Extortionate immigration Fees for migrants: Unfair & Inhumane
In the last decade, we have witnessed the exponential rise in the fees and charges attached to immigration applications for visas (permission to come or remain in the UK) made by migrants to the Home Office. Migrants and their families are crumbling under the burden of these fees & charges as some are forced into making precarious choices in order to afford the fees/charges. In February 2021, the court of appeal ruled that the immigration fees for child citizenship applications were ‘illegal’. £1,000 fees for child citizenship are illegal, appeals court rules | The Independent
At Migrant Action, we are seeing increasing levels of hardship and precarious living amongst migrants. Often, they have no recourse to public funds and in low wage jobs hence struggle to afford not just the legal fees but worse still, the extortionate immigration fees & NHS surcharges. One mother stated ‘we had to make a choice between heating and saving up for our application’. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our ‘Access to Justice’ scheme funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, enabled us to support vulnerable migrants/ families impacted by Covid-19 to secure legal advice and assistance with immigration applications which involved fee waiver applications.
While our ‘Access to Justice’ offers a short term solution and makes a big difference to the lives of a few migrants, the charging of extortionate visa fees, NHS surcharges and other immigration related fees are widely viewed as punitive, unfair and represents an injustice in the immigration system. A change in the immigration fee charging system is necessary and would offer fairness and equity allowing most migrants avert the throes of poverty, destitution and precarious living.
Migrant Voice has been working with numerous organisations across the migration sector as well as organisations outside of the sector such as trade unions to ensure that we have a full understanding of the impact of extortionate Visa Fees on Migrants across the UK – this Includes Migrant Action. Migrant Action is delighted to be involved in this campaign against extortionate visa fees seeking system change.
See more below about the campaign.
Join the campaign against extortionate visa fees
Migrant Voice is leading a campaign against extortionate immigration fees, which are having a devastating impact on many of our migrant members and their families.
Most visa fees have risen exponentially in the last decade, while the NHS surcharge and the extortionate cost of appointments and other associated costs add hundreds of pounds to each application. For example a family of four on the 10 year route to settlement can expect to pay in excess of £40,000. Our campaign wants to change this. We want to see all fees reduced to admin costs for adults, free for children.
Over the last months we have been listening to affected migrants and their families and gathering information from other organisations working on related issues to help shape our campaign. Through focus groups, a survey, and ongoing meetings we are developing the campaign’s strategy and plan, its priority areas, activities and recommendations. We continue to gather evidence of the impact extortionate visa fees is having and how this has been exacerbated due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Stephanie, 48, from Nigeria is one of those who wants the campaign to succeed. She is working as a healthcare assistant and has two children. She estimates she has spent close to £15,000 in visa fees to date. Her visa must be renewed every 2.5 years and at each visa renewal she must pay around £2,500 in fees, plus the £1,560 NHS surcharge.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A decade ago, fees in this country were more affordable. We believe it’s wrong for the government to continue to make a profit from migrants paying to stay in the UK,with some fees charged up to ten times the actual cost.
The costs are so high that they have a direct impact on Stephanie’s family finances: she says, “When it is time for you to renew you are looking everywhere for money. You have no money to save, for school, rent, car insurance. My son is finishing college and I want him to go into further education but that is hard, financially.” Because her visa is still temporary, she has No Recourse to Public Funds.
The costs to migrants aren’t just financial – many families suffer mental and physical health problems, with some families sacrificing food, heating and electricity to make sure they can make their payments to the Home Office when the time comes.
Stephanie works as much as she can to make ends meet, often giving up family time or sick leave. Still, she sometimes must borrow money from other people. “I work six days a week in order for me to pay for everything and it’s still not enough, I still have debt … I don’t have time with my kids because I have to work so much. There is no time to sit down with family or take them out.”
She says that her life is reduced to working in order to pay for her visa. “I don’t feel heard by the government; they don’t know what I am going through. We are human too. I want to be heard.”
Migrant Voice are currently running a survey online to collect information and experiences from people like Stephanie on their interaction with the UK Visas and immigration system and the impact it has had on them and their families. We would be grateful for anyone affected who could complete this survey, it should only take 15 minutes. Please also share it amongst your own networks to make sure we hear from those affected:
Migrant Voice are also conducting interviews with migrants and their families who have been affected by the extortionate cost of Visas in the UK. If anyone would like to participate in these interviews, or would like to know more about the campaign please contact our Campaigns Organiser Cameron Ball: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please join us in raising awareness of these issues. You can get involved in several ways by sharing your experiences, taking part in shaping the campaign, take part in our network meetings, training, and lobby activities, share the link to our survey and spread awareness of our campaign with people who are affected, collaborate with us on this and inter-related issues.
Migrant Voice is a migrant-led organisation working with migrants from all around the world with all kinds of status. We develop the media skills and confidence of migrants with the aim of strengthening their voices in the media and civil society in order to counter xenophobia and build support for our rights. We have offices and networks in London, the West Midlands and Glasgow.