03 Feb Immigration fees and charging: public views and government response
The UK government solicited public opinion via an online consultation regarding the current fees and charging for the UKBA (visa and immigration) services. The consultation report was published on 11 November 2013. The goal of the consultation was to address the main issues in the current fees and visa processing system and find appropriate solutions in order to improve the general service. Respondents were asked to provide feedback related to such matters as: simplicity of the fees structure; level of fees; premium service; border force services and commercial partnerships.
One of the main discussions held over the structure and level of the fees: 38% of respondents acknowledged that the fee’s structure is too complex. This opinion is largely based on the fact that there are too many fee categories which confuses an applicant who accidently may pay incorrect fees. Overseas applicants whose English is not the first language are particularly affected as they struggle to understand the legal terminology in application’s guidelines. Another issue is the level of the fees. Many professionals from the education sector consider that the fees for the student and the Tier 4 visa are too high which may affect negatively UK’s competitiveness comparing to other higher education destinations.
In regards to other visa categories, some respondents suggested that dependants applying in line with the main applicant shall benefit from reduced application fees. The government response to this concern was that the dependants benefit from the application’s approval at the same level as the main applicant; therefore, the level of fees is justified. Application’s time processing is another issue brought up in the consultation. Respondents proposed that in some cases applicants shall have an option to pay additional fees for a faster decision making for example, for nationality applications.
A number of new measures are going to be introduced in the course of this year. Among them, new fee categories and concessions for certain working visa schemes. It was also highlighted that the government is engaged in safeguarding UK’s competitiveness in the tourist sector, therefore no considerable fee change is expected for the tourist visa.
Many interesting suggestions were expressed in relation to the Premium and optional services. Respondents suggested having different packages at different prices and more flexible options that will permit an applicant to choose the most optimal premium service according to their needs and budget.
The government currently works on a new program in accordance with the results of the consultation that will be discussed in Parliament in February 2014. The new fees will be introduced in March-April 2014.
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