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UK Govt announces immigration fees are due to rise significantly

Immigration - crowds of people at airport

In the midst of a parliamentary debate regarding Public Sector pay last week (Thursday 13 May 2023), the government announced that all immigration fees are due to imminently and significantly rise for the first time in many years. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury John Glen stated the following:

“… We will also take sound choices to maximise income. We plan to increase the rates of the immigration health surcharge, which have been frozen for the past three years, despite high inflation and wider pressures facing the economy and the system in general, to ensure that it covers the full healthcare costs of those who pay it. Under our plans, the main rate will increase to £1,035, and the discounted rate for students and under-18s will increase to £776. That increase to the surcharge will help to fund the pay rise for doctors.

At the same time, we will increase fees across a range of immigration and nationality routes, including for people coming here to live, work and study at a time of record high migration numbers. Specifically, that means increasing the cost of work visas and visit visas by 15%, and increasing the cost of study visas, certificates of sponsorship, settlement, citizenship, wider entry clearance, leave to remain and priority visas by at least 20%. We are also equalising costs for students and those using a priority service, so that people pay the same whether they apply from within the UK or from outside the UK. That will help to cover more of the cost of the migration and border system, allowing the Home Secretary to divert more funding to police forces to help fund the pay rise for the police. We will cut back on civil service recruitment in the Ministry of Defence until March 2025, helping to fund the pay rise for our armed forces…”

You can read more about this in the parliamentary record.

Anticipated UK immigration fees

Some examples of the anticipated increases are as follows:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship – £199 to £239+
  • Immigration Skills Charge – No announcement on this
  • Skilled Worker entry clearance fee (3 years or less) – £625 to  £719+
  • Skilled Worker in-country application fee (3 years or less) – £719 to £827+
  • Immigration Heath Surcharge – £624 per year to £1035
  • Priority service entry clearance (non-settlement) – £250 to £600+
  • Priority service in-country (non-settlement) – £500 to £600+

Timescales for fee increases

We do not currently know when these new fees will come into force. The government have traditionally made significant fee changes around April of each year but they are not historically wedded to that one period. Normally, immigration fees regulations are laid before parliament and then come into force 21 days later. They can bypass this 21 day period where justified (which they did to a recent change in the rules as they wanted to stop a rush of applications). Whilst I would hope we will have the 21 day grace period, I would not be surprised if they justified the immediate introduction to avoid a wave of applications being made at short notice.

Next steps for potential migrants

Many immigration applications can be made up to three months before entry or start dates. In some rare cases, you can go beyond that if justified e.g. senior or specialist hire that has a three month notice period with their current employer. As such, our recommendation is as follows:

  • For sponsors, f you have anyone you are planning to sponsor in the next three months, you can consider bringing that application forward and applying sooner
  • For sponsors looking to recruit, bring forward any recruitment plans where you believe there is a significant chance you will need to sponsor prospective employees
  • Employers and sponsors alike should consider advising current employees with visas of the impending increases.  The increases are such that they could be significant, especially for those sponsoring family members too
  • For those looking to make personal immigration applications, work out the earliest point you can apply.  We have many clients who do not realise they can apply for settlement earlier than expected as they mistakenly believe they need to wait until close to the expiry of their visa

If you have any questions on this or any general immigration or nationality questions, please contact us.

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