What’s life like for young adults who don’t have valid visas? It is a question that Katherine Houlston, AFF’s F&C Specialist, is better qualified than most to answer having recently spent time trying to help a number of over-18s resolve their immigration status.

These cases can be difficult and distressing at times, she says. I’ve had young adults tell me things like: “I feel ashamed of my situation, no one understands how hard it is to be stuck, to not be able to progress with work or studies whilst friends are all moving forward with their lives.”

And another told me: “I feel trapped and have been feeling trapped for a long time.”

ARE THEY ENTITLED TO REMAIN?

Yes, in the cases that AFF has been involved in the young adults have spent the vast majority of their lives in the UK. Having been brought to the UK to join a serving parent, they should have received their permanent residence status years before.

WHY DO THEY END UP OVERSTAYING?

Due to circumstances out of their control their visas expire after they have come to the UK and their parents do not apply to renew them. In many cases the non-serving parent is also an overstayer and, for some, this is due to the relationship with the serving person breaking down. In most cases, it’s the cost of the visas which prevents them being renewed.

WHY IS IT PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT FOR YOUNG ADULTS?

Children under 16 are generally not affected by their immigration status. State schools are not required to check children’s visas.
Once you start becoming more independent, you quickly find that your immigration status affects every aspect of your life. You won’t be able to attend college or university without a valid visa, you won’t be able to learn how to drive or get a job. Also, you won’t be able to open a bank account. These young adults end up in limbo – they aren’t able to move on with their lives.

“No one understands how hard it is to be stuck, to not be able to progress with work or studies whilst friends are all moving forward with their lives.”

CAN THEY CONTINUE WITH EDUCATION ONCE THEIR VISAS ARE SORTED?

Sadly not. Even if they are granted indefinite leave, they will not be eligible for student finance if they’ve been an overstayer in the three years before the start of the academic year. So, it means another three-year wait.

CAN CHARITIES BE CALLED ON TO HELP TO FUND THE VISAS?

Unfortunately, once children turn 18 they seem to fall into a gap when it comes to charitable funding. They are ineligible due to no longer officially being considered ‘dependents’.
Their only hope is that parents or other family members can help to pay for the visa to get their lives back on track.

WHAT CAN AFF DO?

If you are a young person or know a young person in this position, we urge you to come forward. We will continue to work with military charities to raise these issues with government and encourage better information to be provided to service families.

aff.org.uk


Main photo: © Jacob Dyer on Unsplash

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