The Ministry of Justice has opened a consultation on a proposed increase to appeal fees in immigration and asylum cases. The proposed increases of up to 500% are aimed at recovering the full cost of proceedings (as opposed to the current 25% recovery).
If given the go ahead, the fee for bringing an appeal in the First-Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) will rise from £80 to £490 for an application for a decision on the papers, and from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing. In our experience, very few cases are sufficiently straightforward that they can safely proceed on the papers, i.e. where the Immigration Judge makes a decision based on written submissions and evidence. The overwhelming majority of appeals are dealt with in an oral hearing where the judge can hear evidence from witnesses and counsel can reinforce the legal arguments in person.
Having butchered appeal rights in the Immigration Act 2014, the introduction of such colossal fees represent one further barrier to justice for migrants and their families. A comparable fee hike in the Employment Tribunal saw the number of cases brought drop by almost 70%. It is widely accepted that individuals are deterred from bringing proceedings by virtue of the appeal fee which is somewhat contrary to the Government’s introduction to the consultation document which reminds us that, “Courts and tribunals fulfil a vital role in an effective and functioning democracy. They provide access to justice for those who need it, upholding the principle of the rule of law that underpins our society, and indeed our economy.”
The Government also proposes a new fee of £455 to apply to the First-Tier Tribunal for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, a fee of £350 if the application must be renewed direct to the Upper Tribunal and a further fee of £510 if the matter proceeds to a hearing.
There are presently no fees to apply for leave to appeal or to pursue an appeal in the Upper Tribunal.
The Government asserts that those in ‘particularly vulnerable positions’ will be exempt from the appeal fees. “Particularly vulnerable” is likely to be interpreted strictly with little hope of a fee reduction for, for example, an ordinary couple appealing against a decision to refuse a spouse visa.
Successful appellants should continue to receive a fee award, i.e. the return of their appeal fees, but this can be refused where determining evidence was not supplied to the Home Office with the initial application. It is therefore imperative that clients receive proper legal advice before embarking upon an immigration application or immigration appeal.
If you are contemplating an immigration application or an immigration appeal, contact a specialist immigration solicitor at RLegal on +44(0)20 7038 3980, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our online contact form.