The Home Office is charging
'obscene' amounts for its
immigration services

On Sunday, The Guardian reported that one family from Trinidad and another from Ghana claim that immigration fees are so high that they had to choose between saving for their visas or paying for rented accommodation.

This comes after the Independent Chief Inspector issued a formal call for evidence to see whether the Home Office is offering value for money for its immigration services.

Chai Patel, legal policy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said in response:

‘The Home Office should not be making a profit on immigration application fees, and certainly not at the obscene mark-ups we see today.

‘It is simply wrong that there are children in the UK who are entitled to British citizenship, but cannot afford the exorbitant fees to register as British.

‘Instead, they are either forced into irregular status, or forced into a vicious cycle of paying the slightly less expensive fees for temporary status, over and over again, never quite accumulating enough to register as British.’

Figures released by the BBC in February showed that the Home Office made £800m in revenue from asylum, nationality, customs and immigration fees within six years.

Charges have risen hugely on some family applications.

For instance, the cost of a settlement visa for a dependant relative was £585 in 2009; in 2018 it had risen 450 per cent to £3,250. The fee for adult naturalisation is now £1,330. Seven years ago in 2011, it was just £700. In that same year, registering an under-18 was £500. Now it is £1,012. 

Stephen Doughty, a Labour MP on the home affairs select committee, said:

‘It is never acceptable to make a profit on these crucial activities.’

Solange Valdez-Symonds, the director of the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, also commented:

‘This fee prevents many children, including children born in the UK, exercising their right
to be recognised as British, leaving them exposed now and throughout their lives to the very same immigration system and powers that have so blighted the lives of many of the
Windrush generation.

‘Doing this to children, who have lived all or nearly all their lives in this country and are as British as any of their peers, is nothing short of a national disgrace.’

In 2011, the government announced that it would charge significantly more than it costs to process immigration applications, to offset cuts in funding and to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

A Home Office spokeswoman responded:

When setting fees, we also take into account the wider costs involved in running our border, immigration and citizenship system, so that those who directly benefit from it contribute to
its funding.

‘There are exceptions to application fees to protect the most vulnerable, such as for young people who are in the care of a local authority.

‘Application fees are also waived where evidence provided shows that a person may be destitute, or where there are exceptional financial circumstances, and requiring a payment would result in a breach of rights under the European convention on human rights.’

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