New report condemns 10-year route as ‘a punishing process’

12 March 2023: The Institute for Public Policy Research, together with the Manchester Immigration Aid Unit and Praxis, has published a report on the workings of the home office’s 10-year route to settlement.

Around 170,000 people currently have leave to remain in the UK under the provisions of this route at the present time.  In the main it covers the position of people to whom the home office must grant a residence status of some form in order to comply with obligations under international human rights law. A typical 10-year route residence permit holder would be the parent of a British citizen child, or a child who has lived for more than seven years in the UK.

Despite its origin as a humanitarian measure, the report sets out how individual beneficiaries face many challenges before they finally obtain the official settled status, which is the status required before citizenship is granted.  These challenges include, in the words of the report, the “length of time before being eligible for settlement, the high cost of visa fees (around £13,000 over the 10-year period for an adult), the requirement for repeat applications every two-and-a-half years, complex applications with few options for legal advice, and restrictions in accessing welfare through the default ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) condition.”

It reviews what it describes as “a series of potential pitfalls and wrong turns arising from the design of the route that lead to poverty and insecurity for many.”  From the onset it extends to cover the situation of people who are often placed in a disadvantaged position in relation to the mainstream of life in the UK, in particular women, parents and caregivers, and people from a Black and South Asian background. Even before commencing the 10-year route they will have already been present in the UK on a long-term basis: 60 per cent of those participating in the report’s surveyed had been in the UK for over a decade.

It goes on to say that many are “working in low-paid jobs and have severely stretched household finances.” Even though it provides a means for vulnerable people to bring themselves within the ambit of legal residence who would not otherwise qualify under the Immigration Rules, its key features – namely high cost, the need to make repeated renewals, its sheer complexity and the NRPF restriction – effectively foreclose any possibility of being able to move on from extreme hardship and poverty.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations for reform of the route, which include shortening it to five years; reducing fees to cover administrative costs only, with a fee waiver if this is beyond the means of the applicant; and simplified pathways for lifting the NRPF condition.

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