New immigration and nationality fees kick in today and, for once, it is relatively good news as the vast majority of fees are frozen. To some extent this will mitigate the effect of the Immigration Health Charge which was doubled earlier this year. However, although fees remain stable, they are still exorbitantly high and out of proportion to the administrative cost. Indeed, the fees for children’s citizenship applications are symptomatic of a Home Office focused on maximising profits from a captive and sometimes vulnerable audience.
The Home Office set the fees for all immigration and nationality applications as well as various ‘premium’ or ‘additional’ services. The fees are revised around this time every year.
In recent years the fees have risen way above inflation. For example, the cost of naturalising as a British citizen was £640 in 2009/2010 but is now £1,330. In 2009/2010 an indefinite leave to remain application as a spouse, made from within the UK, was £585 but is now £2,389. This fee is set at ten times higher than the administrative cost.
What has changed?
There are small increases of 2% in respect of Visit visa fees whilst the £65 fee for the EU Settlement Scheme is now abolished (applicants who have previously paid this fee will be refunded).
One notable increase, however, is in relation to the Super Priority Service for applications made within the UK. This is being increased from £610 to £800. This specific change appears linked to the recent overhaul and outsourcing of the in-country visa processing system to Sopra Steria, and the replacement of the ‘same day service’ with a 24-hour service. Users will therefore get a slower turnaround at a greater cost.
However, and as already noted, for the vast majority of applications there is no change.
The Immigration Heath Surcharge
The generally positive news regarding visa fees is welcome, particularly given the doubling of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), in January 2019. The IHS permits non-EU nationals in the UK on a work, study or family visa for longer than six months to access NHS services in the same way as UK citizens. Following this change, individuals now have to pay £400 for every year of their visa. Thus, a worker coming to the UK on a five year Tier 2 visa would pay a total of £3,220 for his application and IHS fees, not including any add-ons, comprising £2,000 in IHS fees and a £1,220 application fee.
Nationality Fees for Children
The Home Office has been under particular scrutiny for the level of fees it applies to children’s applications to register as British citizens. In the last 10 years the cost of registration has gone up from £400 to £1,012. Many of the children who make these types of applications are highly vulnerable: many are in the care system and without family in the UK.
A lot of these children cannot afford the fees and so rely on social services or funds raised through charities, yet the Home Office seems content to continue profiteering at the expense of other public services and the third sector.