migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Visa fees: the real cost

Visa fees: the real cost

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Visa fees: the real cost

“How can we even afford clothes to put on our children? And we still have to be finding these £3,000 to send off for paperwork.” (A support worker in Birmingham working 50 hours per week)

 

THE PROBLEM

The costs of immigration in the UK are leaving ordinary people, ordinary families, impoverished and pricing people out of their rights. Since early 2019, after hearing from many of our members about the devastating impacts of the fees, Migrant Voice has been working on a campaign to significantly reduce these costs. 

Many visa fees have risen tenfold in the last decade, while the NHS surcharge (now £400 per person per year) and the extortionate cost of appointments simply to upload documents adding hundreds of pounds to each application. 

A family of four has to fork out nearly £50,000 over the 10 years from arriving in the UK to getting citizenship. And that’s if everything goes smoothly. If there’s a small mistake in an application, or the Home Office wrongly rejects it, there’s no chance to appeal - the application must be re-submitted and the fee paid again. Many migrants also find the goalposts constantly moving and the rules becoming ever more complicated as they make their way through the system, making it almost impossible to plan or save effectively. 

The Home Office tries to rationalise the high costs by arguing that, this way, migrants can fund the entire borders and immigration system without the need for British taxpayer contributions. But we all benefit from this system and migrants already contribute through taxes. Furthermore, by choosing to outsource so much of the visa application system to private companies, the Home Office is also ensuring that large corporations are making huge profits from ordinary, hardworking migrants in this country. 

The result of these disproportionate and discriminatory fees is that tens of thousands of people are forced to impoverish themselves just to claim their rights. Many parents are faced with the choice between feeding their children and maintaining their right to stay. 

Others are never able to claim their rights at all. They are priced out of citizenship, often priced out of legal status. Women are disproportionately affected, especially BAME women.  

The fee is waived if the applicant can prove they are destitute - but this is notoriously difficult to prove and if the waiver is not given, the applicant has just two weeks to find the full payment.

And the costs aren't just financial - many families suffer mental and physical health problems as a direct result of the financial pressure, which causes extreme stress and can mean that people have to choose between maintaining their status and feeding themselves. Thousands of couples and families are kept apart by the extortionate costs and Home Office delays or bad decisions, which have severe and lasting effects on their mental and emotional health and on the relationships themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. A decade ago, fees in this country were much more affordable and our immigration system was no less functional. And we can learn from other Western countries, where fees have remained affordable. In France, permanent residence costs just £315, and citizenship £47 – compared to £2,389 and £1,250 in the UK. Permanent residence in Germany is even cheaper – just £115.

In April 2019, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration published a report on the Home Office's politics and practices on immigration fees. We responded with a briefing, which you can read here. We have also published two editorials, which you can read here and here

We are also in contact with other organisations across the UK who are working with people directly affected and/or campaigning on various aspects of this issue. 

 

WHO IS AFFECTED?

A wide range of people are impacted by the cost of immigration fees in the UK. These include:

  • Couples where one partner is not British
  • Families where a child or parent is not British
  • Students who are coming to the UK to study
  • Refugees who have been in the UK for five years  
  • Workers who come to the UK to take up paid employment
  • Entrepreneurs who come to the UK to set up a business

 

WHAT CHANGES DO WE WANT?

  • All fees reduced to admin costs for adults, free for children
  • Reforms to the process, including: if an application is refused, the applicant must be able to appeal for free.
  • Reform of the fee waiver process (details TBC).

 

WHAT DO WE NEED?

If you are directly affected by UK immigration fees, we would like to hear from you. This campaign - as with all of our work - is built on the voices of migrants and their families who are directly impacted, and we do not have a campaign without those voices. 

If you would like to share your story and join this campaign, please contact [email protected] to share your experience, answering the following questions:

  • What type of visa(s)/immigration status have you applied for – including naturalisation?
  • How much did you have to pay for the whole application process each time including any surcharges, appointment costs, etc.
  • How was the process of applying for the visa?
  • Are you currently applying or planning to apply and concerned about the cost?
  • What impact is all the above having on you (and your family)?

If you are not directly impacted, but would like to get involved or be added to our mailing list for this campaign, please also email [email protected]

 

TOP IMAGE: UK Sterling bank notes and coins: Mark HodsonFlickrCC BY 2.0