If you’ve been living in the UK for a long time but you don’t have a document to prove it, you may be able to get one from the Windrush Scheme. You might also be able to apply for compensation if you’ve had problems because you didn’t have an immigration document – such as not being able to work or find somewhere to live.
What is the Windrush Scheme?
The Windrush Scheme is a government initiative to help and support people who arrived in the UK a long time ago but don’t have documents that confirm their immigration status. Without these documents, many people have faced problems when trying to find work, rent a home and access the benefits and services they’re entitled to.
If you’re eligible, you’ll get a document from the Windrush Scheme to prove your right to live and work in the UK.
Am I eligible to apply to the Windrush Scheme?
You may be eligible to apply for free to the Windrush Scheme if one of the following applies to you:
- you arrived in the UK from any country before 1989
- you or your parents arrived in the UK from a Commonwealth country before 1973.
If you or your parents are Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1973, you might also be eligible to apply for British citizenship for free from the Windrush Scheme.
How do I apply to the Windrush Scheme?
To apply to the Windrush Scheme, you need to print out and complete the Windrush Scheme application form, which you can download on the government website.
If you need a form posted to you, contact the Windrush Helpline on 0800 678 1925 or by emailing email@example.com.
It will help your application if you can provide supporting documents that show how long you’ve been in the UK – for example, current and previous passports, employment records and school documents such as exam certificates. You can send original documents but this isn’t compulsory – you can send copies instead. If you can’t find your documents, the Home Office can still help and will consider your evidence in the round. They state that they won’t refuse an application without giving you the opportunity to provide more information, except if you’re clearly not eligible for the scheme.
What is Windrush compensation?
If you’re eligible for the Windrush Scheme, you may also be able to apply for the Windrush compensation scheme. This scheme compensates people who have had problems because they haven’t had documents to prove their right to live in the UK.
These problems include things like not being able to find work, access health services, apply for benefits or find a place to live. They can also include immigration action – if you were deported or told you had to leave the country.
You won’t be able to apply for any compensation until you’ve received an immigration document.
Who can I contact for advice about the Windrush Scheme?
There are a few organisations you can reach out to if you’re looking for more information and advice about the Windrush Scheme. It’s worth noting that while some of these services are free, there is a charge for others.
Citizens Advice advisers
You can contact your nearest Citizens Advice and arrange to speak to an adviser for free who can help you work out if you can apply to the scheme. Find your nearest Citizens Advice using the directory on their website.
Solicitors and immigration advisers
However, some Citizens Advice advisers can’t give immigration advice. If your nearest Citizens Advice can’t, they should be able to help you find a local solicitor who can. You could also find a regulated immigration adviser using the directory on GOV.UK. If you do arrange an appointment with a solicitor or immigration adviser, you’ll have to pay them for their time and advice.
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
You can call the JCWI helpline on 020 7553 7470 to make an enquiry or set up an appointment to see one of their lawyers. While the helpline is confidential and you won’t be charged for any advice you receive over the phone, the call itself costs up to 13p per minute from landlines and between 3p and 55p from mobiles. If you do then have an appointment with a JCWI lawyer, you’ll be charged for their time and advice.
Windrush Legal Initiative
The Windrush Legal Initiative works to support those affected apply for the Windrush compensation scheme, providing free advice and assistance to guide them through the application process. To access the support, get in touch with Nicola Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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