Thousands of people have experienced mental stress, financial hardship and insecurity linked to an official pathway to permanent settlement in the UK, a report has revealed.
Aimed at those with strong ties to the country, such as parents of British children, the 10-year route was introduced in 2012 for applicants who do not meet financial and other requirements associated with faster settlement processes.
The route to settlement in the UK is a pathway for non-European Economic Area citizens who have lived continuously in the UK for a decade, and have not breached immigration laws, to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
To be eligible, the applicant must have lived in the UK for at least 10 years, and have not left the country for a period exceeding six months in any one year. They must not have any unspent criminal convictions and must demonstrate a good knowledge of English and life in the UK.
The problems facing many applicants were on Wednesday laid bare by a report, compiled by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Praxis and Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit.
The route involves repeating an application process every 30 months for a decade, with fees for each adult exceeding £12,800 over those 10 years.
According to a survey of 314 people who are on or have recently completed the 10-year route to settlement, 80 per cent said their well-being or mental health had been negatively affected. Sixty-two per cent struggled to meet the costs of utility bills, 57 per cent found it difficult to pay for food and 43 per cent found it hard to meet housing costs.
The report found two fifths (41 per cent) have been forced to borrow from friends or family to pay for the cost of their application, while three quarters said they would not be able to apply for permanent residency even after fulfilling all the criteria because they could not afford the fee.
According to the report, people applying through this route faced repeated short extensions to their leave to remain, coupled with months-long gaps without the necessary official paperwork due to processing delays, making paid work precarious.
Such issues can limit access to secure, well-paid jobs, potentially leaving workers more vulnerable to exploitation, the report said.
Almost a third (28 per cent) of those surveyed said the 10-year route has made it harder for them to keep their job and 7 per cent said they had been forced by someone else to do work they did not want to do.
Ten-year route applicants are subject to a default status of "no recourse to public funds", meaning they cannot access benefits or social housing.
The requirement to reapply every two and a half years creates a risk of people becoming undocumented, the report found. A third of respondents said that they had experienced a gap in their pathway to resettlement, pushing them out of status and "restarting the clock" for the entire process.
The report recommends that the government creates a cap to ensure family and private-life routes to settlement take no longer than five years, increases the grant of leave from 30 to 60 months (or five years), reduces the cost of application fees on the 10-year route to administrative costs — currently £335 for each two-and-a-half-year extension — and conducts an independent review of the 10-year route.
Lucy Mort, senior research fellow at IPPR, said: “This is no way to treat people who have made, and will continue to make, their lives in the UK, who describe this as a devastating and punishing process.
“It’s clear that this policy needs review and reform, not only to improve the lives of people on course to settle, but to reduce the workload of the Home Office.”
The report concluded that the 10-year route to settling permanently in the UK was a challenging and unfair process that places undue financial hardship, mental stress, and insecurity on people and families. The authors called for an overhaul of the policy to make it more compassionate and pragmatic.