Pearl’s story

Pearl* came to London from Nigeria over a decade ago to stay with her aunt. When her visa expired, she tried to renew it, but it was refused. Pearl had a daughter and later tried to register her as a British citizen, but this was refused too. When Pearl’s mum became seriously ill in Nigeria, Pearl was unable to visit her.

Pearl’s family were no longer able to stay at her aunt’s, and moved in with a friend, but after a while her friend could not accommodate them anymore. Another friend told her about the migrant centre, and she came to seek help with her situation. The Welfare Adviser at HMSC referred Pearl to the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ team in social services. Pearl had to meet with a social worker, immigration officer and fraud officer, and had to answer lots of questions about her family and how they were managing.

At first, the No Recourse team refused to help Pearl’s family. The Welfare Advisor at HMSC arranged emergency accommodation for the family and referred Pearl to a solicitor. The solicitor contacted the No Recourse team, who eventually agreed to provide the family with accommodation. This was in a different part of London, which meant a two-hour journey to school, twice a day. They were rehoused multiple times over the following months, which was unsettling for the whole family.

The immigration officer who worked alongside the social worker suggested that the Home Office could support Pearl and her family to return to Nigeria. However, after more than a decade in the UK, they had put down roots in London: they felt British and were part of their local community.

When Pearl’s daughter turned 10, the barrister at HMSC helped her to apply for naturalisation – this was a very costly process, which she was able to manage thanks to help from friends from her church.

Pearl’s family were recently granted limited leave to remain, which is for 30 months. At first, it was with the condition of ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF), but the team at HMSC helped to get this condition lifted.

Whilst they are very happy that they can now work and support themselves, Pearl and her husband are aware that they will soon have to renew these visas for the whole family. The Home Office visa applications, together with lawyers’ fees and the recently increased NHS surcharge, will mean the overall cost will be thousands. “So you are still struggling as well, even though you’re there, but it is better.” Pearl says HMSC have been very supportive throughout the processes of regularising the family’s immigration status: “They said to me don’t worry, it’s not going to be like before. They’ve got us where we are now.”

(*Not real name)

This case study was written by HMSC’s volunteer Rachel, who has been meeting with current and former visitors to give everyone a better sense of what visitors go through.

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