The cost of a visa application typically involves at least the application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. Already at a high level, these fees will increase further.
On 13 July 2023, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced:
‘We plan to increase the rates of the immigration health surcharge, which have been frozen for the past three years, despite high inflation and wider pressures facing the economy and the system in general, to ensure that it covers the full healthcare costs of those who pay it. Under our plans, the main rate will increase to £1,035, and the discounted rate for students and under-18s will increase to £776. That increase to the surcharge will help to fund the pay rise for doctors.
At the same time, we will increase fees across a range of immigration and nationality routes, including for people coming here to live, work and study at a time of record high migration numbers. Specifically, that means increasing the cost of work visas and visit visas by 15%, and increasing the cost of study visas, certificates of sponsorship, settlement, citizenship, wider entry clearance, leave to remain and priority visas by at least 20%.’
At the same time, a number of measures to increase the pay for a variety of professions in the UK were set out.
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is charged per year of permission requested in the UK. It will increase from the current level of £470 per year for children and those applying under the Student and Youth Mobility routes, and will increase from £624 for adults under all other applicable immigration routes.
The visa application fee can vary enormously depending on the visa type, but under the current proposals, if applying for a typical Skilled Worker application for up to three years for instance, the fee will increase from £625 to £718.75.
A Certificate of Sponsorship normally has two fees included: the assigning fee (currently set at £199),and the Immigration Skills Charge (currently set at £364 per year of permission for small businesses and £1,000 per year of permission for large businesses). It is unclear whether the Immigration Skills Charge will also increase, but if it does, this could change the typical cost of an individual application (including IHS and CoS assigning fees), from close to £3,800, to closer to £5,400. This is not including fees for dependants, legal fees, English language tests or TB screenings.
The numbers of organisations who have obtained a sponsor licence, and of Skilled Workers entering the UK, have vastly increased in the past year, and such a massive fee increase is likely to reduce the appeal of sponsoring non-UK nationals.
In slightly more welcome news, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury also announced:
‘We are also equalising costs for students and those using a priority service, so that people pay the same whether they apply from within the UK or from outside the UK.’
This is a helpful clarification, as priority visa fees can vary enormously.
The Minister for Immigration also separately set out that there will be a number of simplifications including removing the £19.20 biometric enrolment fee (as the immigration system becomes largely digital) and removing the £161 fee charged for an in-country transfer of conditions, for those with limited leave to remain.
There was no indication as to when these new fees will apply – do subscribe to our legal updates for the latest news and developments.