MPs agree huge visa fee increase

A committee of MPs has agreed new visa fees despite considering evidence from JCWI that women and elderly relatives will be hardest hit.

The proposed fees will now go before the House of Lords on March 4, 2010 with the debate chaired by Lord West of Spithead.

Visa fees for adult ‘dependant relatives’ will be increased from £585.00 to £1680.00, and for the cost of making a settlement applications to rise from £820 to £1680.00, or £1930, if the new recommendations are accepted.

Dr Evan Harris, who is member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, referred to policy advice drawn up by JCWI before becoming the only MP to vote against the increases.

He told the committee: “Imposing the sort of fee increases we are talking about on dependent relatives—often women—means that those households will face a threefold increase in the fee, but the fee will be six times as high as the estimated unit cost. They are being singled out and will be made to put a much larger subsidy into the system than almost all the other groups.

“If one were interested in redistribution one might ask why premier league footballers are being made to pay only 7.5 times as much as the actual cost of a settlement visa, while a dependent relative, albeit someone who cannot kick a football, is expected to pay six times as much as the estimated actual cost.

“That does not seem to me to be anywhere near redistributive. If one looked at disposable income, as the Conservative spokesman suggested, even the ratio of £15,000 to anything else on the page is nowhere near in line with the ability to pay. The Minister was quite right not to make too great an assertion that the measure was redistributive.”

 He added: “I do not know whether the Minister has seen, as I have, a series of case studies from the Joint Committee for the Welfare of Immigrants, dealing with people who are often vulnerable, who often come to the UK as children and are then abandoned and need to sort out their status.

“However, they are unable to sort out their status because they cannot afford the fee. They are left in limbo for longer, which does not serve their interest and does not serve the interests of the country either. Simply to be turned down on the basis of being in penury or being poor does not meet our obligations under human rights law or indeed, where appropriate, our international obligations.”

The Conservative shadow minister, Damian Green, said during the debate: “…the fee for the new category of settlement visa dependent relative is set extremely high, at £1,680—previously, dependants applied for a settlement visa in their own right, at £585, so that is a threefold increase, which seems to suggest that the visa cost is meant to be a deterrent. Will the Minister answer that question?”

JCWI is now identifying members of the House of Lords who may raise the same concerns and call on peers to examine these extraordinarily high fees for dependent relatives.

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

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