After an error on a visa application form, Sarah slipped into immigration limbo
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Six years ago, when she was 24, Sarah received an unexpected letter from the Home Office telling her she faced arrest and removal from the UK within seven days. She was so terrified that she climbed out of the back window of the house where she was living, taking her seven-year-old son with her, and they became homeless.
Sarah, who asked for her real name not to be published, had been in the UK since she arrived in 1994 as a two-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She had attended primary and secondary school in the UK and was working and paying taxes in London, but her uncertain immigration status had not been resolved when she was a child. As an adult she was required every three years to pay fees of about £1,000 to apply for visas that would allow her to remain. An error on her 2016 application form meant the visa was refused, but the fees were not refunded and she could not afford to reapply, and she slipped into immigration limbo. Even now, 28 years after arriving in the UK, she is still battling to get British citizenship.