Sky News has reported that Home Secretary Priti Patel is considering scrapping a concession on UK visa fees for citizens of 26 European countries. Solicitor Abigail Evans and paralegal Shanaz Ali, from our Immigration team, comment.
The 1961 European Social Charter provides for an automatic £55 reduction in fees for EU nationals, and people from Iceland, North Macedonia, Norway and Turkey, who seek UK work visas. The fee reduction is offered on a range of work visas, including skilled workers, health and care worker visas, charity workers and seasonal workers. In the attempt of making things 'fair', our Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is considering withdrawing the UK from the Charter.
A £55 reduction may not seem like much, but UK visa fees can range from approximately £1,000 to £2,500 per person and so the fee reduction provides a little financial relief for applicants. It is worth remembering that not only do applicants have to pay the fees but on top of that they must pay the immigration health surcharge, which is currently £624 per year for the total validity of the visa period, and £470 per year for students or an applicant under 18 years old. All fees must be paid per person, meaning anyone applying with their family faces a huge bill. The high fees mean that lower paid workers, those with families, and those from poorer countries are effectively excluded from migrating to the UK simply on affordability grounds.
Now that we are recovering from the pandemic, the government is quick to forget how essential frontline workers have been in the UK whilst considering this withdrawal from the 1961 Charter. While the government did extend health and care work visas without charge for some key workers, but not all, and exempted them from the immigration health surcharge, it now seems that this was only a necessary measure to provide incentive for frontline workers to remain in the UK during the peak of the pandemic but not beyond.
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