Last week, new legislation (The Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2016 No. 226) was implemented by the Home Office, which affects the fees applicable for certain immigration applications.
New application fees will begin to take effect from 18 March this year. The fee levels though have not been increased across the board but in some cases have either remained the same or even been reduced.
The Government's stated intention behind these fee changes is explained as "the first step towards achieving self-funding", i.e. to reach the Home Office's objective for the border, immigration and citizenship system to become self-funded by 2019-2020, "thus relieving the burden on the taxpayer". It is estimated that the new rates will result in an additional £100 million of income this year and next.
The most significant fee increase affects applications for settlement, nationality and residence routes, which will see an increase of 25%. Optional premium services will also increase. For example an application for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) will increase by £375 from £1,500 to £1,875. To utilise the optional super premium service will cost an additional £8,750 (an increase of £1,750). Applying to settle as a dependent relative will increase by £535 to £1,875 and becoming a British citizen by naturalising will increase by £231 to £1,530 plus the additional £80 for the citizenship ceremony fee.
The rationalisation for these increased costs is said to reflect 'the value of the benefits and entitlements' that these successful applicants obtain from the UK such as unrestricted access to the UK labour market and being able to bring dependants to the UK who also have the same benefit.
Immigration applications for students, workers and visitors are also set to increase, although by a much lower level of 2%. These routes are seen to be 'most strongly associated with economic growth' and therefore the reason these fees have not increased dramatically is said to ensure the Government's intended objective of attracting 'the brightest and best' to work and study in the UK is not hindered.
It remains to be seen what effect (if any), the changes to these fees will have on the net migration figures, which currently remains at record levels of around 323,000 which is continuing to cause concern for the current Government. If the latest ONS statistics are anything to go by, it appears there continues to be a significantly large number of people (both within the EU and outside the EU) coming to the UK for work with the Office for National Statistics finding that "nearly half of the growth in employment over the last year was accounted for by foreign nationals" (see here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/migrationstatisticsquarterlyreport/february2016). Whilst foreign workers appear to be on the increase, the same cannot be said for students, which saw a reduction in applications for student visas over the same period. A further increase to student fees, although not significant, may further inhibit these numbers.
Some of the fees that will remain unchanged include applications for Convention Travel Documents (currently £72 for an adult) and fees for all sponsorship categories.