An investigation into UK Visas and Immigration’s handling of Windrush man’s status


  1. Mr V was a Jamaican national.  He arrived in the UK in May 1962 when he was 19 years old. His family have told us he lived and worked in the UK from that time until his death in May 2019. Mr V had Indefinite leave to enter (ILE) the UK stamped in his passport. ILE is a type of immigration status. It means there is no time limit on a person’s leave to stay in the UK. 

No time limit application 

  1. In March 2015 Mr V applied to UKVI for a permanent status document called a No time limit (NTL) biometric residence permit. He had been told by friends that he could struggle to reenter the UK if he did not. He included his Jamaican passports for the periods 1981 to 1991, 2000 to 2010 and 2012 to 2022. Mr V’s passport from 2000 to 2010 contained ILE stamps from March 2001 and November 2004. 

    Shortly after, Mr V withdrew his NTL application so he could travel to Jamaica. On 25 March 2015 UKVI wrote to Mr V confirming they had formally withdrawn his application and enclosed his passports. 

Contact from Capita 

  1. On 21 May 2015 Capita contacted Mr V (UKVI and Immigration Enforcement have told us it is not clear from the notes if this was a phone call). During this period Capita had a contract with the Home Office to contact and process the cases of suspected illegal immigrants. Mr V told Capita he had valid leave to be in the UK and had arrived in 1962. He said he had withdrawn his NTL application because he needed his passport to travel. Capita noted: ‘evidence required, Letter sent to app – unable to find valid leave – review set to 14 day.’ 

  1. When Mr V returned to the UK from Jamaica on 23 June 2015 he was granted ILE at the airport. 

  1. After his return from Jamaica Mr V received letters from Capita on behalf of Immigration Enforcement. They said he was residing in the UK illegally and should make arrangements to leave. His records show Immigration Enforcement opened a returns preparation case (to arrange his removal from the UK) on 10 July 2015. 

Immigration Enforcement removal action 

  1. On 27 February 2016 the removals casework section of Immigration Enforcement reviewed Mr V’s case. The caseworker noted ‘at Capita contact applicant stated they have valid leave to be in the UK – arrived in 1962. I can find no evidence of leave, and the fact he was applying for NTL suggests he does not have [indefinite leave]’. (This reasoning does not make sense because NTL is a process designed to enable people with indefinite leave to apply for confirmation of this – see paragraph 46). The caseworker said Mr V had failed to respond to Capita’s letter asking him to provide proof of his status.  

  • Immigration Enforcement sent a letter on the same date to Mr V saying Home Office records showed he did not have permission to be in the UK and should make arrangements to leave without delay. The letter said it was notice of his liability for removal and told him of the intention to forcibly remove him from the country if he did not leave voluntarily.

    It said that after 10 days from the date of the letter he could be removed without further notice. The letter informed Mr V that if he remained unlawfully he could be prosecuted and potentially imprisoned, specifically saying ‘your life in the UK will become increasingly difficult’. It said he:

     - was liable to be arrested and detained
    - could be banned from returning to the UK
    - would have to pay for any non-emergency healthcare treatment
    - could be prevented from accessing financial services
    - would have his driving licence revoked
    - could have any benefits he might be receiving stopped.

    The letter said Mr V needed to tell Immigration Enforcement about any reasons or grounds for wishing to remain in the UK. It said he did not need to tell them about reasons or grounds he had already told them about in any past claim or application. 

  1. Immigration Enforcement put reporting restrictions in place in March 2016 and asked Mr V to attend an Immigration Enforcement unit every month.  

Evidence provided by Mr V and his representative 

  1. Ms V’s complaint says an Immigration Enforcement official told Mr V on 5 May 2016 he would be deported. UKVI and Immigration Enforcement have said they have no record of a meeting on this date, but the records do include an entry on 5 May 2016 which says ‘2 expired passports and one valid passport…’. 

    A later entry says: ‘On reporting on 05/05/2016 the IO [Immigration Officer] impounded both his expired and current passport.’ UKVI and Immigration Enforcement said Mr V would not have been told he would be deported. Mr V’s records also say that he attended a reporting event on 25 April 2016 and brought in his three passports (1 valid and 2 expired) which were retained in the safe.  

  1. Mr V instructed the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit to help him.  On 18 May 2016 Mr V’s representative wrote to Immigration Enforcement. He said Mr V had come to the UK in early 1962 before Jamaica became independent and had lived and worked in the UK continuously since then. He now received a state pension.

    The representative described the recent events and how distressing they had been for Mr V. He noted Mr V had been in the UK lawfully for over 50 years. He said that at his last reporting event Mr V had provided his passports, including his passport stamped with indefinite leave.

    He said instead of considering them, the Immigration Officer had impounded his passports and told Mr V he was illegally in the UK and would now be deported. Mr V’s representative asked:

    - for his reporting restrictions to be lifted
    - for confirmation of his indefinite leave in the UK
    - for his passport to be immediately returned.

    The representative also asked for a detailed explanation as to why Mr V was issued with a removal decision in the first place. 

  1. On 2 June 2016 the Interventions and Sanctions directorate (part of Immigration Enforcement) recorded that Mr V had been identified as holding a UK driving licence whilst not holding current leave to remain. His driving licence was put forward for revocation.

    On 15 June 2016 this was considered again by the Interventions and Sanctions Directorate. They had seen the letter from Mr V’s representatives saying that he had lived in the UK for 50 years and that he had indefinite leave. They wrote: ‘no evidence to suggest this presented’. This was incorrect. Mr V’s representative had said Mr V had provided his passports which included his indefinite leave stamp. 

    Immigration Enforcement maintained their decision to revoke Mr V’s driving licence.  

  1. On 13 July 2016 Mr V’s records show his passports were checked and the caseworker noted his passport contained ILE followed by an immigration officer’s stamp. The caseworker recorded they had asked ‘one of the forgery staff’ to check this. They had both come to the conclusion that they could not confirm the genuineness of the stamp (no reason for this decision was recorded). Mr V’s passport was sent to the NDFU (National Document Fraud Unit) to be checked. 

  1. On 21 July 2016 Mr V’s representative wrote to Immigration Enforcement again. He enclosed information from HMRC covering the period from April 1975 onwards. Records became computerised in 1975 but Mr V had 750 National Insurance contributions paid or credited in the years before 1975 (about 14.5 years). Records showed he had entered the National Insurance system in June 1961.

    Given Jamaica became independent on 6 August 1962 Mr V would have been a citizen of the United Kingdom and the colonies when he arrived in the UK and would have had the right to enter the UK permanently. His representative said this was compelling proof Mr V had indefinite leave. 

Indefinite leave accepted 

  1. On 12 August 2016 a caseworker recorded that the fraud unit had replied saying Mr V’s ILE stamp was ‘as expected’ and said ‘I therefore do not consider we can continue with any enforcement action on the case’. 

  1. On 13 September 2016 Immigration Enforcement stopped enforcement action and cancelled Mr V’s reporting after accepting he had indefinite leave. The Interventions and Sanctions Directorate instructed the DVLA to reinstate his driving licence. 

Second No time limit application 

  1. On 25 May 2017 Mr V’s representative wrote to UKVI enclosing an application for an NTL biometric card. He asked UKVI to note Mr V had been accepted as having ILE, a decision made on 13 September 2016. He enclosed Mr V’s current passport and photos. 

  1. On 22 October 2017 UKVI wrote to Mr V’s representative. They asked for evidence of all Mr V’s expired passports to confirm his continued residence in the UK. Alternatively, if he did not have passports that ran consecutively, they asked for original documentary evidence from 1990 to 2011 (at least one piece of evidence for each year). 

  1. On 25 October 2017 Mr V’s representative replied. He asked them to note UKVI had already assessed all the information they were requesting and found on 13 September 2016 Mr V had indefinite leave. He asked them to refer to their department’s file note of that date and issue a biometric card. 

  1. On 28 October 2017 UKVI wrote to Mr V’s representative again. They said for the purpose of granting an NTL biometric card they needed to see evidence of continued residence in the UK. They also needed to see all Mr V’s expired passports including the passport which contained the ILE stamp. They said if his passports did not run concurrently they would need further evidence of residency to confirm Mr V had not been out of the country for more than two years.  

  1. Mr V’s representative replied on 2 November 2017 reiterating Mr V had been accepted as having indefinite leave on 13 September 2016. He also pointed out he could not have been abroad for two years since that date.  

  1. On 14 November 2017 UKVI replied again. They said they were not disputing Mr V had an ILE stamp in his passport. However, they said for the purpose of granting NTL, they needed to see evidence to support the application. They specifically needed evidence Mr V had lived in the UK continuously and had not left the UK for more than two years since he was granted ILE.  

  1. On 21 November 2017 Mr V’s representative replied enclosing Mr V’s passport dated 28 June 2000 to 27 June 2010 and highlighting the ILE stamp on page 6. He also enclosed a Jamaican emergency travel certificate issued in the UK on 21 May 2012 – within a two-year period from the expiry of the previous passport. (Mr V had to return to Jamaica at this time to get a mistake on his birth certificate corrected before getting a new passport. He was in Jamaica between 6 June 2012 and 10 August 2012).  

  1. On 28 November 2017 UKVI issued Mr V with a NTL biometric residence permit. 

Application for British Citizenship 

  1. UKVI then contacted Mr V and invited him to make an application for British Citizenship. Mr V applied on 12 June 2018 under the Windrush scheme. This scheme was designed for people settled in the UK who had arrived here many years ago but might not have a document to prove their status. The scheme was set up after people from Commonwealth countries who had lived in the UK for decades were wrongly told they were in the country illegally.  

  1. On 19 July 2018 UKVI wrote to Mr V’s representative to say they were unable to confirm his eligibility for British Citizenship. They asked for further evidence including:

    - evidence of Mr V’s residence in the UK from date of entry in May 1962 until 27 March 2001
    - a form of photo ID
    - an overview of Mr V’s life in the UK since his arrival (such as schools, places of work, family and private life)
    - confirmation Mr V had not been outside the UK for more than 450 days in the past 5 years or more than 90 days in the past 12 months.

  2. The letter said Mr V had previously been granted an NTL biometric residence permit on 28 November 2017. This was on the basis of continued residence since 27 March 2001 and not on the basis of his claimed entry date of May 1962.  It said no documents were received throughout that application which confirmed his residence in the UK prior to 27 March 2001. 

    UKVI have told us this information was requested to establish Mr V’s eligibility to be considered for citizenship and at no point during this consideration was his immigration status in doubt. 

  3. Mr V’s representative replied on 26 July 2018. He pointed out the evidence which had been provided for Mr V’s earlier applications including his passports from 1981 onwards. He noted Mr V’s file had been sent to the removals casework section in July 2015 despite the fact he had been granted ILE three weeks earlier. He was then classed as a person without status and asked to report to the local enforcement unit. 

    Mr V’s representative said on 5 May 2016 he took all his passports including the 2012 passport with ILE in it to the enforcement unit only to have them impounded and was told by the immigration officer that he would still be deported. Mr V’s representative said on 21 July 2016 he had faxed Mr V’s full national insurance record to the enforcement unit. This showed he had a full work history in the UK since his arrival. Therefore, all the information UKVI had asked for had already been provided. 

    Mr V’s representative said Mr V had so far been treated appallingly – he was classified as having no leave a few weeks after he was granted ILE. He had been told he was going to be deported while the immigration officer had in their hand a passport showing he had indefinite leave and he had his driving licence revoked. He said UKVI had not checked their own full file or liaised with the DWP to check his national insurance records. He enclosed Mr V’s last two passports and current passport and his full national insurance record. 

  4. A decision was made on 9 August 2018 to grant Mr V British citizenship.  

Complaint handling with UKVI 

  1. On 28 November 2018 Mr V’s representative emailed in a formal complaint about: 

  • The comments made by an immigration officer to Mr V on 5 May 2016. Mr V’s representative complained about the immigration officer’s totally unjustified threat to Mr V. He said the immigration officer had in his hands evidence Mr V had status in the UK. Mr V’s representative said he had sent a letter dated 18 May 2016 outlining the comments made by the individual and referring to Mr V being distressed as a result of them. He asked whether this was acted on at the time and if not, why not? 

  • The failure of the Windrush section to process Mr V’s NTL and British Citizenship applications properly. Mr V was asked to provide proof he had not been absent from the UK for two years since his last grant of ILE. His ILE stamp was dated 23 June 2015 in his current passport. His application for NTL was 25 May 2017 – less than two years from the date of the stamp. His passport was retained by UKVI on 5 May 2016 and he was reporting from May until September 2016. Mr V’s representative asked why in processing both Mr V’s British Citizenship and NTL applications UKVI asked for information they already had. 

  • The failure of the Windrush section to respond to letters sent to them asking why they did not access Mr V’s immigration file when making a decision on his citizenship application. 

  1. UKVI did not respond to this complaint (although internal documents show they sought responses to the complaint from the Windrush Team and the reporting centre in December 2018). Mr V’s representative sent a second complaint email dated 18 February 2019 to complain about the delay in receiving a response. 

  2. UKVI responded to Mr V’s complaint on 8 May 2019. They apologised for the late response but did not provide any reasons for this. They said their records showed Mr V had attended a reporting centre on 23 May 2016. They said he would have been advised that he needed to regularise his immigration status in the UK. They said the term ‘deported’ is not used in relation to non-criminal matters.

    They apologised for the fact Mr V had received letters from Capita saying he was in the UK illegally. They said these letters were automatically computer generated if they hold no details of someone on their database. 

  1. UKVI said no evidence was provided with Mr V’s British Citizenship application to substantiate his claim of residency prior to 1973 and it was reasonable for the caseworker to request this evidence. They said his file was looked at and previous applications considered but the full picture of his residency was not clear and so further evidence was requested. They said they did not liaise with the DWP as caseworkers only do this where there is no other available evidence. They said it was not necessary in Mr V’s case because his passports were available. They said checks with third parties can cause delay and it was better to request alternative evidence from Mr V himself. (UKVI have since told us that the caseworker did request evidence from the DWP and HMRC and used it to make their decision.) 

  1. UKVI apologised for the lack of communication from ‘some areas of the department’ and the stress and inconvenience this had caused to Mr V. They said they were upholding the complaint. 

  1. On 5 June 2019 Mr V’s representative asked for the response to his complaint to be reviewed. He said there was no explanation as to why it had taken six months to respond to the complaint and no acknowledgement of the further complaint made about this delay.

    He said the response had not answered why Mr V was told he had no status to be in the UK when he had provided his passport showing he had indefinite leave. There was no explanation as to why the letter sent on 18 May 2016 was not treated as a complaint at that time.

    The explanation that the letters from Capita were sent because they held no details of Mr V on their database did not make sense as he had made an application to be granted a biometric card with proof of his residence in the UK and had recently been granted ILE at the airport prior to the letters being sent.

    The complaint response had not dealt with the extensive points made about the request for unnecessary information for Mr V’s NTL application. It did not make sense to say that UKVI had extensively considered Mr V’s previous applications when considering his application for British Citizenship. This would have shown that he had already provided proof of residence in the UK since 1962. 

  1. In their final response to Mr V’s complaint dated 2 July 2019 UKVI said they did not have any record of the conversation at the Immigration Enforcement Unit but the Home Office only referred to deportation in criminal cases. They said Mr V’s was not and they did not think he had been told this. They apologised for Capita sending Mr V letters and said this was because their database was being updated at the time. They also accepted there was delay in the complaints process and said there was no record of one of Mr V’s complaints on their system. They said the evidence they had asked Mr V to provide for his British Citizenship application was necessary for them to have and would not have been on his file.  

  1. Mr V sadly died in May 2019. When his daughter, Ms V, looked through his papers after his death she found documentation relating to his complaint and asked his legal representative to pursue it.