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Date updated: 14/12/2022

The information below aims to explain the steps you can take if there is an issue with your status - and also where you can get help if this is causing you problems.

It has become increasingly hard to live or work in the UK without being able to prove your nationality or immigration status.

You are strongly advised to obtain specialist legal advice before you make an application to the Home Office to change or confirm your status.

‘Windrush scheme’ for Commonwealth Citizens who have lived in the UK for many years but cannot prove their status

The Home Office has introduced a new application process – called the ‘Windrush Scheme’ - to ensure that people who are settled in the UK can have their status confirmed as quickly as possible. The scheme affects Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the UK before 1 January 1973 and their children who arrived after that date and were under 18 years of age at the time of their arrival.

If you want to apply, you are advised to seek independent legal advice before contacting the Home Office. There is no application fee to pay when applying under the Windrush Scheme.

For more information about the Windrush Scheme you can contact the Toynbee Hall Free Legal Advice Centre who may be able to help.

Please call 020 7392 2953 or email Free Legal Advice Centre.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigration (JCWI) can offer free advice on whether you qualify for the Windrush Scheme:

  • Email JCWI
  • Or call: 020 7533 7470 (10am – 1pm on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday)

The Home Office provides information on the Windrush scheme and you can download an application form from its website. You can also find out more by calling the Home Office, although you may want to seek independent advice before doing so.

Windrush Taskforce helpline: 0800 678 1925 (Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 4pm)

Alternatively, email Commonwealth Taskforce

Queries over your status may mean you could be unable to work, claim benefits, access council housing, free hospital treatment and some other NHS care, rent from a private landlord, open a bank account or get a driving licence.

Visit Citizen's Advice for information and advice about accessing support.

It could be much harder to continue to claim benefits once Universal Credit is introduced because queries over your status mean you may not be able to prove your entitlement.

If your benefits have stopped and you think you qualify under the ‘Windrush Scheme’ as somebody who is lawfully in the UK, please consider:

You can check Housing Rights for advice on housing rights and options in relation to immigration status.

If you have no access to any support because of your immigration status and you have children under 18; or a medical condition, disability or mental health problem which means you need help with day to day tasks, then you may qualify for help with housing and financial support from our Children and Families Team or Adult Social Care Team.

The government has introduced a compensation scheme for people affected by Windrush. Details have been published on GOV.UK

If you need urgent financial help because issues with your status have led to problems accessing services or employment, you may be able to apply to the Home Office. You will need to show that there are exceptional reasons why you need urgent help as well as meeting other criteria. If you receive a payment, then this may be taken into account if you later apply for compensation.

More information is available on the Government website, and to apply you should contact the Windrush Taskforce directly.

Information for people with other immigration issues

You may have a right to remain in the UK based on your family life or length of residence.

There are many different types of immigration applications and the rules that people have to meet are very complicated. You may also need to meet certain administrative requirements, such as paying an application fee, although in some cases you may be able to apply for a fee waiver. You should seek legal advice to find out what your options are.

See the Home Office website for more information about different types of applications and how to make these.

The NRPF Network provides some information about making an immigration application and whether you may be able to get legal aid for help with your case. It also provides information to help finding a legal adviser local to you.

The Home Office helps people who want to return to their country of origin by arranging travel. You may also qualify for financial support to help you find accommodation or set-up a business on your return. You should always seek independent legal advice about your options in the first instance.

There are some pages in the related links section which offer information about support around the cost of living.