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Migrant Voice: UK’s extortionate visa fees are ruining the lives of too many people

Summary:

Report finds burden of paying high visa fees leads to debt, stress and health problems

Date of Publication:
04 May 2022

Migrant Voice: UK’s extortionate visa fees are ruining the lives of too many people

04 May 2022
EIN

Migrant Voice last week released a comprehensive new report examining the struggles that many migrants in the UK face paying for their visa renewal applications.

Border signYou can download the 74-page report here.

The report, 'Destroying hopes, dreams and lives: How the UK visa costs and process impact migrants' lives', draws on the lived experiences of migrants who had paid or were paying for visas for themselves or their family. Migrant Voice held a number of interviews, organised focus groups, and surveyed over 100 migrants.

The report finds that extortionate visa fees, amounting to thousands of pounds, are dominating and ruining the lives of too many people in the UK.

Migrant Voice explained: "Our research paints a clear picture of the difficult situation facing too many people simply because they chose this country as their home. Everyone who shared their experiences for this report highlighted the all-encompassing effects of extortionate visa fees on their lives. While some impacts, such as financial struggle, are clearly a direct consequence of high visa costs, people also described how the burden of the fees had a knock-on effect on virtually every aspect of their lives, from work to social relationships, from mental health to long-term plans. Recurring themes emerged from many survey responses, as well as from the focus groups and interviews. We identified them as: finance, physical and mental health, housing and food security, future plans, relationships, and work."

A third of respondents to Migrant Voice's survey said they had paid around £20,000 in total renewing their visas. 10% of respondents reported having paid over £40,000. Two-thirds of respondents said they have been forced into debt to pay for their visa costs. As the report notes, a family of four on the 10-year route to settlement can expect to pay in excess of £50,000 to achieve Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Migrants Voice found that the burden of paying such high visa costs affects almost every aspect of life.

"Many have told us of their struggles with almost all aspects of their existence due to the extortionate visa fees they face. People are living in a precarious limbo for years on end, struggling to get by, to save enough for their visa renewal application, and then having to start the cycle all over again, time after time. This is a situation that hundreds of thousands of migrants have found themselves in, yet most people across the UK seem to have little to no knowledge of the issue," the report states.

The struggle can have serious health consequences, with respondents reporting their health was severely affected by the influence of visa fees on their lives. Both mental and physical health is negatively affected.

One respondent told Migrant Voice: "Am always tired both physically and mentally. I can't do anything concerning money, because I need every penny to save for my son, and [my children] don't understand when I can't do anything with them. So that even stresses me out more, always emotional. I just wish I never had to go through this. Can't believe that's how me and my family are treated after all that I did for this country."

Another said: "I'm having sleepless nights because I have to apply in October and I'm thinking 'Where am I getting this money?'"

Migrant Voice added: "The stress put on people is year-round, forcing them to constantly think about their visa. It's not something they do every 2.5 years and then forget about, as many must save and budget constantly to pay the fees. Several respondents also mentioned that they worried the fees might increase, making it even harder for them to afford. Many also talked about the stress and harm caused by lengthy waiting times and uncertainty, including a pregnant woman who is scared about having to pay the fees when she has her child."

The report says migrants make a huge investment in their lives by moving to the UK and pay into the economy through taxes and national insurance. To impose exorbitant visa costs merely acts as a punitive penalty.

As noted in the report, the Government wants to achieve a self-funded immigration system, where the costs are recovered through fees paid by those who use the system (as stated here, for example). Migrant Voice says this is illogical.

The report explains: "The government continues to argue that migrants should pay for the entire immigration system, an argument as illogical as it is problematic, operated by no other Western country we are aware of. The pay-for-the whole-immigration system argument suggests that migrants should pay for detention centres, enforcement officers, and deportation flights. The charge is on them to fund the oppressive, xenophobic anti-migrant regime of which they themselves are then victims. The illogicality of the argument further absurdly assumes that only migrants benefit from migration to the UK."

Migrant Voice calls for a new system which puts migrants' wellbeing over profit and does not force people to pay tens of thousands of pounds before they can finally settle in the UK.