The basics

  • Don’t give immigration advice. It is highly regulated. As such you must not give any advice about a person’s immigration status unless qualified to do so.
  • Be aware that a child, young person or family’s citizenship and immigration status is a very sensitive issue. Treat any information you have as confidential. You do not have a duty to report the child or their family to the Home Office, police or any other authority.
  • Don’t ignore the issue – uncertain immigration status can seriously impact the welfare of children and young people, and affect their future.
  • If a family or young person does not have a secure immigration status, consider asking if they want you to help them get legal advice. You could also provide details so they can get legal advice. Contact Coram Children’s Legal Centre for free, one-off advice.
  • To find a lawyer, please see the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association website.
  • Be aware that the stress and uncertainty of not having settled status can affect the mental wellbeing of children and young people. You can find more information on support services in the GLA’s guidance for young Londoners on securing rights to citizenship and residence.

If you work in early years

  • Be aware that GP care is not restricted by immigration status.
  • Accessing a children’s centre is not restricted by immigration status.
  • If a family is not eligible for a free childcare place it may be because of their immigration status. In such cases, consider where they can access further support.
  • If a mother has NHS debts from her maternity care and is struggling to pay there are ways to help. It may be possible to ask the hospital to write off the debt or provide a reasonable payment plan. The NHS can tell the Home Office about debts that are not being paid and have not been cancelled. The Home Office can take this into account when considering future immigration applications to remain in the country. You can get more information and free advice from the charity Maternity Action.   
  • Where appropriate, encourage mothers to put their baby’s father’s name on the birth certificate. This is most relevant where the mother is not British but the father is and the baby acquires British citizenship through the father.
  • You can help families to work out if their children are British or not by looking at the information in this guide with them. You can help them to apply for a British passport if they are. If they can apply for their child to become British, you can help to refer them to a lawyer.

If you work at a school or college

  • All children of compulsory school age have a right to go to school and immigration status does not affect this in any way. The only children who may not be entitled to a state school place are children on short-term visas (tourists or visit visas) and children on a visa to attend a private school.
  • Look out for signs of students having immigration issues. This could manifest in many ways including not being able to travel, not getting free school meals when they otherwise appear eligible, feeling uncomfortable talking about passports, not joining in work experience opportunities, or suddenly abandoning hopes of going to university.
  • Immigration status can affect a young person’s eligibility for funding for further education. To find out who is eligible, please see the current Education and Skills Funding Agency guidance for 16- to 19-year-olds and guidance for 19+.  There is simplified guidance on Coram Children's Legal Centre website. Please note that there will soon be changes to the way that 19+ further education is funded which may affect these rules in the year 2019-20.
  • Immigration status can affect a young person’s eligibility for student finance and ‘home’ fees for higher education. To check who is eligible, see guidance from Coram Children’s Legal Centre or Refugee Support Network’s higher education toolkit.

If you work at a local authority

As this guidance explains, sometimes children and young people may be assumed to be British when they are not. The Local Government Ombudsman has recently upheld complaints against local authorities that failed to resolve the immigration status of children in their care. It is therefore important to:

  • Ask about the citizenship and immigration status of every looked-after child and care leaver. Do so even if they were born in the UK or have lived here for a very long time.
  • Record citizenship and immigration status as standard in your systems for every looked-after child and care leaver and consider it at LAC reviews.
  • Take steps to resolve immigration status for all looked-after children and care leavers.

Legal aid is currently only available if the child or young person has a claim based on risk on return, or if they can successfully apply for exceptional case funding. This means that for citizenship, immigration and EU applications the local authority will generally have to pay privately for a lawyer for the child or young person. However, the government has committed to making legal aid available for immigration applications for all unaccompanied and separated children. Ask a lawyer to find out if legal aid may be available for a case.

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