No fees for applications under appendix EU to the Immigration Rules

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 3:30 pm, 5th March 2019

I am grateful to the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and for Manchester, Gorton for having tabled new clauses 32, 38, 39 and 45.

It may be helpful to provide some background on this issue. Fees for border, immigration and citizenship products and services have been charged for a number of years, and they play a vital role in our country’s ability to run a sustainable system that minimises the burden on taxpayers. Each year, income from fees charged contributes enormously towards the running of our border, immigration and citizenship system. The charging framework for visa and immigration services delivered £1.35 billion in income in the last financial year. It is therefore true to say that fees paid by users play an absolutely critical role in this country’s ability to run an effective and sustainable system, and as I am sure members of the public rightly expect, to minimise the burden on UK taxpayers.

I also want to explain from the outset that we already have a legislative framework in place that governs fees. Fees are set and approved by Parliament through fees statutory instruments made under powers in the Immigration Act 2014. As hon. Members will be aware, the Prime Minister publicly confirmed that

“when we roll out the scheme in full on 30 March, the Government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay”—[Official Report, 21 January 2019; Vol. 653, c. 27.]

We will be amending existing fees legislation to implement that decision.

Outside of applications made under the EU settlement scheme, immigration and nationality fees legislation has always provided for some limited exceptions for paying application fees for limited and indefinite leave to remain. However, those exceptions are limited to specific circumstances, such as for those seeking asylum or fleeing domestic abuse, or where the requirement to pay the fee would lead to a breach of the European convention on human rights. Fee exceptions do not extend to applications made by individuals who are seeking to register or naturalise as a British citizen. That is because becoming a citizen is discretionary and not necessary to enable individuals to live, study and work in the UK, or to be eligible to benefit from appropriate services. Other exemptions are provided by separate regulations governing the immigration health surcharge.

To make provisions that are specific to certain nationalities as part of this Bill would be unfair to all users of the border, immigration and citizenship system.