Immigration - Process to become more applicant-friendly but also more costly


The government has announced a series of changes to the Immigration Rules coming into force on 1 November 2018.

While many of the changes signal a move towards a more applicant-friendly culture at the Home Office, a proposed increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge is far less welcome.

4 Key Changes to the Rules

  • Application Process
    Changes to the Rules have been made to facilitate more applications being made online, although there will still be the option to submit paper applications in many cases.
  • Evidential Requirements
    Applicants will be able to provide copy documents rather than having to provide originals. The Home Office has made it clear that further enquiries may be required if there is any question over validity.
  • Evidential Flexibility
    Existing rules allowing Home Office caseworkers to request obviously missing documents in very limited circumstances are being broadened to provide more flexibility for caseworkers. This will hopefully give applicants a better opportunity to rectify mistakes or provide additional documentation, whereas previously applications would simply be rejected or refused.
  • Return of Passports
    The Home Office will return an applicant's passport while the application is outstanding unless it is considered necessary for it to be retained. However, leaving the UK while an application is being considered will still result in the application being treated as withdrawn.

Overall, the changes show a shift from the previous Home Office approach, which has often been seen to be very strict, to a more 'applicant-friendly' common sense way of dealing with applications.

Increased Immigration Health Surcharge

While many of the above changes are welcome, the government proposes to double the Immigration Health Surcharge from £200 per person per year to £400 (£150 to £300 for students and those on the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme).

Immigration application fees are already very high, so this increase is likely to put off more would-be immigrants to the UK.

A family of five applying for five-year visas would now need to pay £10,000 just for the Immigration Health Surcharge. If applying under the Tier 2 (General) category, they would also need to pay £6,100 in application fees (non-refundable in the event of a refusal) and if they then want to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of the five-year period they would then need to pay a further £11,945 (based on today's fees - that fee will almost certainly have increased in five years' time).

So the total immigration fees for that family of five, from initial visas through to indefinite leave to remain, would be £28,045. That eye-watering expense doesn't include the costs for the employer of sponsoring the worker (which may include an Immigration Skills Charge of up to £1,000 for each year of sponsorship), or the costs of English language testing, medical tests, the Life in the UK Test and other 'incidental' costs which might be required when applying for visas and leave to remain in the UK.

In summary, the changes to the Immigration Rules provide for a more flexible and common sense approach to the application process and appear to be aimed at stamping out a culture of refusals for minor technical errors or omissions. On the other hand, the ever increasing fees are likely to act as a significant deterrent to some prospective migrants.

For further information on immigration issues, please contact Tom Brett Young in our Immigration team on 0121 227 3759.