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 thank the hon. Gentleman for that kind invitation. He will be aware that it is part of my duty under the Bill to make sure that we end free movement. The scope of the Bill is pretty much limited to that. As he highlighted, I do not want us to lead to a position where the Home Office discriminates against people on the basis of nationality.

I want to address some of the specific points relating to each new clause. Subsections (1) and (3) of new clause 32 provide that no application fee shall be chargeable under the EU settlement scheme, or for any successor scheme. While I am sympathetic to the intention behind subsection (1), I do not consider it necessary. We have a clear legislative framework in place for fees payable under the border, immigration and citizenship services. Therefore, new clause 32 would cut across the existing statutory framework for fees and would risk undermining the coherence of the current system.

Secondly, new clause 32 provides only for the removal of the application fee under the EU settlement scheme, which will only come into effect for applications made after the Bill is passed. As I have said, we are going further than that, and the announcement the Prime Minister made on 21 January makes it clear that the changes we are working to introduce through the fees regulations and the immigration rules will enable us to refund all EU settlement scheme application fees that have already been paid. The new clause is therefore to be unnecessary.

I will now turn to subsection (2) of new clause 32, which provides that EEA and Swiss nationals should not be charged a fee to appeal, or to administratively review, a decision not to grant settled status under the EU settlement scheme. I shall deal with administrative review and appeals separately. We have already discussed administrative review of a decision under the EU settlement scheme, for which the fee is set at £80 per review—the same fee that applies to administrative reviews of other immigration decisions. Where an administrative review is successful because there was a casework error in the original decision, the applicant will have their fee refunded.

In the context of applications under the EU settlement scheme, the right to an administrative review goes even further. An applicant who has been granted pre-settled status, but who believes that they qualify for settled status, can submit additional information that will be considered as part of their review. However, if the applicant cannot or does not wish to pay the fee for an administrative review, they have the alternative option of submitting a fresh application under the EU settlement scheme, which will be free. I therefore consider this part of the amendment to be unnecessary, because remedies that are free of charge are already available and if the administrative review is successful, the fee is refunded.

The Committee has already debated appeals, and I do not propose to reopen any of those debates. Court and tribunal fees are needed to contribute to the funding of the wider costs of the court and tribunal system; without that contribution, the cost would have to be met by the taxpayer.

New clause 38 relates to visa and citizenship fees. Subsections (1) and (3) would limit the Secretary of State’s power to charge a fee to EEA or Swiss nationals applying for a visa or applying to be naturalised as a British citizen to the cost of processing that application. I remind the Committee that EEA nationals do not require visit visas, and that remains our long-term intention, as set out in the immigration White Paper. The new clauses would require us to differentiate between EEA and non-EEA nationals, and that would undermine our ability to deliver a future system that does not do so.

Subsection (2) of new clause 38 would provide that all children who are entitled to British citizenship—not just those affected by the ending of free movement under the Bill—are not required to pay a fee to register. Although the subsection appears to extend more widely than just to EEA nationals, I will take it as applying only to EEA national children, given the scope of the Bill. Child citizenship is, without doubt, an important matter. We have already committed to Parliament that we will keep under review our approach to setting fees for all visa, immigration and nationality services, especially those charged to children. However, I do not consider the Bill to be the appropriate place to deal with this, particularly without considering the implications for other elements of the fees regime. The removal of this fee is unnecessary, given that becoming a citizen is discretionary and not necessary to enable an individual to live, study and work in the UK.