidence of having the insurance over a five-year period. It also means that my status in this country remains ambiguous, despite having lived most of my life here and having a British mother. Notably, this Comprehensive Insurance requirement isn’t a requirement for EU national students in order to live and work in this country, however it is vital in order to be eligible for a residency permit. These aspects do not corroborate each other and highlight the futility of the requirement.
My sister, who is under 18, didn’t need to take this tiresome permanent residency route in order to then apply for British citizenship. She, who is in the exact same situation as me, with the exact same roots, has met the requirements and has now acquired dual nationality. Ironically, somebody who has no British roots and was born in this country are considered more British than a half-British person in my position. Moreover, non-EU citizens who have settled in Europe are then able to obtain a residency permit via the Surinder Singh immigration route, whilst I cannot. This highlights yet another absurdity of the Home Office’s criteria.
Having counted on the presumption that I will have become British before Post-Brexit Britain, the rejection was a real bombshell for me and my family. I am now having to put my life on hold, in worry that my future in this country is not secure. In this light, I strongly feel that the Home Office are lacking consideration and criteria for rare situations. They need space and time for anomalies and cannot keep categorising individuals for the sake of admin reduction. This experience feels dehumanising. To me it seems that applications are viewed as numbers rather than individual cases.
I am considered ‘unBritish’, despite feeling most at home in this country, having built my life here and hoping to build a career and family here. This is causing extreme concern and uncertainty regarding where my future stands. The Home Office’s paradoxical, ambiguous criteria is very disheartening and causing much worry for EU Nationals waiting for confirmation of Brexit negotiations regarding their status. There is a severe loophole here which very evidently needs redefining.