New Year is almost here and it is shaping up to be the busiest yet for the UK Government, Home Office and UK Immigration Law in general. Decision to leave the EU is still very much on the government agenda and to date no specific information on the conditions of Brexit is publicly available.
This coincided with record level of Immigration of 650,000 for the year ended in June 2016. Second stage of changes to Tier 2 (General) category is due to come into effect in April 2017 and the government is yet to elaborate on the changes it proposed to make to Tier 4 (Student) route.
In April each year the Home Office announces changes to the application fees, which were have been increasing significantly each year to date. We expect that this year’s changes will again lead to further increase in the application fees and with the aim to making the whole process less affordable.
There are however some positive developments. In a very unexpected turn of events, the government decided to reverse its decision for the fivefold increase of the appeal fees. The increase was meant to lead to a steep reduction in the number of appeals bought forward by unsuccessful applicants. Thus, applicants who may have been unfairly refused and could have been successful at appeal would be deterred from appealing due to it simply being unaffordable, which raises important issue of potentially restricting access to justice.
However, following major opposition to the increased fees in public consultation, the government abandoned the increases and the fees will in due course revert back to the old rates and those applicants who duly paid the astounding increased fees in the few weeks of their operation, will be reimbursed. It is also thought that the Home Office may well not have been too impressed when having to pay the appeal fees in cases where the appellants succeeded in having their decisions overturned.
Sir Oliver Heald, Minister of State for Courts and Justice addressed the growing concerns stating that the Ministry of Justice will now have to undertake a more extensive review of the immigration tribunal fees, so that it balances “the interests of all tribunal users and the taxpayer”. He also announced that a secondary legislation (which can be enacted by ministers and other officials) will be put on the table to cement the revision of the increased fees without further delay. In the meantime the discretionary powers afforded to the Lord Chancellor to vary fees will be used as an alternative formative measure.
In spite of this, there is of course no guarantee that the government will not increase the tribunal fees at a later date, but this does suggest that it may not want to do so as drastically, in light of the recent events. The government of course remains of the view that it is right for those who use the UK’s immigration tribunal system to pay more, thus somehow “protecting access to justice” and most importantly for its point of view relieving the taxpayer’s burden in relation to the associated legal costs.
Edmans & Co, being accredited by the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner at the highest level 3, is able to and often represents clients at all stages of Immigration appeals and therefore welcomes these news.