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Mum-of-four who can’t afford food and clothes could be forced to pay £16,637 to stay in UK

Suella Braverman’s Home Office has increased visa fees this month

A mum-of-four is anxious about the new visa fees hike proposed by the Government as she could face paying thousands for her family to stay in the UK. Favour, 40, has chosen to stay anonymous and protect her identity to avoid risking her status.

After coming from Nigeria 13-years-ago as a student, she says she was unable to keep paying visa fees after she had finished her course, as they were increasing year on year. she said: “It was difficult as I wasn’t able to work. The initial visa I was given was for just over one year in 2010.

“I then had my son and the second time my visa was rejected I left everything as I didn’t have money to apply. So when I had my son I didn’t apply for a visa as I didn’t have money. I couldn’t work. I was just going to charities, food banks, anywhere they gave food and clothing as I had two kids. I was frustrated, depressed and had mental health issues and had to go counselling.”

When Favour had her third son she had to look for a charity to help her. She found a solicitor based in Old Street and then received legal aid. This meant she could apply for a fee waiver in 2019.

The fee waiver gives her two and a half years of limited leave to remain, after which she has to reapply and go through the process again. When she next has to apply for her visa to be renewed she will be forced to pay £3,800 plus separate fees for each of her children.

However, as Favour is going through the 10-year-route, in 2030 when she will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after her four rounds of limited leave to remain renewals are done, she’ll have to fork out the full fee, as there’s no fee waiver for this visa category.

The fee for applying for this has just gone up from £2,404 to more than £2,885 per person. The UK government announced that visa fees were to be increased from October 4 – although this does not apply to Favour yet, the Government is planning to raise the fees for limited leave to remain in the near future.

Currently the Government has already implemented an increase in student fees as well as the Indefinite Leave to Remain fee, among many others. For those who are rejected from a fee waiver, the immigration health surcharge is going to raise from £624 per year to £1,035 per year, though there is no set date for this increase yet.

Many people like Favour are on a visa that is valid for 2.5 years, meaning this component will be multiplied by 2.5 so they will have to pay £2.587 if their fee waiver is rejected. It is uncertain when this increase will kick in. The second component that is set to increase, though the date is uncertain, is the Home Office fee. This is going to raise from £1,038 to £1,258, an increase of 20 per cent.

For Favour, if her fee waiver is rejected in the next application, the cost of applying once all the fees hikes kick in will be £3,198 per child and £3,845 per adult. This is for a limited leave to remain which is valid for only two and a half years. For four children and one adult she would need to pay £16,637.

Favour says she does not understand why her kids, who are born here, have to pay such extensive fees if she doesn’t get a fee waiver: She said: “I have to pay for a visa for four kids too, even though they were born here. The increase is very uncalled for, my kids should be free or reduced, but they just put everything up. My three year old has to pay for visa fee for where he or she was born – it’s not a good idea.

“The kids don’t understand until they reach the age, my 11-year-old doesn’t know what’s happening. If they don’t accept fee waiver, I have to keep appealing because I can’t get money for five people.”

There are many people like Favour who are unable to afford the ever-increasing visa fees, making them choose between food or paying the fees. Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, the policy and public affairs manager for Praxis says: “UK visa fees are already some of the highest in the world – far higher than in comparable countries like Germany, Canada and the US. This is because the Government charges people well above the actual cost of processing their applications – in some cases up to four times the real cost.

“Even before this latest rise, migrant households were struggling with exorbitant visa fees. We know from research carried out last year that the price of renewing a visa is a key factor in pushing households into debt. We’re really concerned that these fee rises will leave thousands of people who’ve been living and working in our communities for years into debt, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and at risk of losing their lawful immigration status if they can’t pay.

“There is a fairer way. Instead of raising fees still further, the Government should cut visa fees so that people are only expected to cover the actual cost of processing their visa.”

“We’re really concerned about the impact of visa fee rises on the tens of thousands of people who have been living and working in our communities for many years but who remain on temporary visas which require them to regularly re-apply for permission to stay through a complex process. These are people who are integral parts of our communities, who have children who are British citizens, or are married to British citizens, and who may suddenly find themselves simply unable to afford these new fees.