The government will hike visa charges next April to help pay for the cost of tackling illegal immigration and setting up the Points Based System.
A joint consultation by the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was launched today on how migrants should be charged to come to the UK to work, live, visit or study and to ensure a “fair and effective” immigration service.
The consultation will be examining how services are paid for in line with the Government’s commitment to transform the immigration service. Part of this commitment includes doubling the Immigration Services’ enforcement capability by 2009/10 with an extra £100m.
The consultation document is inviting views on how immigration and visa fees could “contribute” to these costs, and whether the existing charging system should be more flexible so that those living and working in the UK pay according to the benefits they receive.
The new charges will be implemented in April 2007, helping to fund the transition to the new points based system for managed migration.
“It’s not about prices” Liam Byrne, Immigration Minister
“The consultation is not about prices, but it is about how immigration services are paid for and the most appropriate way to charge. It asks whether applicants should contribute towards the costs of the whole immigration system from application to enforcement.
“In July the Home Secretary announced how we will strengthen border controls with identity technology and double enforcement in the UK. But all of these measures cost money and we think that it is right to consider who should pay for them.”
This suggests that those people who want to come to the UK legally should pay towards the cost of keeping out those who want to enter the country illegally.
Linking charges to the potential benefits received is a major shift in policy. One of the questions on the consultation asks: “Do you think applications for citizenship should be priced according to value or to the cost of processing the application?”
Workers and students already pay hefty fees for immigration services. The charge for extending ‘Leave to Remain’ over the counter for a work permit holder was recently doubled to £500.00.
A visa fee to stay in the UK can be as high as £260 and the fee for a Highly Skilled Migrant (HSMP) is £315.00. Employers have also been hit with charges for work permit applications and face further costs when the Point Based System is implemented. The news of the consultation were leaked to the press and reports appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Mirror, which reported that a new £1000 penalty fine will be imposed on anyone caught working illegally. Quite how they will enforce these fines is another question. Salary deduction will obviously not be an option.