Victims of the Windrush scandal are to have their citizenship fees waived, Amber Rudd has announced.
The home secretary also said they will not be forced to take citizenship tests.
Children of those who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean who need to apply for naturalisation will not be charged any fees either.
Cases have been raised of people who came to the UK legally as children in the 1950s and 1960s – the so-called Windrush children – facing migration issues despite having lived in the UK all their adult lives. This is due to changes in immigration rules requiring people to provide greater proof of their right to reside in order to work, rent property or access benefits and some public services.
Some people have been threatened with deportation, while others have lost out on healthcare, employment and housing. Cases highlighted by The Guardian include Michael Braithwaite, a special needs teaching assistant who lost his job after his employers ruled that he was an illegal immigrant because he did not have up-to-date identity documents, despite the fact he has lived in the UK for more than 50 years.
In a statement to MPs, Rudd said those caught up in the scandal were “British in all but legal status”.
She said: “It was never the intention that the Windrush generation should be disadvantaged by measures put in place to tackle illegal immigration.
“These people worked here for decades. In many cases they helped establish the NHS.”
She added: “An apology is the first step in righting the wrongs. The state has let these people down.”
Rudd also announced that the Home Office would be establishing a new scheme to compensate those affected, and said that the scheme would be independently run.
“Where people have suffered loss, they will be compensated. None of this can undo the pain, already endured, but I hope it demonstrates the government’s commitment to put these wrongs right going forward.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that the treatment of the Windrush generation was one of the biggest “scandals” in the history of the Home Office.
She accused the home secretary of “behaving as if it was a shock to her that officials are implementing regulations in the way she intended.”
Rudd told MPs last week that officials in the Home Office had lost sight of the individuals affected by immigration policy decisions. "I am concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual”, Rudd said at the time.
However, Abbott said: “These cases can’t come as a surprise to her because for some time many of my colleagues on this side of the House have been pursuing individual cases.
“Member after member has written to the Home Office trying to draw attention to these cases.”