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Commonwealth citizens without status

Councils may be being approached with queries from residents and communities around Commonwealth citizens who are long-term residents of the UK and do not have documents to demonstrate their status.

The ‘Windrush scheme’ introduced in May 2018 offers free citizenship applications for Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1973, and children who joined their parents before they turned 18. Government has provided guidance for Commonwealth citizens - known as ‘Windrush’ cases - and individuals also can contact a dedicated Windrush taskforce via 0800 678 1925 or [email protected]

A compensation scheme provides payments to individuals who suffered losses as a result of not being able to evidence their lawful status in the UK, including access to council services such as housing. A second phase of community events to raise awareness of the Windrush Compensation Scheme ran from September 2019 onwards. . A new national advertising campaign was launched by the Government in August 2020. This focusses on the Windrush Help Team who can help people get together the documents needed to claim compensation. As part of this, communications materials have been created which may be of interest to councils continuing to help raise awareness of the scheme. 

The No Resource to Public Funds Network has also produced a guide for local authorities on what needs to be considered when an undocumented Commonwealth citizen requests help with housing and/or has social care needs. A joint submission from the LGA and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Network Windrush to the lessons learned review flags the issues around council support for those with NRPF more broadly.

If there are any issues around the process or costs incurred by councils that councils would like us to feed into the Home Office, please email [email protected]


The ‘Windrush generation’ refers to Commonwealth nationals who settled in the UK before 1973. The Immigration Act 1971 provided protection for Commonwealth citizens if they have lived here for more than five years and if they arrived in the country before 1973. The Act provided that those here before it came into force should be treated as having been given indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK, as well as retaining a right of abode for certain Commonwealth citizens. Therefore everyone that arrived in the UK before 1973 was given settlement rights and was not required to get any specific documentation to prove those rights.

It has been confirmed that:

  • anyone from the ‘Windrush’ generation can become a British citizen
  • the free citizenship offer will apply not just to the families of Caribbean migrants who came to the UK between 1948 and 1973 but anyone from other Commonwealth nations who settled in the UK over the same period
  • the Government will waive fees for British citizenship applications both for the Windrush generation and their children, both to those who have no current documentation, and also to those who have it
  • non-Commonwealth citizens who settled in the UK before 1973 and people who arrived between 1973-88 who have an existing right to be in the UK are not expected to pay for the documentation they need to prove their indefinite leave to remain. Confirmation of existing British citizenship for children born to the Windrush generation in the UK also can be given where needed free of charge.
  • the knowledge of language and life in the UK test will not be required or attendance at a citizenship ceremony
  • any charges for those returning to the UK for those who had retired to their countries of origin after living in the UK would also be removed, with further work with our embassies and high commissions around publicising this offer
  • the information shared via the taskforce will not be used to deport individuals, with the aim to help resolve cases as soon as possible
  • those applying for citizenship under the scheme will not need to meet the good character requirements in place for all citizenship and those who are looking to return to the UK having spent recent years in their home countries should receive assistance, free of charge.