Church of England votes to investigate costs of applying for UK citizenship, urges parishes to lobby politicians

The General Synod has agreed to investigate the process of becoming a UK citizen.

The Church of England's equivalent to a parliament has agreed to investigate the process of becoming a UK citizen after hearing concerns that the 'prohibitive' cost of applying is creating a 'sub-class' of people and risks undermining integration.

The General Synod yesterday voted unanimously in favour - 310 in favour, zero against - that any recommendations are subsequently put to the Government.

The current application fee for citizenship is £1282 for an adult and £973 for a child. These costs increase on an annual basis, without being brought before Parliament for comment or debate.

People aged 18 or over can apply for British citizenship by naturalisation if they have lived in the UK for at least five years, or for three years if they also have indefinite leave to remain as a spouse or civil partner of a British citizen.

Those applying must prove knowledge of English and pass a 'Life in the UK' test.

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The Synod heard that people with indefinite leave to remain in the UK – including asylum seekers with full refugee status – do not have full civil rights unless they become citizens.

Citizenship enables people to vote in elections and travel more freely.

The motion supported by Synod also encouraged bishops in the House of Lords to seek opportunities to address the level of citizenship fees in debate, and urged parishes to raise the issue with their MP.

The debate was initiated by Ben Franks, a lay member of the body, initiated the debate, saying: 'Many of those who are eligible to apply for citizenship are working in the low-pay sectors of our economy due to their uncertain status making well paid employment more difficult.'

He added: 'Many people save over years to pay for their applications, there are also those whose difficult situation leads them to go into long-term, high-interest debt from unscrupulous lenders to do so.'

The General Synod, which compromises of bishops, clergy and laity, has now concluded a four-day meeting York.

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