Dom Wolf, born in London to German parents, hits bureaucratic wall trying to apply for British passport after Brexit vote
A man born in London to German parents has been told he cannot get a British passport unless he takes a UK citizenship test because he cannot prove his mother was legally in the country when she gave birth.
Dom Wolf, 32, said he felt betrayed by the country in which he was born and has written to Theresa May in the hope she can intervene.
Wolf’s parents came to Britain in 1974 with his mother working for the University of London as a lecturer and his father being self-employed. He has been told by authorities he needs to provide proof they were here legally, even though they were entitled to live and work in Britain under EU law.
In his letter to the prime minister, Wolf explained that his parents gave him a German passport as a reminder of his heritage when he was born and he never considered applying for a British one until the Brexitreferendum because it was never necessary.
“Holding a British birth certificate and having had my parents live, work and raise four boys in the UK for over 42 years, I made the devastating assumption that this would be an easy process. Oh boy was I wrong,” he told her.
In the letter, Wolf said he had been told by the Passport Office his birth certificate was not enough and he had to provide tax or employment records for his mother.
The University of London does not have records from 1982, when Wolf’s mother was working there before his birth, so she made a subject access request for all the historic data from Revenue & Customs offices. HMRC told her it did not have records, resulting in Wolf being told he would be treated like an immigrant seeking naturalisation.
“I’m advised to apply for residency in the UK – is this a bad joke? Residency in a country I was born in!” he wrote in his letter. He said it was absurd that someone in his position should have to sit an English-language proficiency test or be questioned on the history or culture of Britain.
“In accordance with the beloved Passport Office I need to pay £1,121 and undergo a ‘Welcome to your new life in the UK’ test, to prove I can speak English, know who Queen Lizzy is and can sing Candle in the Wind. Madness.
“I feel I am stuck in the middle of … hopeless bureaucracy,” said Wolf, an economics graduate working in the City of London. “I have incurred a student loan of £30k in the UK and I pay a rather large chunk of my wages into the tax pot. I feel offended and let down by the country of my birth and might just move to a nice offshore location and start paying into their tax system instead. Why should I pay money to become a formal ‘resident’ or be forced to go back to a country I have never lived in?” he wrote.
“I hold an EU German passport. An unwanted residue from my parents, to remind me of their heritage. They moved to the UK in 1974 and lived here accordingly for the majority of their lives (over 42 years to date). I was born in Westminster, London, and have never lived in any country other than the UK. I went to school and university in the UK and I speak fairly intolerable German and Spanish (a product of our education system),” he said.
Wolf has not yet received a reply from the prime minister.
He also expressed his frustration that the Passport Office, which he said was “very sympathetic”, could not correspond with HMRC to get supporting documentation. “I’d pay £200 extra just to have the Passport Office pick up the phone and ask HMRC for their records. Every time you ask HMRC something it takes 40 days to get a response and then it’s ‘we don’t have a record’, and then you have to write again,” Wolf told the Guardian.
After an intervention by John Glen, the Conservative MP for Wolf’s constituency of Salisbury and South Wiltshire, the office of the immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, responded to say Wolf should try to get records from his father’s side.
Wolf said he could not get records of his father’s business and was looking at joining the queue of EU citizens applying for citizenship in order to guarantee their rights post-Brexit. “I don’t know what is going on, it just seems impossible to get records from 32 years ago,” he said.
The letter from Goodwill’s office made it plain that the problem was Wolf’s to solve. “Nationality is a matter of law and not something over which HM Passport Office has any discretion,” said the letter, signed by Jen Hawkins of the parliamentary correspondence unit.
Glenn told Wolf the citizenship process “would be wholly inappropriate, expensive and time-consuming for someone in your position: raised, educated and working in the UK.”
The Home Office said that “at no point has Mr Wolf been asked to take a Life in the UK test”. He was advised to contact the visa and immigration office “to discuss citizenship options” should he not be able to find the evidence required by the Passport Office.
Wolf’s case is just one of a number that have come to light in recent weeks showing the struggles EU citizens settled in Britain are having to assert their rights to remain in the country.
Since the referendum, tens of thousands of EU citizens have decided to apply for a document confirming they have permanent residency rights, a prerequisite for citizenship. Many are being failed by the bureaucracy even though they have lived in the country for decades.
In one case, a Dutch woman, who has two British children and has lived in the country for 24 years, was not only rejected but received a letter advising her to make preparations to leave the country.
The rejection was over a technicality as she had provided a solicitor-certified copy of her passport instead of the original, but the Home Office, instead of requesting the original, issued its standard “prepare to leave” letter.
At least a dozen other EU citizens have told the Guardian they have received the same letter, including the German neuroscientist Sam Schwarzkopf and the aerospace executive Lars Graefe.
In another case, a British man fears his Dutch wife of 30 years and the mother of their children is at risk following the Brexit vote because she has not had private health insurance, which EU citizens are required to have if they are not working.
His MP, Sarah Wollaston, an influential Tory backbencher, has called for the little-known requirement for comprehensive sickness insurance to be scrapped as it could jeopardise the rights of stay-at-home parents, other homemakers, students, disabled people and carers.