UK Immigration Fees Up To 500% Rise Despite Protests
Despite fierce opposition, the UK government is set to press ahead with Immigration court fee increases, some of which top 500%. This is despite the fact that a recent consultation on the proposed new fees saw 143 out of 147 responders oppose the move.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed the decision last Thursday, saying it was grateful for the responses to the consultation, but the policy remained that, where fees were charged to access public services, they should be set at such a level to recover the full cost. The Ministry is anticipating that the charges will bring an extra £34 million into the Treasury.
The increases will result in applications to the First-Tier Tribunal dealing with Immigration and Asylum cases escalating from £80 to £490 for “a decision on the papers,” and from £140 to £800 for an oral hearing.
Fees are to be introduced for the first time for appeals to the upper tribunal: £350 for applications and £510 for the appeal hearing.
The Ministry’s response to the consultation estimates that the charges will raise £34m a year on top of the £7 million brought in annually by existing fees. This compares with estimated annual running costs of £86 million for both tribunals.
Many community-based organisations and some of the best Immigration lawyers in the country are horrified by the imminent increases, saying they will deny many migrants access to justice.
One concession as a result of the consultation has been granted. Immigration and Asylum applicants who have already been assessed as destitute by the Home Office will not have to pay the tribunal fees. Existing exemptions, such as for those on Asylum support or people who already qualify for legal aid, will continue to apply.
Who will be hit hardest?
According to government reports, a vast majority of Asylum seekers and refugees receive legal aid and will therefore not be liable to pay the fees. The groups most likely to be denied access to justice are those challenging decisions relating to the points-based system such as family, student and work visas.
This group has already had much of their access to justice removed when the Government disallowed any appeals relating to points-based visas except on Human Rights grounds. The steep increase in fees will make it near impossible for many applicants to bring a challenge in the Tribunals, even if they do have valid grounds under the European Convention of Human Rights.
Are Immigration appeals no longer an option?
The move to increase fees so sharply seems to be another nail in the coffin of Immigration appeals. Even if grounds for an appeal under Human Rights are established, it still must be made outside of the UK. Furthermore, waiting times for a case to be heard are around 18 months.
It is therefore imperative that applicants for a points-based system visa utilise the best Immigration lawyer possible when submitting an initial visa application. Many clients engage us after attempting to apply for a UK visa themselves, or worse, after paying money for inexperienced or ineffectual legal representation. Because of the time it takes to push an appeal through the Tribunal system, and the huge court costs that they will now face, many applicants end up feeling betrayed by the system and giving up on their dream of coming to the UK.
By engaging a good Immigration solicitor at the beginning of your visa application process, you will have the following advantages:
- The visa application process is likely to be made correctly first time, thus ensuring that an appeal is not required. It is important to note that the Home Office may look for any mistake or reason to fail an application that is made via the points-based system. An experienced Immigration solicitor will take the time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your application and collate the correct documents you need to support your position.
- If your application for entry into the UK fails, a good Immigration lawyer will seek avenues for challenging the case via judicial review. judicial review is the process by which the courts examine the validity of decisions made by public bodies and can be used in situations where the right of appeal is not available and/or the applicant cannot afford the new court costs.
The fee increases for first-tier tribunals are to be implemented imminently, followed by those for the upper tribunal.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We can assist you with all aspects of visa applications, Immigration appeals and judicial review.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123