Vulnerable people paying for immigration system

Excessive fees: applications for Leave to Remain in UK: see the QARN leaflet of April 2020 here: http://www.qarn.org.uk/homepage/new-qarn-leaflet-excessive-fees-leave-to-remain-in-uk-april-2020/

Actual costYou will find a list of fees and actual cost on the gov.uk website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visa-fees-transparency-data

Information from other sources:

Coram: 12th August 2019: Times investigation reveals huge profits made by the Home Office from immigration fees 

Today’s Times carries a major investigation into the huge profits made by the Home Office under the current system requiring undocumented young people to pay thousands of pounds seeking to regularise their status in the UK.

The piece includes analysis by Marianne Lagrue, Policy Manager in Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) who describes the system as ‘a game of snakes and ladders without the ladders’, and a feature with Michelle Ezeuko, one of Coram’s youth rights trainers, who shares her personal experiences of the complex and expensive system. Marianne and Michelle were also both interviewed on Channel 4 News, urging the Home Office to act to make the process fairer, more affordable and faster.

In her analysis for The Times, Marianne Lagrue said:

“The hostile environment created a set of policies designed to deprive people of some of the fundamentals of life: work, medical treatment in hospital, maternity care, rented homes, bank accounts, driving licences.

Equally insidious is how difficult it has become for undocumented people to get and keep legal status in Britain, even for those with legally strong claims to stay.

The immigration system not only punishes those who are undocumented, it creates more undocumented people because they cannot always navigate the complex, long and extremely expensive system for applying to remain in the UK. This system is at the heart of the hostile environment.

The undocumented young people supported by Coram have some of the strongest claims to stay, growing up British in all but legal fact. Those aged 18 to 25 are eligible to apply for temporary status if they have lived in the UK for at least half of their life. Meeting the condition of long residence is only the beginning, however. In the hostile environment, only those who can pay can stay.

In 2012, a young person making an application on the basis of growing up in the UK had to pay £281. Now the application costs £2,033. That young person must then make repeated applications, keeping hold of their legal status for ten continuous years before they can apply to stay in the UK permanently. They could be pushing 40 before they become eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. This is the opposite of integration.

Being unable to pay the next fee often means a person falls out of status and must start the process again. They are sent back to square one in a game of snakes and ladders — without any of the ladders. If they pay the fee four times and reach the end of the game, permanent status costs them £2,389, then citizenship £1,330.

Hostility is built in to this bureaucracy and it works for no one. Complexity and fees leave thousands of young people in legal limbo. The new home secretary has the chance to build a system which values young lives and promotes integration. Pathways to settlement must be affordable, fast and fair.”

Read the full report here.

Migrant Voices respond: Editorial: The fees must fall

Disproportionate and discriminatory immigration fees in the UK mean that thousands of people are never able to claim their rights. They are priced out of citizenship, often priced out of legal status.

We are disappointed by the response of the Home Office to the independent inquiry into immigration fees and we are renewing our call for urgent action by policymakers to reduce these extortionate costs.

Why should someone taking up their right to citizenship in the UK have to pay 5 times more than someone in Germany, and 25 times more than someone in France?

Why should a family with two children be forced to fork out a mind-boggling £47,000 over the decade it takes for them to earn the right to British citizenship? [continued]

also: Visa fees: the real cost

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.  [continued]

Migrant Voice

Freemovement: Briefing: How expensive are UK immigration applications and is this a problem?

The cost of making an immigration or nationality application has risen extremely steeply in recent years. Annual increases of 20% or 25% per year became standard, bringing the current cost of an application for indefinite leave to remain (aka settlement) to £2,389.

The actual cost of processing such an application is £243, so the Home Office is generating considerable income from each application. A Tier 2 work visa for someone working in a “shortage occupation”, where the UK is desperate for workers, has an administrative cost of £127 but is charged at up to £928. As The Times reports, immigration fees delivered a £500 million surplus for the Home Office last year.

The cost of settlement is only one of the last steps in a long journey of applications, though. The total costs of applying to enter the UK as a spouse, for example, are far higher once all the different applications and fees are taken into account: [read more]

Other organisations concerned about this issue include:

The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) is made up of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, working together for peace and justice.

Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees: Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees is a multi-faith partnership project hosted by the Church of Scotland.

We seek to co-ordinate and promote action by faith communities in Scotland to support asylum seekers and refugees.

We are working with Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Interfaith groups.  Through our commitment to each other and a sharing of common values of human dignity and protection, we have our own story to tell of hospitality and welcome.

Link to Chief Inspector’s report on the charging system