What is the true cost of British citizenship?
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor LinkedinDanielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
It is time to speak about the crucial and overlooked financial impact of the visa renewal application on migrants. The cost of renewing a visa is high. A single person is expected to pay at least £2,608 every two and a half years for Home Office application fees (at least £1,048) and NHS surcharges (at least £1,560) alone. This means that the current cost of British citizenship to an individual on a five-year route to settlement would be of at least £5,216, and £10,432 if they were on the ten-year route towards settlement.
The application for indefinite leave to remain is currently £2,404. The costs rise significantly for families, as all family members have to pay application fees and NHS fees. It is anticipated that the costs will get higher and therefore each time an applicant renews their visa, they will incur more costs. The biggest expense is usually the NHS surcharge, which applies in almost all types of visas. Other expenses can include travel, appointments for biometrics, and solicitors’ fees, which are often necessary because of the complexity of the application process. Some applicants are forced into debt to pay for their visa costs, and the burden of paying such high visa costs affects almost every aspect of life. It requires individuals to work extra-long hours and accept lower paid work because of the amount of money required in order to renew their visas. There is much anxiety over the application because of the waiting time. Many feel that there is no closure of their immigration status and their ability to settle in the UK. Some individuals who came to the UK over a decade ago still do not have British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain which means that their status is still temporary, and they are always at risk of losing it with each renewal process.
The COVID pandemic exacerbated some existing problems for some of the individuals affected including the lockdown affecting work and finances. The cost of an application for settlement is £2,404 for an individual and the application for naturalisation is £1,250. The total Home Office cost of the journey on the shortest lawful route is under a five-year route as a spouse is of £5,750. The NHS costs for these periods will be £3,120. Therefore, all combined, the cheapest route to settlement and naturalisation is £8,870.
There will be a situation when individuals will be precluded from obtaining British citizenship merely because their income is insufficient to enable them to pay the Home Office fees. Despite austerity and the high cost of living the Immigration fees take no account of these matters.
Why does the Home Office charge so much?
In 2018, The Times newspaper reported that immigration and citizenship fees delivered a £500 million surplus to the Home Office. The Guardian reported that the Immigration Department at the Home Office made a profit of up to 800% on some applications from families. On 14th July 2023, the Home Office announced a series of massive increases to its UK visa application fees. Skilled worker visas are expected to jump by more than 20% as the Government looks to balance the books, following the public sector pay review. The new fees are expected to affect a wide range of visa categories including work, student, and family visas, along with certificates of sponsorship, citizenship and settlement. The proposals were set out in July and it is expected that work visas and visit visas will rise by 15%, and other immigration fees for categories across the board such as student, settlement and citizenship will jump by 20%. This will have a significant effect on the budget assessment of UK employers employing foreign nationals, and individuals as well.