Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2007

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:22 pm on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) 4:22 pm, 29th March 2007

My Lords, these regulations are the final step in implementing the new charging model for immigration and nationality services. Before I turn to the detail of the contents, I thank noble Lords for their engagement in the process. In particular, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who has made insightful and informed queries, both earlier this month in the House and in subsequent correspondence. I have written to him today seeking to answer many of his points. I hope that that will give him the information he requires.

These regulations relate only to those applications that we propose to charge at levels above normal cost recovery. The fees for the other routes at or below cost-recovery levels are set out in regulations subject to the negative process that were made last week by the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, and which have been laid before Parliament.

The regulations before us cover applications made in respect of: indefinite leave to remain; limited leave to remain for work routes such as a work permit, the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and investors; the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme approval letters; work permits; naturalisation as a British citizen or a British overseas territories citizen; and registration as a British citizen, British overseas territories citizen, British overseas citizen or British subject, excluding registration as a British citizen under Section 1 of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997.

We have set fees in these regulations above normal cost-recovery levels on the basis of the value of a successful application to the migrant or, in the case of work permits, the value to the UK-based employer, in reliance on the power in Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004.

Taking into account the benefits which will accrue in respect of a successful application—which we assess on the basis of entitlements that will accrue—we have decided to seek the greatest contribution to the costs of the end-to-end immigration system from those who are seeking to work in the United Kingdom or to stay here permanently.

The entitlements we believe to be the most valuable include the ability to work; whether dependants can accompany the migrant to the United Kingdom; whether there is a route to settlement; the length of leave granted; access to benefits; eligibility for a UK passport; and the right to vote. We then looked at other factors, supported by extensive research and consultation, to consider whether to reduce the level of over cost charge, and in some cases we have done so. We have also ensured that certain applications such as those for limited and indefinite leave to remain made on the basis of humanitarian protection remain exempt from fees.

Noble Lords will want to know how we plan to treat applications received in the period immediately after the introduction of new fees and, in the case of settlement applications, after we introduce the new requirements to demonstrate knowledge of language and life in the United Kingdom. We recognise that, despite communicating the changes, it is likely that some applications received immediately after the proposed fee changes may be accompanied by an incorrect fee. So that we do not disadvantage applicants for leave to remain, and to ensure they are afforded all opportunity to regularise their stay, we have made specific provision in the fee regulations. In these circumstances we will write to the applicant and request any outstanding moneys. If such moneys are paid within 28 days of that letter having been sent, we will proceed to make a decision. These transitional measures will remain in place until 21 May 2007, after which we believe all applicants should be aware of the new fees.

Applicants for settlement after 2 April will also be required to submit evidence to demonstrate knowledge of language and life in the United Kingdom. Again, some applicants may not be aware of the new requirements and will not qualify for settlement. We want to prevent the situation where they have no valid leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Accordingly, we have introduced proposals to amend the current Immigration Rules so as to treat such applications as being for further leave to remain. Where this occurs, and the applicant has submitted the proposed new fee of £750 for settlement, we will refund the difference between this and the relevant leave-to-remain fee. We will operate this transitional policy until 31 January 2008, by which time we would expect all future applicants to be aware of the new requirements and to have made provision to take the necessary tests.

I stress that we continue to welcome legal migrants, who, we all know, contribute significantly to the United Kingdom's economic, social and cultural life. However, in order to operate a truly flexible charging system that provides some degree of protection to those routes that are most price-sensitive, or where wider policy considerations mean that a lower fee is appropriate, we need to set some fees at above cost-recovery levels. We also need to do so to raise additional revenue, which will be used to recover the costs of the step change in enforcement activity and border security set out in the IND review published last summer, but most recently in the comprehensive and radical cross-government enforcement strategy published earlier in the month.

The applications specified in these regulations are the most appropriate from which to seek the additional revenue as, importantly, successful applicants accrue significant benefits. Accordingly, I commend the regulations to the House. I beg to move.