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
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.