National Comment Comment

Cost should be no barrier to British citizenship

The expensive application for British citizenship leaves immigrants who grew up in the UK unfairly disenfranchised

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EU nationals living in Britain tread in a strange hinterland. They do not feel too far removed from British culture due to their mainland European origins. However, with the issue of Brexit appearing recently many EU nationals have felt ambiguous about their position in society.

The obvious problems that arise are ones of uncertainty regarding their status post Brexit and whether they will be able to continue living their life as before. To those unaware the EU allows for any EU nationals to make a home in any EU country without the formality of a visa to allow the 'freedom of movement,' which is one of the main principles of the EU. Whatever reasons there were for people to vote to leave the EU the rhetoric of the campaign was very much anti-immigration. For people who have lived here for over 10 years, this rhetoric is something that made them feel unwelcome in their own home.

The suggestion that many offer as a solution to this issue is for the immigrants to "just" get citizenship. The amount of times, as an EU national, I've been met with a shock when I said that I do not possess citizenship despite living in England since I was 9. It is not as if I do not want dual citizenship. In fact, I really do wish to have it in order to have the security that I will always be able to come back to England and my family home during my life. Although I am Polish, my home and immediate family have been in England for the longest time. I see both countries as my home. I do not want to have to worry about my right to be able to come back when I leave England.

However, in order to achieve British citizenship through naturalisation, as of 18 March 2017, it costs £1,236 for adults and £973 for anyone under 18. I as an individual, among many other EU nationals, simply do not have that much spare money laying about. Now, when we consider a whole family who live in the UK and wish to stay here permanently, the sum is more than considerable. Even those who are born in England but their parents do not possess British citizenship, do not have the right to the citizenship without a fee. These fees also apply to people who have finished school in the UK and therefore do not need to take a citizenship test. Let's also think about any people who may have come to the UK for genuine economic reasons. How can they afford such a sum?

Despite living here for most of my life, not possessing British citizenship means I cannot vote in the General Elections or any referendum. My family, as tax paying residents who contribute to the society do not have a say in any of the major decisions of the government. With the General Election last week, I was beyond frustrated that I could not vote on the future of the country that I feel a part of and the decisions that will affect me on a personal level, just because I did not have over £1k.

It is a different story for those people living in the UK temporarily. However, for many people who have lived here for a significant part of their life and for whom this is their home, they are still made to feel like a group of people who "only takes advantage of the UK's services" and are not valuable assets to their home county.

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