In a surprising but very welcome development, the Government has reversed the 500% increase in fees for immigration appeals which took effect on 10 October 2016. Fees will instead be charged at the old rates and those who have paid the higher fees in the last few weeks will have their payments refunded.
The fee increases were due to hit EU nationals and their family members very hard given the number of immigration appeals likely to be generated by the flood of permanent residence applications generated by Brexit. In addition, the Home Office may not have been terribly happy about having to pay the appeal fees in cases in which appellants succeeded in having their decisions overturned.
However, we have listened to the representations that we received on the current fee levels and have decided to take stock and review the immigration and asylum fees, to balance the interests of all tribunal users and the taxpayer and to look at them again alongside other tribunal fees and in the wider context of funding for the system overall.
From today all applicants will be charged fees at previous levels and we will reimburse, in all cases where the new fees have been paid, the difference between that fee and the previous fee.
We will bring forward secondary legislation to formalise the position as soon as possible. That legislation will come into force shortly, but in the meantime the changes will be effected through the use of the Lord Chancellor’s discretionary power to remit or reduce fees.
The announcement goes on to say that the increase to Upper Tribunal fees, which has not yet been implemented, will also be reviewed and that there will be a further consultation. The broader fee exemptions which were introduced at the same time as the higher fees will remain in place.
The final paragraph of the statement suggests that some sort of increase is still on the table, but perhaps not as dramatic as the one we saw in October:
The Government’s belief is unchanged that it is right that those who use our courts and tribunals should pay more, where they can realistically afford to do so, to ensure that the system is properly funded to protect access to justice and to relieve the burden on the taxpayer.
Litigation was brewing on the fees increase but had not yet been started, as far as I was aware. The immigration tribunal fees were the only attempt so far by the Government to extract full cost recovery from appellants. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants was leading the way, I understand.