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The strange case of the 7 year child

The Private Life immigration route was introduced along with many other changes to the rules in July 2012 to implement the government’s view of its obligations under Article 8 ECHR. These rules have been amended several times since then, often in response to judicial findings and particularly in relation to children and young adults, by which we mean those under 18, and those aged between 18 and 24. 

The original iteration of these private life rules had a blanket 10-year qualifying period before someone could be considered for settlement. Subsequent changes have reduced this to a 5-year period in some instances, and for some British-born children who have spent the first 7 years of their lives in the UK without long absences, immediate access to settlement is now possible. 

Many families do of course relocate to the UK with children, some having more offspring once they’ve arrived. While they may have originally qualified for entry in a standard visa route such as for sponsored work or as a sole representative of an overseas business, circumstances during their time in the UK may lead them to consider an application under private life rules. This can happen, for example, if the parents cease to be eligible under their original visa route, or if questions arise over sole responsibility for a child’s upbringing.

Child born in the UK

Under Appendix Private Life, such a child may be granted settlement where they have lived in the UK continuously for 7 years since their birth, and it is not reasonable to expect that child to leave the UK. Consideration is also subject to suitability requirements relating to good character. Note that – unlike children born overseas – it is not a requirement that they have, or were last granted permission, on the private life route.

How is the reasonableness applied? According to published guidance, and consistent with case law, the child’s current circumstances must be reviewed, in particular:

  • Their age
  • Their ties to the UK including relationships with other family and friends whose lives are established in the UK
  • Who they would be expected to leave the UK with – it is normally in the best interests of the child for the family to remain together
  • Whether they have family and friends in their country of return
  • Whether they have ever visited the country of return, for how long and when

Referencing the Supreme Court in KO (Nigeria) v SSHD [2018] UKSC 53, ‘reasonableness’ is to be considered in the real-world context in which the child finds themselves. If the circumstances of a child’s parents are that both are going to leave the UK, it is reasonable for the child to be treated as likely to leave with them, unless there is a reasonable basis, supported by evidence, for not taking that view. All very reasonable, then, but it’s important to note that a grant of settlement to these children is not automatic.

Child born abroad – 7 years’ residence

An applicant below the age of 18 can only settle in the private life route if they have previously been granted permission in this category or its predecessor route (paragraph 276ADE). The same suitability and reasonableness considerations apply to a grant of limited permission to stay – if successful, such an applicant will receive up to 5 years’ permission to stay. They become eligible for settlement once 5 years’ lawful residence are completed. If the combination of permission relied on is not one in the specific list given in the rules, they must have held leave on private life grounds for at least 1 year.

Young Adult – Half Life

An applicant aged between 18 and 24 will also be eligible for up to a 5-year grant of permission to stay if they have spent at least half their life continuously resident in the UK. They are not subject to the reasonableness test. If the combination of permission relied on is not one in the specific list given in the rules, they must have held leave on private life grounds for at least 1 year.

Note there are some exclusions contained in Appendix Private Life – for example, asylum claimants whose cases were declared inadmissible – but they don’t apply to children and young adults. For detailed advice about your rights as a family with children on UK visas contact our expert team. Call 0300 131 6767 now or fill in the contact form below and we will get back to you.

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