Following the Government’s Spending Review, legislation has been laid before Parliament today allowing the Home Office to increase visa, immigration and nationality fees for the remainder of this Parliament, including fees for premium services.
Fees for the year 2016-17 will be introduced through legislation by this April.
Summary of main fee increases:
Spouse - currently £956, proposed £1195 for the year 2016/17 to a maximum of £3250 for the year 2019/20
Indefinite leave to remain – currently £1500, proposed £1875 for the year 2016/17 to a maximum of £3250 for the year 2019/20
Naturalisation as a British citizen - currently £1005, proposed £1236 for the year end 2016/17 to a maximum of £1600 for the year 2019/20
Super Premium service – currently £7000 (in addition to the application fee), proposed £8750 for the year 2016/17 to a maximum of £10,500 for the year 2019/20
Priority Visa Service for settlement applications overseas – currently £360, proposed £450 for the year 2016/17 to a maximum of £1000 for the year 2019/20
Priority Visa Service for non-settlement applications overseas – currently £120, proposed £150 for the year 2016/17 to a maximum of £600 for the year 2019/20
Fee increases are otherwise proposed for all visa categories for the year 2016-17 as follows;
Workers and students increase of 2%
Visit visas increase of 2%
Sponsorship licence, CoS and CAS fees to be held at the current rates!
The justification for the increases is to ‘reduce taxpayer contributions’ and to ensure the UK visa system can attract the ‘brightest and best’ whilst at the same time making a contribution to the costs of services available to them.
Whilst the stated aims are understandable, the message to potential migrants to the UK is clear – expect to make a significant contribution to the British government’s coffers.
Application fees have been steadily rising for more than a decade whilst 2015 saw the introduction of the Immigration Health Surcharge, a levy paid by migrants travelling to the UK for more than 6 months. Previous figures released by the Home Office showed that the unit costs of processing an individual visa application are far exceeded by the fees levied, which means that we can only conclude the very significant increase in some fees is a further attempt to restrict migration to the UK.
Migrants in most categories have been restricted from accessing public services (with the exception of the NHS) since the 1990s.
It is notable that the largest fee increases will hit relationship based applicants, those seeking indefinite leave to remain or those wishing to naturalise.
This is likely to have a very real impact on families and those wishing to bring their partners to the UK. An already expensive process has increased in cost by 25%, more if you want your visa application dealing with under a priority service.
If you want to settle in the UK with your partner, you will have no choice but to pay the Home Office and IHS fees – some £1,695 for the initial 30 month visa.
Similarly, those already in the UK on a route to settlement will have no choice but to pay the astronomical application fees for settlement - £1,875 per family member.
Once a migrant acquires indefinite leave to remain they will have a choice as to whether to apply to become a citizen – an application for naturalisation as a British citizen is one of choice. However, for those wavering at this stage, given the increases to naturalisation fees over the last two decades, delay in applying is only likely to lead to further fee increases should they eventually make the decision to naturalise.
The final section of the announcement trumpets the “significant improvements” which have been made to the range and quality of Home office services available within and outside the UK. In fairness, processing of 95% of visit visa applications within 15 days, the extension of premium services and opening hours of the Premium Service Centre should be rightly applauded, but as one can see, it has and will become even more costly for the average migrant to travel, live and work in the UK or become naturalised as a British citizen.
It is worth noting that the Home Secretary seeks to restrict net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’. However, given the finances involved, one wonders how this aim sits with the nations finances, surely restricting migrant numbers would lead to a significant fall in revenues. Migrants now do not only financially contribute directly through visa applications, but indirectly through normal taxes and through spending.
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