UK visa applications in most cases require payment of a visa application fee and also payment of an immigration health surcharge (which funds the NHS). The Government has recently announced that both of these are going up yet again; no date for the increases has been given, but we anticipate that it will come soon, probably this month or next month.
Some of the increases are quite substantial, particularly with the immigration health surcharge (IHS). At the moment the IHS has two levels: £624 per year for most migrants and a lower rate of £470 per year for students, youth mobility scheme migrants and children under the age of 18. These levels will increase to £1,035 and £776 respectively. By our calculations these increases are of between 60% and 70%, which seems quite a lot. Rather interestingly and unusually the relevant Government official, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated in Parliament that these increases are in order to help fund the increase in doctors’ salaries that the Government has agreed to; this was surely a rather “political” observation.
In any event, most visa application fees and other types of immigration application fees are also going up (by around 15% or 20%), but a couple of minor application fees are being abolished.
Visa and immigration application fees are a big cash cow for the Home Office. The IHS fees presumably just get passed on to the NHS but somebody applying for example for leave to remain as a partner in the UK, even under the current scheme, has to pay visa application fees of £1,048, and somebody applying for a partner visa from outside the UK pays £1,538 – and the same amounts for any dependants included in the application. And the current standard fee for settlement applications, for those who have to pay it, is a remarkable £2,404 per applicant.
But the Home Office has it seems over the last few years come to realise that its fees are unaffordable for some. It has introduced a Fee Waiver scheme, initially mostly for the benefit of in-country applicants but now for out-of-country applicants as well (but, NB, a fee waiver is not possible for an application for settlement.)
Applicants and family members applying for a range of visas – particularly family visas but also other types of human rights visa – are able to apply for a fee waiver, and this can potentially cover the cost of both the visa application fees and the IHS. The applicant has to submit a formal Fee Waiver application and prove with good documentary evidence that they cannot afford the fees or cannot afford all of the fees. The Home Office has written detailed policies on deciding Fee Waiver applications and an applicant who falls on the right side of these will receive a full or partial exemption from paying.
So if you are experiencing difficulties in paying your application fees we at GSN Immigration can advise and assist you.
Senior Immigration Lawyer