Applicants for UK visas may discover that – even if they manage to get round the new immigration caps – increasing fees makes the application process more expensive than expected.
What is Behind the Fee Increase?
Naturally the price paid to apply for a visa has to keep up with the costs of processing the application and remain relative to the price paid for other goods and services. However, additional factors have contributed to the latest increase in fees which took effect on 6 April 2011 and which came less than six months after the previous increase in the fees for visa applications.
The UK is facing severe public-spending constraints and the UK Border Agency has had its budget cut as part of the coalition government’s cost-saving measures. Many of the usual methods of increasing revenue – such as increased taxes – can be unpopular with voters. Conversely, restricting immigration to the UK could appeal to voters. Cynical observers may think that increasing visa fees could be a win-win move for the government: either revenues increase or immigration drops.
(The fee for all visa applications is considerably higher if made in the UK at a public enquiry office.)
Increase to Fees for Student Visa Applications
Unsurprisingly, given the UK government’s intention to reduce the number of student visas, this type of application is amongst those which will be hit by the fee increases. Student visas for those wishing to study in the UK are governed by Tier 4 of the points-based immigration system. In November 2010 the fee for the main applicant for a Tier 4 visa made from outside of the UK was £220, a postal application made within the UK cost £357 and an application made at a public enquiry office cost £650. These fees will rise to £255, £386 and £702 respectively.
The cost for a short-term student visa – entitling the bearer to study in the UK for less than 12 months – will leap from £70 to £140. (It is believed that short-term student visas have been particularly prone to abuse.)
Fees for Highly Skilled Worker Visas
Tier 1 of the points-based immigration system covers highly skilled workers. In November 2010 the fees for visas under this Tier ranged from £300 to £750 for applications made from outside of the UK and from £500 to £1150 for applications made within the UK.
Applications made from April 2011 for Tier 1 visas from outside of the UK (were they to be accepted – see below) are set to range from £300 to £800. Applicants for post-study Tier 1 visas will see by far the steepest proportionate increase in this Tier, with the fee increasing from £344 to £474. Applications made from within the UK will cost from £500 to £1300 for the main applicant. (As of December 2010 the UK’s immigration authorities were not accepting applications from abroad under this category.)
Fees for Skilled Worker Visas
Tier 2 visas apply to sponsored skilled workers. In November 2010 applications made outside of the UK cost £300 or £350 depending on the applicant and from £450 to £800 for applications made within the UK. From April 2011 the fees for most Tier 2 visas are set to rise to £400 for applications from outside of the UK and will range from £495 to £850 for most Tier 2 applications made within the UK.
Fees for Other Types of Visas
Applications made outside of the UK for a short stay visa in November 2010 cost £70, a five-year visa cost £450 and a 10-year visa cost £650. The fees for these visas will rise to £76, £486 and £702 respectively. The cost for a settlement visa in November 2010 was £750 – in April 2011 this rises to £810.
Changes to the Fees for Citizenship Applications
The coalition government’s immigration policy is not only intended to discourage new immigrants from coming to the UK. The new rules may also discourage foreign-born residents from making the UK their permanent home. The path to citizenship has become considerably more onerous, and expensive, over the last 10 years. Many people believe that citizenship is something to be earned – the costs of applying to become a British citizen emphasise that point.
In November 2010 the cost of naturalisation for a single applicant was £780 (which included the £80 fee for a citizenship ceremony). From 6 April 2011 this increases to £836 – which still includes the fee for the citizenship ceremony. The cost of applying for indefinite leave to remain for a single principle applicant ranged from £850 to £1250 in November 2010. The cost from April 2011 ranges from £875 to £1350.