BECOMING A CARER
Do I need my Indefinite Leave to Remain to be a foster carer?
At a glance
- Do I need to be a British citizen to become a foster carer?
- Does the kind of visa I’m on affect whether I can become a foster carer?
- Why can’t I become a foster carer for a short period while my visa is active?
- What about the UK Settlement Scheme for EU Nationals?
- What information about my visa status do you need from me?
If you’re not a British citizen you probably have a few questions about whether you are able to become a foster carer. This article seeks to answer all those questions for you.
The first thing to note is you don’t have to already be a British citizen to become a foster carer in the UK. However, it’s expected that you would be a legal, full-time resident of the UK.
Being a full-time resident might mean you’re in the UK on one of any number of types of visa, and the type of visa can impact your suitability for a foster caring role.
For example, if you’re on a student visa we (as a foster care agency) might have questions about whether you’d be able to stay in the UK after your time as a student ends. We might also wonder whether you’d actually be able to provide effective foster care while studying.
On the other hand, if you’re on a five-year ancestry visa and after that time you’ll be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, and there’s no impediment to you working, then that could potentially mean there are no obstacles at all to you becoming a foster carer.
What we, as a fostering agency, are looking for is evidence that you’ll be able to stay in the UK for a lengthy period of time.
An example to evidence longevity may be that in a fostering couple, one is a British citizen, with the other on a Spousal Visa. Although the spouse is connected by a visa, they are able to remain in the UK, often having limited restrictions on their ability to work. This in theory should not be a barrier in applying to foster.
Registering as self-employed
When you’re a foster carer in the UK, you need to be registered as self-employed. This is whether you foster for a Local Authority or a private fostering agency. The Fostering Network explains this requirement in more detail.
The ability to register as self-employed must be allowed within any visa conditions. An example where this might not be possible is someone living and working in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa. It is likely there is a restriction that they cannot register as a self-employed person. This is because it is outside of the agreement with their sponsoring employer and Skilled Worker visa conditions.
There are two big reasons we’re unable to consider people who might only be in the UK for a short period of time to become foster carers. The first, and most important, is about the welfare of the young people in our care.
If we were to place a young person with you and within six months or a year you leave and we have to place them with a new foster family, that’s going to be very disruptive for them. Remembering that young people who come into care have often experienced trauma and had an unstable home life, we want to avoid this as much as possible. It’s just not in the best interests of the child in question — especially if they’ve been moved around several different fostering placements already.
LiKa is an independent fostering agency working with local authorities across London, and part of our promise to our local authorities is that they can have faith that our foster carers will be staying in the role and are committed to the young person. Many of our placements are for years, rather than months — and possibly right up to adulthood.
The second big reason is simply a practical one. Foster carers go through an assessment process which can take about four months. Then during the first year there’s a lot of training to do. So, you might go through all that time and effort to become a foster carer and might not have actually been able to look after a young person before you need to leave.
Obviously, Brexit has changed the landscape for people from the EU who live in the UK, and therefore your status under the Settlement Scheme for EU Nationals could have an effect on your ability to become a foster carer.
If you haven’t put your application in for permanent settlement by the deadline, then we would question whether you’re going to be able to stay and for how long. In this situation, we wouldn’t suggest starting the application process to become a foster carer. Going through both those processes at once would be a lot to take on – and with a very uncertain result.
Side note: Whenever people are thinking about becoming a foster carer, we ask them whether they’re going through any big life events. The reason is that if you’re going through anything unsettling — like a bereavement, a break-up, or even just moving house — we like to slow the process down a bit and ask “is this the right time to foster?” If you’re going through a stressful time, it might not be wise to add the stress of the foster care application process. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but we will ask questions about it.
If you applied before the deadline and you have documentation to prove how long you’ve been here and there’s a good chance of you staying, then there is the potential to go through the foster care application process at the same time.
However, it depends on the context.
If you’re uncertain if you’ll be able to stay, we’d recommend you wait and apply to become a foster carer once you have an indication that you’ll be allowed to remain in the UK for a long period of time.
If you don’t have settled status in the UK (your Indefinite Leave to Remain) then there are four important questions we’ll need to ask you before we can process an application to become a foster carer.
You can expect your foster care agency recruiter to ask you:
- What’s the likelihood that you’ll be able to stay in the UK?
- What are the barriers to you remaining in the UK?
- What is the timescale for a decision?
- What are your current visa restrictions on employment and access to services?
We’ll ask that last question because, in the UK, foster carers must register as self-employed. Obviously, employment restrictions on your visa can therefore affect your ability to foster.
“Children thrive when they move to this fostering agency. They make significant progress from their starting points.” – Ofsted 2023.
Lika was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2023. Please read our report to hear how our young people and foster carers experience the agency. Lika is an innovative agency that uses systemic family therapy approaches as a model to guide everything we do.
If you’re in south or east London and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.
We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, Brent, Ealing, and Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Barnet, Bexley, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea.