"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

British Citizens now forced to pay £7,198.29 in fees to be allowed to live in the UK with their spouse as a British family!

Author : LondonMark (Mark Stokes)

Another year and yet more extortionate increases in fees for British families with a non-EU spouse or partner.

With maximum fees published in Parliament for the coming 4 year period the unjustified above inflation increases look set to continue to climb for yet another 4 years.

Yet when presenting information to justify the increases in fees in Parliament, they stated that the actual unit cost of processing a Spouse Visa is £278 (FLR) - but they now want to charge £811. This is very misleading.

Anybody unfamiliar with the spouse visa system (including most MPs) would reasonably think that the cost of the visa for a British Citizen to live with their wife/husband or partner is only £811. Many still think that British Citizens do not even have to pay for a visa for their non-EU spouse - as used to be the case!

What most people who have not had to battle the Home Office don't realise is the process now takes over 5 years (10 years if you can only stay here with family on the basis of your human rights) and has to be applied for several times providing relatively the same information, yet paying an application fee each time!

Even the now compulsory approved English language tests deliberately expires after 2 years - even though the visa re-application stages are every 2.5 years. This is a disproportionate and gross interference in people's lives by the State. During this time couples are in a state of limbo known as the 'probation period'.

The word 'probation' emphasises that they are being treated like criminals in what the Independent Inspector has called 'a culture of disbelief at the Home Office'. This has effects including: 

  • not being able get mortgages if both incomes are needed 
  • not being able to get a mortgage at all due to having to wait an extra 5 years will put them over the age limit to get a mortgage(this was only relaxed and increased from 40 this year)
  • companies reluctant to give long term contracts because the visas are only 2.5 years long
  • restrictions on travel due to conditions underlying ILR and naturalisation
  • savings or investments(including homes) needlessly liquidated at considerable cost (fees, taxes, inflation etc) 
  • couples in fear of what might happen if they lose their job just before the next application is due. 
  • couples delaying having children for up to five years, in case one income is not sufficient to meet Home Office requirements
  • mothers not taking their full maternity allownce, in fear of falling foul of the income requirement 
At a time that should be filled with joy, and that should be a couple's honeymoon period and building plans for the future, instead their world is turned upside down with often unbearable levels of stress.

This March saw the fees rise disproportionately yet again, less than a year since huge rises were implemented previously. This year they even introduced the rises a month early than the traditional April to maximise the income from the rises by pushing more income into the earlier tax year and generally catch people out who would normally apply by April, to beat the rises.

This is now causing even many more families immigration fee poverty, that is if they first can even earn enough to be allowed to apply.

So why do I say the visa cost is £7,198.29?

As a British citizen you have to now pay the following in stages for your spouse to stay here:

In Country Applications

  1. LTR (£811) the first in country application after being married, (£162 increase in addition to last years £48 increase)
  2. NHS Health surcharge at £200 per year of validity for a visa of 30 months (£500) (new last year)
  3. Biometric Fee (£19.20), 
  4. Accommodation inspection report fee from HO approved contractor (£180) - varies per location but is only valid for 3 months
  5. Approved English Language Test A1 (valid for only 2 years) (£150) - some people will be exempt from this
  6. Tuberculosis test (£65) - approx. cost as varies per country. Only those from high risk countries will need this.
  1. FLR (£811) at the 2.5 year mark (£162 increase in addition to last years £48 increase)
  2. Health surcharge at £200 per year of validity of the 30 month visa  (£500)
  3. Biometric Fee (£19.20) at each application the same biometrics are taken again with a fee paid to the Post Office
  4. Accommodation inspection report fee from HO approved contractor (£180) - varies per location but is only valid for 3 months
  5. Approved English Language Test A1 (valid for only 2 years so needed to be taken again) (£150) - some people will be exempt from this
  1. ILR (£1,875) at the 5 year mark, another £375 (20%) increase in addition to a £407 or 37% increase last year
  2. Life in the UK test (£50)  Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship Book (£12.99)
  3. Accommodation inspection report fee from HO approved contractor (£180) - varies per location but is only valid for 3 months
  4. Approved English Language Test B1 (higher level need for this stage valid for only 2 years) (£150) - some people will be exempt from this
  5. Biometric Fee (£19.20) yet again (do people's fingerprints change in 2.5 years?!!!)

Sub Total £5,672.59
  1. Naturalisation (£1,156) after receiving ILR, a £231 increase in addition to last years £19 increase 
  2. Arrangement of a Citizenship Ceremony (£80)
  3. Certified certificate of Nationality (£198)
  4. Biometric Fee (£19.20)
  5. Passport fee (£72.50) (optional but needed for travel on an equal basis as the rest of your family)

Total £7,198.29

But for some people it costs even more.

In Person Applications
If you need to travel because of work or family and can not have your passport kept by the Home Office for sometimes over 6 months at a time then you have no choice but to do an in person application each time which costs £500 (£100 increase since last year)each time. So that would be (£1,500) extra - for naturalisation you can not use the priority service :

Total £8,698.29

Overseas Application
If you are applying from outside of the UK then it is more as the first application is Settlement instead of LTR for overseas initial applications and costs (£1,195) which is £239 more this year in addition to the  £307 increase from last year. 

As the initial visa issued to overseas applications is for 33 months then the health surcharge is then (£600) which is £100 more. even though this is just 3 months extra the Home Office is charging people 6 months extra! If you are not in a country that has a visa centre then a (£115) receiving fee and an outside of the UK visa application centre fee of (£70)

(£150) to take an approved English test at an approved centre if you are not already exempt from the English language requirement (cost can be much more due to fluctuating exchange rates).

Some countries will need to pay to have a TB test that is about (£65)

Accommodation inspection report fee from HO approved contractor (£180) - varies per location but is only valid for 3 months.

Then when you arrive in this country an In country biometric enrolment fee (£19.20) to eventually get the visa on a BRP so would give 

Total £7,837.29

Additionally fees can vary in different countries due to the different companies and how exchange rates are implemented and variations in exchange rates can even be 30% for more for unstable currencies.

10 Year Route Applications

Anybody who has been forced onto the 10 year route then the fees would be as they need to make two more applications for FLR

Total £10,518.69

If you need a transfer of conditions to a new passport when the old one expires (this will be more common now that the probation period is 5 years) you will be charged £183 or £260 if you have ILR

This does not include the increased complexity of the forms (44 pages long) etc that Brits have to wade through. The complexity is such that even the well-educated need the help of solicitors or peer groups just to fill them in, so slap on lawyer's fees, cost of extra English lessons, validation fees of qualifications, translation fees and court, legal and judicial review fees(which have increased substantially this year) we have to go through when the H.O. get things wrong. (Update - as of 10th October, the fees for appealing a HO refusal has gone up by around 500%)

If your spouse has a non-British/non-EU child then the costs will be even higher.

Even the new Helpline now costs £1.37 per Minute  or £4.00 for the web chat (one of the few costs not increased this year)

By comparison Residence Documents issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations are not mandatory although may be needed if you wish to naturalise at a later date.

EU National Route Applications

For EU Citizens bringing their spouses here using the EU National route
  1. EEA family permit (Free)  is normally for 6 months and allows multiple entry to the UK (https://www.gov.uk/family-permit)
  2. after 6 months can apply for 5 year Residence card (£65)
  3. Permanent Residence Card (£65) after 5 years of residence in the UK
Total £130 (but is technically optional)

The spouse is only allowed outside the UK 6 months a year.

Spouse visas for British Citizens should not cost anything as the British Citizen is already paying for them indirectly through their taxes. Now with the health surcharge, many are paying 4 times for the same thing as often both members of the couple are already paying taxes and national insurance over the 5 years yet the spouse also has the endorsement on their visa not allowing them to have recourse to public funds anyway(this restriction existed before the 2012 changes). Also previous pre-2012 increases already added a immigrant fund surcharge and for the use of services.

So why are we now being charged now 20.4 times (excluding naturalisation costs) what it should costs for something we have already paid for through our taxes? 

Why are British Citizens (most of them born and bred in the UK) being ripped off and discriminated against just because their spouses were born in a non-EU country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!? This is discrimination and undue prolonged interference in their family and private life.

Even after being ripped off extortionately above what should be classed as super premium fees the level of service offered is lacking with many applications refused with the fees being pocketed, applications delayed due to staff cutbacks and many mistakes made with them not quickly corrected etc 

Even the application forms are still not fit for purpose and treat British Citizens like immigrants. An example is on the spouse application form 
'Question: 7.22 is your sponsor currently living in the UK? 
Put a cross (x) in the relevant box. 
If ‘Yes’ please provide the date of when he/she first arrived in the UK'

Let's put these fees into context:
An application for a visit visa for a period of five years is £600 (£12 increase since last year).

The Government say that all applicants should be earning a minimum of £18,600 per year even though 47% of the working population earn below this.

So now anybody earning £18,600 would have to pay 38.7% of their annual income in application and visa fees!  Last year it was 27% and the year before that 18%.

But Justice Blake in his MM ruling in 2013 suggested to be fair that the minimum income should be £13,400 

So given that, anybody earning £13,400 would have to pay 53.7% of their annual income in visa fees just to exercise the fundamental right of living with their spouse. 

A household used to be considered to be fuel poor if they were required to spend more than 10% of their income on fuel to maintain an adequate standard of warmth.  

This is causing many families 'immigration fee poverty', that is if they first can earn enough to be even allowed to apply.

Is it fair that British citizens now have to pay nearly 40% of an income which itself is c50% above the annual earnings a person working full-time on the minimum wage would warn, in fees to the Home Office, just to be able to stay together in the UK with their spouse, without restrictions?

Sources of current fees and costs etc:

Health surcharge 2
Annual data  
Property/accommodation Inspection Report 

Appointment booking fee (premium service centre)  £100
Application in person (premium service centre) £500 includes £100 appointment booking fee
Passport pass-back £42
Receiving, preparing and forwarding documents £115
Acceptance of application at Visa Application centre outside the UK  £70

If you withdraw your application before a decision is issued you will be charged £80
If a mistake is made in the processing of your application you will be charged an Administrative review fee  £80

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Nicola & Tarik - Featured Family

“Just when my son and I have found a wonderful man to give us the family life we so desire, UK Home Office persists in snatching away our chance at happiness.”

British citizen Nicola met her husband Tarik, in 2008 while visiting her parent’s holiday home in Turkey. 
After returning home they exchanged emails, phone calls and chatted online.  In early 2009, they began to speak more frequently as their feelings developed from just friends to something more. 

They made arrangements to meet in Turkey in May 2009, where they spent two weeks together. Nicola, Tarik and Nicola’s six year old son, MJ, were inseparable.  It just felt right.
Since then they have been in a long term relationship, with Nicola and MJ going to visit Tarik as often as possible.  Tarik also came to the UK in June 2009 where he combined work with a visit to Nicola and MJ.  He stayed in the UK for less than eight days – within the visa limit.

Nicola is somewhat an entrepreneur.  In October 2010 she opened a barber shop, making it more difficult to travel.  So they applied for Tarik to come visit them in April 2011 to coincide with MJ’s school holidays, in order to all be able to spend more time together.  However, the application was refused! 

UKBA deduced that Tarik was trying to deceive them, because he had not mentioned visiting Nicola during his 2009 visit. They assumed he had not met his business contact (even though he had). 

UKBA assumed because Tarik on his initial application said he was divorced then on the next one said he was single, meant he was trying to deceive them.

UKBA threatened them with paragraph 320 (7A), mentioning any future applications could be refused under 320(7B) which could attract an automatic refusal of up to 10 years.

Despite this, Nicola and Tarik re-applied and addressed the assumptions UKBA had made.  However the application was automatically refused under 320(7B) with no reasons for the decision.  UKBA stated that as he had previously been refused by failing to provide information, any future applications would automatically be refused for the same reason until 26/02/2019!!  Nicola felt like Tarik was being treated like a criminal.

In July 2012 they heard that the rules had changed and that financially, Nicola would no longer qualify to have her foreign spouse living with her.  In August 2012 Nicola found out she was pregnant. 

Nicola and Tarik are ecstatically happy to be expecting their daughter.  They got married in September 2012 with all her family travelling to Turkey from Scotland.  It was a wonderful time, despite the stress of knowing they would continue to be apart.  They decided as a family to live in the UK to save any upheaval to MJ's life and education.  Nicola continues to try and build her business while being a single parent to her son.

They were hoping Tarik could join them for the baby scan and return in April for the birth.  However, the family visit visa was refused.  UKBA said they did not believe Tarik’s bank statement was accurate.  They also did not believe that Tarik would leave the UK.  It was also noted that as Tarik had the previous refusal under 320(7B), any future applications would also be automatically refused for the same reason.

Nicola is bemused.  She has planned her daughter to receive her first immunisation and then taking her to Turkey to meet her grandparents. She doesn’t understand how UKBA can make their own judgement and assume what their intentions are.

Which brings us to where we are now.

Nicola’s pregnancy is tainted with stress.  She will need to take maternity leave, she will need to find someone to replace her to run the business while she is not working and she needs to be a single mum to her son.  With her husband by her side, the burden would be shared and halved.

Tarik and MJ have built a great bond even through the distance.  MJ has been asking since the wedding, "when is Tarik coming?" "Can we put the Christmas tree up as a family this year" (last year they flew to Turkey on Christmas day).

After the visit visa was refused telling MJ was heartbreaking. The ten year old was crying and sobbing, and not understanding why he could not be with his step dad, like the other kids at school. 

MJ rubs Nicola’s tummy telling his baby sister that it will all be ok when she comes.  A ten year old child should not have to experience this worry and confusion.  Just as he has found this family life he so desires, his step dad is not allowed to be part of his daily life.  He was let down by his biological father, now when they both have a wonderful man in their lives, who wants to take care of them, they are denied the right to that family life by the UK government. 

Since the story above, Nicola gave birth to a beautiful girl, though it was without her husband by her side. Nicola and her kids subsequently visited Tarik in Turkey so as to also allow Tarik’s parents to spend time with their newest grandchild.  The family then moved to Ireland, using free movement rights.

While Nicola found the idea of moving to a new country with two kids daunting, she said ‘..but it’s a way to live a family life together’.

The family are now happily in the UK and Nicola is already putting her entrepreneurial skills to good use once again, to the benefit of the local community.


Friday 8 July 2016

9th July - meetup in London

What is a chocolate bar, and an occasion where a meal is eaten outdoors......that's right, picnic!

We'll be picnicking near Bandstand in Regent's Park, London from 12 noon tomorrow (Saturday 9th July) and the weather looks like it will co-operate as well.  Nearest entrance is Baker Street.

Why tomorrow? 9th July is the fourth anniversary of rules so divisive they have torn apart families, yet we triumph as despite government attempts, we who have borne the brunt of these rules, have found each other.  The catch up represents a chance to celebrate - for those who have unified, the happy ending and a thank you to all those who supported us in the journey. For others, we celebrate the solidarity that gives us the strength to carry on.

It also presents an opportunity to discuss both the #MMcase and #ADR, as well as the impact on free movement from the vote to leave the EU.

There will be food and drinks, but feel free to bring some to share and picnic blankets, parasols all welcome.  Don't forget the sunscreen!

More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/1720349738182412/

 Hope to see you tomorrow in what is promising to be ice-cream weather.

On the off chance there is rain - there shouldn't be but you never know - check out our twitter page @BritCits or updates on the Facebook page above. You can also email us at britcits@gmail.com.   Any questions in the meantime, feel free to ask on the Facebook page above or drop us a line.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Event - Intervening in the Regulation of Family Migration

Professor Eleonore Kofman and Dr Helena Wray are both part of the School of Law at Middlesex University.  BritCits has worked closely with them to research and raise awareness of family migration rules which have divided families since 9th July 2012. 

Below are details of a conference they are holding next week.  Attendance is free, but places are limited, so please register asap if you are interested. 

Tuesday 12th July 2016 - 10am– 4pm
Committee Room 2, Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, London NW4 4BT

Convenors:  Professor Eleonore Kofman and Dr Helena Wray, School of Law, Middlesex University
Family life across national borders has become much more difficult for British residents and citizens. The admission of elderly or dependent relatives has been effectively halted. Spouses and partners must comply with an extensive range of inflexible conditions, including a minimum income threshold that cannot be met by more than 40% of the working population and which has had a serious impact on the lives of an estimated 15,000 children. Even getting married within the UK now involves a series of bureaucratic encounters with the immigration authorities. The advantages currently available under EU free movement law may not survive in their current form.

Immigration control in the UK in all its aspects has become subject to almost constant regulatory change, whether through changes to primary and secondary legislation or to rules. The current ‘hostile environment’ is unprecedented. It is not only that policy is driven by the aim of minimising admissions but that civil and commercial institutions, and even private individuals, are now compelled to implement internal controls. The government has also sought to remove or minimise opportunities for migrants and their representatives to modify the terms of policy, to rely on human rights norms or to challenge the correctness of decisions. The consequence is that migrants and their representatives must negotiate a restrictive, excessively complex, expensive and often unaccountable system, while equipped with a shrinking repertoire of resources and tools.

In this context, ensuring that the interests of migrants are represented in the formulation and implementation of policy is a challenge. This conference brings together lawyers, activists and academics, all of whom have been involved in attempts to resist or ameliorate the impact of the family migration changes. We shall focus primarily on the opportunities for intervening in family migration policy by a range of actors but it will also be of broader interest and relevance. It will reflect on successes and failures, on the tools that are available, such as research into the different groups affected (children, elderly, spouses), and the strategies they have deployed, as well as campaigning, legal and parliamentary  interventions,  how they may be most effectively used, and on the challenges that lie ahead.

The conference is free to attend but numbers are limited and an early reservation is advised. Please book your place at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/intervening-in-the-regulation-of-family-migration-tickets-25973974858


10.00 – 10.30: Registration and coffee

10.30 – 10.45: Introduction: Professor Eleonore Kofman and Dr Helena Wray

10.45 – 11.45: Policy Interventions

Alison Harvey (Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association): Working with legislators

Saira Grant (JCWI): Mobilising the media and public opinion

11.45 – 12.45: Grassroots mobilisation

Chai Patel (JCWI): UK NGOs and the family migration rules

Hélène Neveu-Kringelbach and Laura Odasso (Les Amoureux au Ban Public): Campaigning against French family migration rules

12.45 – 13.45: Lunch

13.45 – 15.15: Legal Interventions and Social Science Research

Professor Eleonore Kofman (Middlesex University): Using social science evidence in legal proceedings

Dr Helena Wray (Middlesex University): Academic research in human rights challenges

Professor Betty de Hart (University of Amsterdam/Radboud University, Nijmegen): Legal challenges to family migration in European law

15.15 – 16.00: Final Discussion and Tea