In the case of R (on the application of FI) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2287 (Admin) the court was asked to review a decision to refuse to register as a British citizen a 14-year-old who had been settled with Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK for 8 years and was coming up to his GCSEs.
The decision-maker had treated the fact that neither parent was British as determinative of the application. That raised some questions about how Chapter 9 of the Nationality Instructions guidance on discretionary registration of children had been interpreted and whether the exercise of the discretion had been compatible with the section 55 duty to make arrangements for ensuring that functions, including nationality functions, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the United Kingdom. FI contended that either the policy was capable of being interpreted in a s55 compliant way but had been misapplied in this case or that the rigid approach taken by the decision-makers was driven by the policy and thus the policy was unlawful because it ‘herded’ the decision-makers to an unlawful decision.
This helpful judgment, although decided on a narrow basis, confirms that Chapter 9 is to be read alongside — and tempered by — ‘the statutory s 55 guidance ‘Every Child Matters’, re-iterates the importance of the ‘less tangible’ benefits of citizenship for children which include a sense of belonging and certainty about their futures and provides a useful example of a flawed approach to an important issue for a child – whether they belong to a country which is so much a part of them.