Home Office fees increase year on year, and are a major problem for the vast majority of people who want to apply for a visa or extend their leave. But what if you can’t afford it?
Home Office fees increase year on year, and are a major problem for the vast majority of people who want to apply for a visa or extend their leave. The Home Office has a list of its fees here, and a quick look shows that an average human rights application for a 2.5 year visa costs £1,048. This is not to mention the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which is an additional £1,560 for a standard application. It therefore costs almost £2,600 to get a standard visa that has to be renewed in 2.5 years’ time. That is before we even consider the cost of English language tests that are a requirement of most visas, the extra charge of £500 or £800 for priority consideration of the visa, and, of course, lawyers’ fees.
The Home Office has recently brought in the option to apply for 60 months’ leave to remain rather than the standard 30 months. Whilst this of course means that the IHS fees will double, it saves money in the long run because you will only have to pay Home Office fees every 5 years rather than every 2.5 years.
But what if you can’t afford it? Thankfully, it is possible to get a waiver of these fees if you don’t have the money. It’s important to note that fee waivers are not available for every time of application, most notably citizenship. However, it is available for most human rights and private life applications (including spouse applications).
Obviously this is not something that the Home Office has brought in willingly, and it is only following three major court cases over the last few years that fee waivers have become possible.
Fee waivers were introduced following the decision of R (Omar) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCH 3348, and the policy was modified following R (Carter) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2603 (Admin) and R (Dzineku-Liggison & Ors) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fee Waiver Guidance v3 unlawful)  UKUT 222 (IAC). If a person is unable to pay the fees associated with a human rights application, they may apply for a fee waiver. If they are found to be unable to pay those fees, the fees will be waived.
Initially the Home Office interpreted the case of Omar in an overly strict way, focusing on whether or not the person was destitute or whether the fees associated with an application would cause destitution. Following the cases of Carter and Dzineku-Liggison, the only test is now whether or not a person can afford the fees associated with the application.
Fee waiver applications count as immigration applications for the purposes of section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971, meaning that if you submit a fee waiver before your previous application expires, your leave continues. Once you have the response to your fee waiver application, you have 10 working days to make the main application before your 3C leave is broken.
So what do you need to show to get a waiver of the home office fees? How can you prove that you cannot afford the fee? The four criteria the home office have to consider are:
What is important to note is that recent clarification and updates in home office guidance is that it is enough to show you cannot afford the fee.
So how do you show this? As a minimum, you will need to submit 6 months’ bank statements for all accounts you have in the UK – if you do not do this, the Home Office will refuse the application. You may also need to submit letters from friends and family who support you financially or provide you with accommodation to confirm this and explain why they cannot afford the fee. You should also provide evidence of your outgoings, such as tenancy agreements and council tax bills.
If you are working, you should provide payslips and a contract. If you are working illegally, you are not automatically excluded from applying. Any income from illegal working will simply be counted towards your income, but you will be informed that you are likely committing a criminal offence and should stop working illegally.
You will be expected to provide bank statements for every adult who lives in your household. All bank accounts provided will have to be annotated, explaining any large (over £100) and regular transactions.
In our experience, the caseworkers who consider fee waiver applications used to be sympathetic and patient. They would often contact us if they needed further information and were more than willing to extend deadlines. It was a rare example of the home office being patient, friendly, and accommodating.
Unfortunately, we have noticed in the last 6 months or so that the fee waiver team is becoming much stricter. Applications are being refused on the basis that friends can or should pay for the application, even where they have only been providing accommodation to the Applicants thus far, and are not family members. We are being asked to go through each bank statemen with a fine tooth comb and justify any and every transaction.
That is not to say that it is not worth applying. Home Office fees are expensive, and if a fee waiver application is done properly, you should still be accepted.
If you want advice or help on a fee waiver application, get in touch with us today.
Kim Pullinger, Pupil Barrister