Date updated: Monday 29th January 2024

The charity sector should be aware of significant increases to immigration fees taking place between October 2023 and January 2024. These increased costs will directly affect charities’ bottom line, where they are responsible for employee sponsorship or visa costs. Charities should also be aware of the impact of fee increases on overseas nationals within the local and specialist communities they serve. Charities responsible for providing front-line services and advice to those in poverty are likely already aware of the financial burden visa fees place on individuals and families and are advocating for policy reform on behalf of those who are adversely impacted.

The House of Lords highlighted the “crippling level of fees” in December 2023, arguing that this level of fee increase will:

  • create an unjustified financial barrier to children securing their rights to British citizenship;

  • cause other individuals to fall out of lawful immigration status and face significant debt and precarity;

  • damage the UK’s economy – the UK is less able to compete for global talent where the cost of Skilled Worker’s three-year permit has been set 540% above other leading science nations

Immigration fees are not set on a cost-recovery basis; the Government’s long-term policy is that visa and nationality fees are used to fund the costs of border control and migration management, rather than those things being funded by general taxation. The latest fee increases are designed to assist the Government in meeting its target to reduce net migration to the UK, arguably by setting fees at a prohibitive level.

There are various factors which influence the actual cost of any application, including:

  • the duration of visa, as the number of charges is calculated on an annual basis;

  • whether the application is urgent and therefore priority service is required to reduce the service time (at a higher cost);

  • the size of the family, as separate applications and costs must be paid for each dependant.

The total cost of any immigration application could comprise of:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship fee – this applies to all sponsored visa routes and is borne by the employer;

  • Immigration Skills Charge – this applies to all sponsored visa routes (unless there is a specific role exemption) and is borne by the employer;

  • Home Office Application fee – this applies to all visa and nationality applications;

  • Priority fee and services at Visa Application Centre – these are optional and vary according to location;

  • Immigration Health Surcharge – this applies to visa applicants (unless there is a specific role exemption).

Given these different factors, the total cost of securing any given visa for an individual or family will vary. It is also necessary to consider that fees are payable on initial application, on any visa extension, on an application for settlement and on an application to naturalise as a British citizen to thereby obtain a British passport. In real terms, the increases on what were already high fees typically involve applicants paying hundreds and thousands more pounds to secure their status and right to live and work in the UK.  The House of Lords gave the example that someone on a 10-year route to settlement, a route which is typically used by those on lower incomes, could pay as much as £19,000 for a single adult, with further costs for registering biometrics, and for any partner or children. 

The increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge from £624 to £1035 per year alone, due to come in on 6 February 2024, will spike costs further.  

Where it is possible to do so, charities and individuals are advised to bring forward any applications ahead of further increases, and to consider the impacts on their beneficiaries and whether lobbying fits within their charitable aims.