Government’s Immigration Fee Increases Spark Controversy and Financial Burden on Migrants
Immigration Health Surcharge and Fee Increases
The immigration health surcharge, a mandatory state health insurance for migrants, will witness a considerable hike. The normal rate will increase from £624 to £1,035 per year, affecting workers entering for six months or more, as well as family members of migrants and British citizens. The discounted rate for students, children, and youth mobility visa holders will also rise from £470 to £776 per year. The rationale provided by the minister for this increase is to fund the pay rise for doctors.
Furthermore, immigration and nationality fees will experience an increase as well. Work and visit visas will rise by 15%, while student visas, certificates of sponsorship, settlement, citizenship, entry clearance, and leave to remain applications will face an increase of at least 20%. As a result, the cost of settlement applications, for instance, will rise to at least £2,885 per person, leading to a significant financial burden for migrants and their families.
Implications and Concerns
The exorbitant cost of immigration fees, combined with the immigration health surcharge, poses several challenges and concerns. Firstly, the overall expenses for a family of four can surpass £33,000, excluding the costs of legal representation, thereby creating a stark disparity between migrants and their co-workers or fellow residents.
The fee increases also hinder the integration of migrant families and may force some into financial difficulties or potential illegality. Unpredictable fee hikes make it impossible for migrants to plan and budget for their future, which could lead to hardships and hinder their ability to access settlement visas or other essential services. These circumstances not only burden families emotionally and financially but also impede their integration into society, contradicting the principles of good social policy.
Controversy and Legal Considerations
The decision to increase immigration fees with the purpose of funding pay rises for public sector workers has raised legal questions. The power to set immigration and nationality fees is vested in the Home Secretary, as per the Immigration Act 2014. While the Act outlines considerations to which the Home Secretary may have regard, it does not explicitly mention funding pay rises for public sector workers. Conversely, the immigration health surcharge, governed by the same Act, lacks clear limitations on fee increases.
Public Reaction and Employer Practices
The fee increases have elicited strong dissatisfaction from employers, universities, migrants, and British citizens. Employers, in particular, have resorted to “clawback” clauses, wherein they pay the visa and health surcharge costs but require repayment if the employee leaves. Such practices trap employees, preventing them from leaving the country or seeking alternative employment within the UK. The issue of whether public sector employers typically cover these fees remains unclear.
The substantial increases in immigration fees and the immigration health surcharge have triggered widespread criticism and sparked concerns about financial burdens and inequality for migrants and their families. The unpredictability of fee hikes and their impact on integration and future planning exacerbate the challenges faced by migrants. While the government may view these fee increases as a means to redistribute resources and fund public sector pay rises, their implementation warrants careful consideration to ensure fair and equitable treatment of migrants while preserving the principles of a just and inclusive society.”