Immigration and Nationality Application Fees — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:40 pm on 25th March 2021.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:40 pm, 25th March 2021

It is not that far distant. We are already allowing people to reuse biometrics, and we are looking to lay some regulations fairly soon. In fact, we had a briefing the other day. I would be very happy to arrange a briefing for the right hon. Member on where we are taking this work. I would say that it builds on the EU settlement scheme, to which, as he will be aware, the vast majority have applied from the comfort of their own home, using a smartphone for about 15 to 20 minutes. We are building on that. It is already with us today and it will be being expanded. We are hoping, for example, all EEA nationals applying into economic migration and study routes will soon be doing so, if they need to, from home. Again, this builds on what we have done with the EU settlement scheme. It is happening.

I appreciate that there is inconvenience for those having to still use the existing system, but it is one that we are looking to quite rapidly roll out over the coming years, ahead of making all status digital by the end of 2024. This is something that, hopefully, the right hon. Member’s constituents will start seeing the benefit of, particularly because biometric readers do not present some of the challenges that he will appreciate come with capturing biometrics for the first time in a global context.

Let me move onto the issue of child citizenship, which I am conscious that a number of Members raised today. I am aware of the great strength of feeling on this issue across the House. As some Members referenced, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s judgment that the Home Office had not demonstrated compliance with its duties under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 in setting the child registration fee—although, to be clear, the court did not strike down the regulations. We are currently carrying out a section 55 assessment to inform a review of the fee. While it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on or predict the outcome of that assessment, including whether the fee currently charged will change, we are taking prompt steps in the light of that judgment to complete the assessment.

It is important to emphasise that becoming a UK citizen is not a specific requirement to enable individuals to live, study and work in the UK and to benefit from many of the public services appropriate to a child or a young adult, most of which come with indefinite leave to remain.

The Home Office ensures that an application can be made for the fee to be waived for certain human rights-based claims for leave to remain, including where the fee is unaffordable or where an individual or family could be rendered destitute on paying the fee. That ensures that the appropriate status can be secured to access any public services required.