The fees for immigration applications made from both inside the UK (often referred to by immigration lawyers as ‘in country’ applications) and outside the UK at visa posts (referred to as ‘out of country’ applications) are going up very significantly on 2 April 2007.
In country application fees were only introduced for the first time in the summer of 2003 and have already been increased once. The current levels are £335 for applications made by post (£225 for student applications by post) and £500 for an on-the-day in-person application made at one of the Home Office Public Enquiry Offices. The new fees are set out in full on the Home Office website, but include the following monstrously high figures:
- Indefinite Leave to Remain postal application: £775 (was £335)
- Indefinite Leave to Remain on the day application: £950 (was £500)
- British nationality application: £575 (was £200)
There are also slightly more moderate increases for student applications (£250 to £295) and general leave to remain applications (£335 to £395). On the day leave to remain applications rise from £500 to £595.
Most lawyers advise their clients to pay for an on-the-day application if they can possibly afford it, to avoid the problems that arise when an application is submitted before expiry of the existing visa but the Home Office make a decision after thevisa has expired. If the new application is granted, there is no problem, but if the application gets returned as invalid or is refused, the applicant is left in a tricky situation and will find it difficult to make another application without becoming an overstayer and committing a criminal offence. There is also still a problem with the Home Office losing documents submitted with postal applications, although this is unusual.
The out of country visa fees are also going up significantly:
- Settlement visa (e.g. spouse): £500 (was £260)
- Work permit visa: £200 (was £85)
- Long term visa: £200 (was £85)
- Student visa: £99 (was £85)
- Visitor visa: £63 (was £50)
The new immigration fees can be seen as part of a trend towards a purely economic and utilitarian rationale for inward migration to the UK. The Home Office don’t want poor migrants coming to the UK, or least don’t want poor migrants coming to the UK on top of those from the expanded European Union. Don Flynn’s pamphlet Tough As Old Boots: Asylum, Immigration and the Paradox of New Labour Policy makes fascinating reading and offers a compelling analysis of immigration policy since 1997. Events since the pamphlet was published in 2003 only serve to reinforce how right Flynn was. Essentially, he argues that New Labour have abandoned any old fashioned notions of rights and the innate desirability of family unity and cultural exchange in favour of a drive towards modernisation of the economy, entailing purely economic, modernising inward migration of highly skilled and entrepreneurial types.
More pragmatically, there’s also the fact that Home Office expenditure on immigration and asylum, as on many other areas of responsibility, has increased enormously in the last few years and the Treasury isn’t handing over enough new cash. Someone has to pay for Home Office failings and pet projects, and in this instance it’s the immigrants.