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Citizenship is about belonging to a state and being included in the greater society. It involves receiving benefits, but also having duties. While citizenship is about inclusion, the flipside is that it actively excludes others. In Britain today, the price tag of citizenship is a problem. The policies of the Home Office have turned citizenship into an expensive luxury.

To become a citizen in the UK, like in many other countries, there is a fee to pay. The fee for adults to register as a citizen is £1206 and for a child it’s £1012. These costs are extremely high compared to other countries. In Sweden, for example, the registration fee is £120 for adults and £14 for a child below the age of 15.

The high price of a British passport actively excludes poorer people from citizenship. Non-citizens have limited opportunities to work, to travel, and thus to live their lives to the full. Such people have every right to apply for citizenship, but aside from the long process, it is the high cost of gaining a British passport that prevents them from attaining the status of a citizen. 

One group of people who are especially unfairly targeted by the citizenship fee are children. These are children who came here with their parents as toddlers, or children born here to non-British parents. They are legally entitled to become citizens, but the high price of citizenship prevents their parents from giving this to them. It is estimated that around 65,000 children are left without citizenship. Sixty-five thousand children stuck in a citizenship limbo with uncertainties of what their future will hold. 

As these children grow up and become adults, there are many things they will not be able to do due to their status as non-citizens. They will not qualify for government student loans and, without a passport, it will be difficult for them to leave the UK, even for a holiday. This creates a cohort of so-called second-class citizens formed of those who are not legally citizens, but who have spent all their living memory living in the UK.

The High Court has ruled the Home Office’s fee for children to be “unlawful” and the Home Office has been ordered by the Court to review the fee. The judgment was handed down over four months ago, and the fee remains unchanged. There is no sign of a reduced fee being introduced anytime soon, or ever. The Home Office makes a huge profit from citizenships fees – last year the Home Office made £500 million in pure profit from citizenship applications. This comes out to £641 profit from each of the applications, which the judge in the High Court case called “shameless profiteering”.

This fee is prohibitive for low-income families with children and deprives those children of the chance to better integrate into the UK. It restricts their access to a university education and reduces their opportunities on the job market. If the fee prevails, there will continue to be a gap between citizens and those who cannot afford to become citizens.

It is unlawful to keep this citizenship fee and children who have grown up in Britain and identify as British, cannot fully live their lives unless the access to citizenship widens. The British passport is one of the costliest passports there is which is creating a less integrated society by keeping a part of the population actively excluded. Citizenship fees in the UK need to become cheaper, if not for adults, at least for children, who deserve the chance of a brighter future. We need to push the Home Office and politicians to replace the policies on children’s fee by either lowering them significantly or scrapping them entirely.

Nina is currently undertaking work experience at Bright Blue. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image: Chris Fleming]