On 13 July 2023, the government announced it is hugely increasing immigration fees. This blog post will explain what the changes are, who they will affect, why Right to Remain opposes these changes and what we believe we should do to stop them.
The government has said it will make the following changes:
- The Immigration Health Surcharge will be increased from £624 a year to £1,035 per person. The Immigration Health Surcharge is essentially a form of double taxation on migrants, who already contribute to the NHS through their taxes.
- Work and visit visa fees will be increased 15%.
- Other visas, extensions, settlement and citizenship will be increased by 20%. This will include visa renewals for leave to remain on the 10 year route.
Who will these changes affect?
These fee increases will affect many people: our friends; our neighbours; and people in our communities. They will affect people applying for visas to come to the UK to be reunited with their family. They will affect people already living in the UK, who are working and paying taxes. Some of the people affected will work for the NHS or in other public sector roles.
Those worst affected will be migrants who are already struggling with the cost of living crisis, and the punishing effects of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) visa condition. We see already that high visa fees force people into debt, and these increases are likely to force more families into poverty and destitution.
What is next?
It is likely to take a few months to bring in these fee increases. The changes will have to be made by secondary legislation (this means another law created by government ministers), and there will have to be an economic impact assessment.
If you are worried about these fee increases and are in a position to make an earlier application, we would suggest that you consider making an application sooner.
The fee increases will also mean that more people will be eligible for a full or partial fee waiver, which is available for some applications. For example, for a visa renewal on the 10 year route, you can apply for a fee waiver for the application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. We have written a guide to making a fee waiver application yourself, which you can access here.
Why has the government brought in these changes?
As justification for these extortionate increases, the government claimed that the increase would be used to ‘fund the pay rise for doctors’ as well as other public sector pay increases.
We must reflect on this statement, and explain what is wrong with it.
Firstly, many people who currently work for the NHS, including doctors, will be negatively affected by this increase in fees. The government is attempting to pit migrants against doctors, overlooking the fact that migrants make up a huge proportion of the NHS workforce.
Secondly, this is an attempt by the government to drive a wedge between migrants and public sector workers who have been striking for better pay and conditions. It is a tactic designed to scapegoat migrants.
Thirdly, as pointed out by Free Movement, ‘it is not clear that it is legal to increase immigration fees for the purpose of funding pay rises for public sector workers’. We welcome legal challenges to this attempt by the government to use funds in this way.
The UK already has some of the highest immigration fees in Europe, and makes a profit on visa applications. We must resist this government’s latest cash-grabbing tactic, which will force more individuals and families into severe economic hardship.
We call on all workers and trade unions to condemn this government attempt to divide us! Stand with migrants!
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