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Statement: increasing visa fees, August 2023

United Impact’s statement on the government’s announcement to increase visa fees and the immigration health surcharge in the UK

We are a group called United Impact, a group which consists of about 70 members who are all migrants and live in the UK.  We are aware that there are hundreds of thousands of migrants who are also living in and contributing positively to the UK.  

We feel that the new policy the government proposes to introduce to increase visa fees and the immigration health surcharge is racist and unfair. This act is another demonstration of modern day slavery and racism. This government proposal is further evidence of the treatment we have received and continue to receive, and shows how the government views us migrants as a whole.

Migrants work here and contribute to society, and are already being charged twice for basic things via national insurance contributions, tax and the current visa application fees and immigration health surcharge. However this new law would increase the charges and we believe that the government should find another way to fund the pay rise for public sector workers.  Of course we agree that teachers and nurses should be paid fairly, but why should migrants be charged triple for this?

We say absolutely No! to this increase, it cannot be implemented.


The cost of living crisis

We are barely surviving in the current high cost of living crisis, this will make it so much worse.

Most of us are on a 10 year route to settlement, every 30 months we have to renew our visas and are granted limited leave to remain in the UK, sometimes with a condition of no recourse to public funds attached (NRPF). Having NRPF means we are not entitled to access social housing or welfare benefits, and so we have no safety net. Yet we still have to pay immigration fees, the immigration health surcharge, and the cost of a legal representative every 30 months, let alone other bills. This lasts for 10 very hard years until we are entitled to apply and pay for indefinite leave to remain. 

The cost of one 30 month visa application for one adult including the immigration health surcharge rise, will increase from £2,608 to at least £3,845.50.  Over ten years this will cost one adult over £18,000, £5000 more than before with this proposed increase, with no guarantee that this won’t increase yearly,  

It’s hard enough with one child let alone in larger families.  We do not have savings or anyone to turn to, we have to face this alone. 

In addition, we are subjected to certain jobs as many employers won’t employ us due to the length of the visa and restrictions.  The result is that we are not able to progress with career development and higher earnings, as we would otherwise if we were not restricted by the visa length.

We cannot save anything for emergencies, we cannot afford to pay our utility bills and rent, nor the legal cost of hiring a lawyer to help us make our visa application. The cost of living is constantly rising, so how can our families survive?  This has already led to homelessness and further food poverty.  Where does the government expect us to find the money from?   Gas and electricity bills will go up during winter as families will have to pay to heat their homes, in reality most families will not turn the heaters on.  This will put us migrants at risk of different types of exploitation work, domestic servitude, precarious jobs etc. 

This policy will force more people to become undocumented.  Being charged extortionate fees is just another trauma on top of all of that we have to go through in the UK’s hostile immigration environment.


The impact on the mental health of families

We believe the pressure that would be caused by this increase in fees, during a cost of living crisis, will not only affect migrant’s mental health, but will cause further tension in homes between couples, parents and children.

This might lead to domestic abuse and children living in unhealthy home environments, which could cause children to seek shelter in the wrong places, for example getting involved in gang activities and leaving them vulnerable to exploitative situations. 

Even following the announcement of the proposal, we can see a high number of migrants reporting an increase in depression, stress and anxiety, which may further cause an increase of suicide as people can’t seem to find a way out.

An example of this is one of our members reports that three of her friends have died by suicide within a month due to financial pressures.

We are left astonished at the government’s abusive treatment towards us migrants, we are not just migrants, we are people who live in the UK and continue to contribute positively to society, by paying taxes, doing voluntary work and much more. 

In as much as this is modern day slavery, this is also an example of emotional slavery.


The further impact on children

We are very worried about our children, the negative impact on their physical, emotional and educational development, and what this pressure could lead them to.

We already struggle to buy basic essentials for our children such as clothes, food, toiletries, let alone pay for things like exercise classes, school trips or tuition for our children’s development and education.

Our children are already subjected to poor nutrition, not having enough clothes, or somewhere safe to live, due to the immigration costs that are imposed upon us.             

Our children are now on school holidays, but we can’t do anything with them as we don't have any money.  We have to just think about saving for the immigration costs.If we now have to save even more money for immigration fees, what other essential needs should we not provide for our children, in order to save for this? 

Even when you work 40 hours a week it’s not enough to pay for bills and save.   

Alot of us have had to choose which family members to make immigration applications for due to the fees, which is causing separation and mental anguish between family members.


Further barriers to applying for leave to remain in the UK

We are aware that there is an option to apply for exceptional case funding and fee waivers when applying for limited leave to remain in the UK, however there are many barriers to this.

There is no legal aid available for immigration advice (other than for asylum matters), so it is very hard for us to find immigration solicitors who are able to help us make these applications for free.

If we then have to make the applications by ourselves, it can be very worrying as to whether it is being submitted correctly, with the correct documentation. 

To avoid making mistakes on such crucial applications, we often end up having to pay expensive solicitor fees on top of the visa fees and the NHS surcharge!

Some of us struggle to understand the overwhelming complexity of the application requirements, and are vulnerable to being exploited by unregulated advisers.

Many of us also have digital and language access barriers, and do not know where to seek support from charities.  

The stress of submitting applications on time and not being left undocumented can be crippling.

The government has to realise that all of us are struggling, it's unfair.  It is relentless and punishing that the government keeps increasing the visa fees bit by bit, to make it more impossible for migrants to survive.

This policy will cause more child poverty, homelessness, generational trauma, and an increased risk of suicide. 

Does the government want this to happen to families? 

So we say NO! to this increase of immigration fees.

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