Billed as being implemented to support public sector pay rises, the fees will significantly increase the costs for migrant workers, their families and sponsoring employers by increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) payable by all visa applicants, as well as the application fees for work, visit and study visas.
Specifically, the Government plans to:
The increase to the IHS - which needs to be paid up front at the point when the visa application is submitted - equates to a 66% increase and will mean that a family of four applying for five-year visas will be required to pay £18,110 in addition to their visa application fees, which in many cases will exceed £6,500.
No timescales for the changes have yet been announced, but historically the government usually make changes to immigration fees in April, and occasionally October, so Autumn 2023 seems likely.
Such significant fee increases are likely to reduce the appeal for employers of sponsoring non-UK nationals. While this will support the government's objective to cut the UK's dependency on foreign labour, it will do very little in the short- to medium-term to address under-staffing in many sectors ranging from technology and education, to construction workers and charities.
In more welcome news, the Immigration Minister has confirmed other amendments which are intended to simplify immigration fees. For example, the £19.20 biometric enrolment fee will be removed as the immigration system becomes predominantly digital. Additionally the £161 fee for an in-country application for those with limited leave to remain to transfer conditions to a new document will also be abolished.
Employers and migrants contemplating UK visa applications are likely to want to submit their applications sooner rather than later to avoid these higher fees. Employers should also consider their policies around paying fees on behalf of their sponsored workers to ensure a consistent approach, and what steps they might take in the event an employee leaves employment shortly after these fees have been incurred.