Campaigners have called for urgent action to reduce Home Office fees as the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration launches an inquiry into the charges.
David Bolt issued a call for evidence as he started work on an inspection of the Home Office’s charging for asylum, immigration, nationality and customs services. Bolt said it would look at the rationale for the fees, including the amounts charged. Bolt’s inspection will “look at the rationale and authority for particular charges, including the amounts charged” and whether the services are being provided “efficiently and effectively”.
Fees for immigration and nationality applications have steadily risen since 2010 under the “hostile environment” policy, including in the latest round of changes in April. Figures released to the BBC showed the Home Office made £800m in revenue from fees in six years.
Among the charges are the £3,250 levy for indefinite leave for an adult dependent relative and £1,330 for an adult naturalisation application. The Home Office made profits of up to 800% on some immigration applications from families. The cost to the Home Office of processing a naturalisation application is £372.
In 2011, the fee for adult naturalisation was £700, while the registration fee for an adult has gone from £500 seven years ago to £1,206. The cost of a settlement visa for a dependent relative has risen from £585 in 2008-09 to £3,250 in 2017-18, an increase of 450%. Naturalisation for non-British overseas territory citizens costs £1,330, compared with £906 in 2014-15. Nationality registration for adults has gone up from £823 in 2014-15 to £1,206.
Registration fees for children have caused particular unease. Registration is the process where someone who has an existing right to British citizenship applies to obtain it. It costs £1,012 to register under-18s, up from £500 in 2011. In 2014, discounts for a second or additional child were scrapped.
Jan Doerfel, an immigration lawyer, said: “The ongoing narrative and myth is that migrants are a drain on the system and don’t pay their way. In fact, migrants have been paying disproportionate fees for many years, as the Home Office are charging migrants fees that greatly exceed what it costs them to actually process applications. It also needs to be borne in mind that many migrants working in the UK will have paid taxes for many years, whilst at the same time, would have been barred from having access to public funds to which they have effectively been contributing.”