A recent BBC investigation exposed a scheme through which British men offer to “help” pregnant women obtain UK visas by adding their names to their children’s birth certificates.
The BBC Newsnight investigation found that the fraudsters use Facebook to find women willing to take part in the scam. The undercover BBC reporter, posing as a pregnant woman who was in the UK illegally, contacted an agent calling himself Thai who told her he had several British men who could act as fake fathers for £11,000.
Under the nationality rules, a person born in the UK is automatically British if either parent has indefinite leave to remain or is British at the time of birth. A woman who has a child with British nationality may therefore be able to regularise her immigration status on this pathway.
Given the strictness of the immigration rules, it may sound tempting to participate in such a scheme, but before doing so, I invite you to consider the consequences. Firstly, deliberately giving false details on a birth certificate is a criminal offence, and therefore women who resort to such schemes run the risk of ending up in prison. Secondly, although initially the fraud might work, i.e. the child gets British nationality and the mother obtains leave to remain, this does not mean that in the long run the Home Office will not notice what has happened.
Here is an example of what can happen: Let’s imagine that Ana and Miguel are a couple and are undocumented in the UK. Ana is pregnant and they get in contact with an “agent” through Facebook, who suggests that they take part in such a scheme. Ana is desperate to resolve her immigration status and agrees to take part in the fraud. John Adams, who is British born on 10/11/76, puts his name on the birth certificate of Joseph, Ana’s first child. Joseph then gets his British passport and now Ana is able to regularise her immigration status through her British son.
After some time, Ana becomes pregnant again but this time they do not put John on the birth certificate of the newborn Marcela, instead putting the real father, Miguel (you will remember that he is Joseph’s real father). Ana manages to get Marcela a visa (as the daughter of a person who has a residence permit as the mother of a British child) and eventually even Miguel manages to regularise his immigration status.
A few years go and they live happily until one day the Home Office notices that a John Adams with date of birth 10/11/76 is mentioned as the alleged father of several British children with different mothers on numerous visa applications. Now, you may ask, how does the Home Office become aware of this? In several ways. One is simply by putting the father’s name and date of birth into the Home Office database, another could be by a third party complaint and an investigation of the “agent” leading to the discovery of John Adams.
Let’s assume that the Home Office finds out and starts checking all the applications in which John Adams is mentioned as the father. The time comes to review Ana’s case and they realise that it is fraudulent. This has a domino effect: Joseph, who is now 5 years old, is stripped of his citizenship, and Ana, Marcela and Miguel are stripped of their residency. The whole family are left without visas, with a completely shattered immigration record, unable to regularise their status and facing removal from the UK, in addition to Ana facing the possibility of ending up in prison.
People’s desperation to regularise their migration status can lead them to take decisions that are not in their best interest. This is one of them.
Manuel Padilla Behar is a solicitor specialising in immigration law and is the owner of MPB Solicitors. You can contact him here.