Commonwealth citizens, like the Windrush generation, are a unique group who have built their life here and have contributed enormously to our country. I do not want anyone to be in any doubt about their right to remain here.
When these people came to the UK they were deemed to be settled in the UK under our legislation at the time. This meant some did not get nor need documentation to prove their right to be here. While the vast majority who came before 1973 will now have got documentation that proves their right to be in the UK, there have recently been some cases where people have not obtained the necessary documentation and have struggled to access public services.
This issue has come to light because of measures introduced in recent years to make sure only those with a legal right to live here can access things like NHS treatment and rented accommodation. This has resulted in some people now needing to evidence their immigration status to access certain services.
To ensure this can happen as easily and smoothly as possible, the Home Office has set up a new dedicated team to help those people evidence their right to be here. The team will help applicants demonstrate they are entitled to live in the UK, have a dedicated contact point, and will be tasked with resolving cases within two weeks of when the evidence has been provided. In addition, no one affected will be charged for the documentation which proves their right to be here.
The Government recognises some of these people may struggle to evidence when they arrived and how long they have been in the UK, so this dedicated team will work across government to help people provide the evidence they need. Any information they can provide, from schools they attended to places of work will help build this picture. The Home Office is already engaging with charities and High Commissions to ensure people are made aware of this new service.
I welcome that the Windrush generation, who are British in all but legal status, will be able officially to acquire the British citizenship they deserve, quickly and at no cost. Similarly the children of the Windrush generation who are in the UK will in most cases already be British citizens. However, where that is not the case they will be able to apply to naturalise at no further cost. The Government has also said it will ensure that those who made their lives here but have now retired to their country of origin will able to come back to the UK. The cost of any fees associated with the process will be waived and the Government is working with our embassies and high commissions to make sure people can easily access this offer.