When 20 -year-old Michael made his Home Office application last July, he assumed his problems were over. A year later, he is still waiting to hear back.
‘Having to turn down the football scholarship was a big problem’
When I sent off my application to the Home Office in July 2016, I thought things were finally getting sorted with my life.
A year later, I am still sitting here. Still not allowed to work or study. Still waiting to hear if the Home Office has granted me ‘leave to remain’ in the only country I’ve known since I arrived when I was three years old.
The Home Office delay is hard for me, because it took so much to make the application in the first place.
It costs over £1,300 to apply, and I only managed to raise the money thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. (My mum is a single parent, with three children to support.) I was amazed how many people who didn’t even know me wanted to donate. That was really unexpected. Thanks to Just for Kids Law, I found a solicitor at a charity, who said she would do my application for free, because my case was so strong.
When we reached the crowdfunding target, and she sent off the application, I felt really grateful – and relieved. I thought I’d be able to get on and get a job. I also wanted to learn to drive. That would be a really big thing. Most of my friends can drive.
I can’t understand why it’s taking so long.
My solicitor and my then MP, Eric Pickles, tried chasing the Home Office, but it hasn’t made any difference. When my lawyer called them, she was told: ‘It’s just one of those things.’ Eric Pickles knew about my situation and wrote them a letter, but they wrote back to say: ‘We haven’t made a decision.’ My lawyer said she’s seen so many Home Office letters like that one, and they usually mean they haven’t even looked at the application yet.
My situation feels a bit weird. I left school two years ago, and haven’t really done anything with my life since. I had to send away to the Home Office all my stuff which proves who I am or what I’ve done. All my certificates. Everything that I’ve had my whole life, I don’t have it now. So, there’s not much I can do, other than sit at home.
Most days, I get up. Go to the gym. Come home. Help my mum, or look after my little sister. I’ve got no income. My mum used to give me money, but it feels wrong at 20 to be taking money off my mum. Anyway, there’s nothing that I’m really spending.
Most of my friends work now. I’ve told some of them about my situation. Eventually, they had to know. They know, but they don’t really understand. I haven’t had a proper conversation with them about it. The year we turned 18, all my friends went on holiday to Spain, but I couldn’t go. That was when I first found out about the problems with my immigration status.
I stayed on at sixth form to study business and English language. I was offered a football scholarship in America, and that was the path I wanted to go down, for something work-related. Then I found I couldn’t go. Now I am sitting around doing nothing, it makes my time at school feel wasted.
Turning down the football scholarship was a big problem. Not many people get opportunities like that. I loved playing football, so I really wanted to do it. After I found out more about my situation, I had to let it go. I had to just say, I can’t do it.
Getting my status sorted will make a big difference. I’ll be able to go and get a proper job. I’ve always wanted to get into barristers clerking. I’ve had opportunities of getting into that, but couldn’t take them up. Two summers ago, I was doing football coaching. I was helping this guy’s son, and he wanted to know if this was my full-time job. He asked if I was interested in clerking. He recruits people to chambers. He said he knew chambers looking for juniors, starting at £18,000 a year. He kept emailing me about different opportunities. I couldn’t tell him why I couldn’t do it. I’m still really interested, though. I didn’t want to go to university. I researched how you can get into the law industry without going to uni, and with clerking, you can do in-house exams, which I wouldn’t mind.
I’ve still got his email.
For now, though, there’s nothing I can do.
Michael is a pseudonym