The Home Office has apologised after a 21-year-old man who was born and raised in Britain was wrongly told to leave the UK because he was not a British citizen.
Shane Ridge, a joiner from Colne in Lancashire, received a letter from the Home Office last week informing him that his driving licence would be revoked as he had “no lawful basis to be in the UK”. It came as a surprise because all of Ridge’s relatives are British, and his mother, who was born in Australia during a family holiday, has dual Australian and British citizenship.
After extensive media coverage, the Home Office on Wednesday said it had established that Ridge was “automatically a British citizen”.
A spokesperson added: “We have spoken with Mr Ridge to apologise for this error and the distress caused. When Mr Ridge applied for right of abode, we did not identify that his maternal grandmother was British and that as a result his mother had settled status in the UK at the time of his birth.”
The original letter to Ridge said the Home Office was working with the DVLA, NHS and banks to “stop access to benefits and services for those with no lawful basis to be in the UK”. It added: “This includes you.”
Ridge was also told he must stop driving immediately. “It’s surreal,” he said earlier this week. “This is the only letter I have ever received in relation to me having to leave the country. It just came through my letterbox out of the blue.
“The last bit scared me the most – ‘leave the UK voluntarily’. I’m speechless – I don’t know what I can say. I received the letter from Immigration Enforcement saying they were going to revoke my driving licence and I should leave the UK voluntarily or face a £5,000 fine.
“I’m confused and worried that I’ll have to leave my entire family behind and move to a country that I don’t know. I don’t understand it because I was born in the UK. I did my GCSEs here, I’ve worked for six years, I pay tax and national insurance. Me and my girlfriend rented a house, I vote, I use the NHS and opened a bank account without any problems, ever.”
Ridge said he did not know he was not a British citizen until he received the letter. He said he applied for a passport last year to go on holiday and his application was declined, but he then successfully applied for and holds an Australian passport.
The Passport Office at the time advised him that he would be able to travel and safely return to the UK after his holiday and he had since had no indication of any problems.
“I applied for an Australian passport and was accepted because my mum was born there, despite both her parents being British, and therefore she has dual citizenship,” he said.
The Home Office said that after reviewing Ridge’s right of abode application, it became clear that his British citizenship should have been established in March 2017 and an error had been made.