by Roderick Dirkzwager, Covington & Burling LLP
What struck me most about this case was what a huge exercise it was – a team of four lawyers from Covington and Microsoft working tirelessly to make sure everything was watertight. You would think this would apply to a multi-million-pound corporate dispute or M&A deal, rather than a case of children who have lived in the UK all their lives and just want the status they’re entitled to.
As it turned out, success in this case quickly turned into an emergency situation and we had to start all over again.
The clients were a single mother and her three children. One of the children was born in the UK, the other two had come here when they were just one year old. They had never known any other country and it was totally alien for them to think about themselves as being anything other than British, just like all of their friends.
But the children were teenagers now and they were starting to notice that there were some differences between them and their friends. Applications for provisional driving licenses and university were on the horizon, and they found out that their lack of status could create challenges.
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The mum came to the UK with two of the children when she was in a difficult relationship. She came with her partner who was very controlling and abusive. She was in an incredibly vulnerable position at that time. She didn’t know anything about immigration status. Her partner just said that they were going to the UK, and that was it. The third child was born here but was never registered as British. The mum was left as the sole carer for her three children when the relationship broke down.
They had come on a tourist visa and then were undocumented for around 10 years. She was finally able to navigate the complicated process to obtain Leave to Remain status for the family. However, she didn’t have the funds to pay for the renewal application about two years later and her fee waiver application was rejected despite the family’s precarious financial situation. She was left with a £9,000 bill she couldn’t pay and so she missed the re-application deadline. She lost her right to work and only had enough money to apply for Leave to Remain for herself, leaving her kids undocumented.
It was at this point that she came to KIND, and the case was referred to our team of volunteers at Covington and Microsoft.
Even though the whole family had previously held Leave to Remain, the unique facts to the case made the applications more complicated. We had four lawyers working on the case and we took a teamwork approach. It was a huge exercise to gather all the information, evidence and documentation, but all our work was supervised by one of KIND’s expert immigration solicitors (Anna Skehan). Anna’s support was invaluable!
We put together an application for a fee waiver (as the family’s finances had deteriorated even further by this point) and an application for Leave to Remain for two of the children. Another law firm working with KIND prepared an application for British citizenship for the child who was born in the UK.
We kept in regular contact with the clients. This was one of the most important aspects of working on the case. Our client was a loving and caring mum. She worked really hard as a single mother and just wanted to do right by her children so that the family could remain together in the UK. She was relying on us to solve her children’s immigration issues and we spent hundreds of lawyer hours to ensure there were no gaps in the applications.
Success. The fee waiver was accepted, and then the two children were granted Leave to Remain a few months later while the other child became a British citizen.
But to our surprise, the Home Office had only granted two months’ Leave to Remain to the children (rather than the standard thirty months). It turned out that the children’s Leave to Remain had been aligned to the mum’s Leave to Remain timeline, which only had two months remaining. Success became an urgent situation – the children would become undocumented again in just two months. We therefore had to start the whole process again and immediately reapply for a fee waiver and Leave to Remain for the mum and two children.
The team at Covington and Microsoft immediately sprung back into action. Following some additional months of hard work, the mum and two children had Leave to Remain again (for thirty months this time). It was a huge success for everyone who worked on the case, and we knew it mean everything to the family. They finally had more stability in their life. We’ve continued to work with the family since then, and we are now working to ensure that the remaining children obtain British citizenship before they leave school.
Working on this case and others for KIND has been a great opportunity to take ownership of a case and build a real relationship with clients, which is a valuable opportunity for development as a junior lawyer. Being part of a diverse team of lawyers from private practice and in-house was also a great experience. Our work on the case felt very meaningful, especially when our client shared with us how much our help and support had meant to the whole family.
Roderick and the teams at Covington & Burling LLP and Microsoft are KIND UK partners. Their work on KIND UK cases is supervised by our expert solicitors.
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