On 12 November 2013, the Home Office launched a consultation looking at changes to the charging principles. The consultation will last for 3 weeks and as part of the consultation the Home Office will be seeking views on how the Home Office charges customers and the services it provides. The last consultation on charging was carried out in 2009 and this is now a good opportunity for stakeholders to have their voice heard.
One area where the Home Office is focussing its attention at the moment is the introduction of premium or business support services to improve the customers experience, both at the application stage and when passing through UK immigration control. Examples of appropriate services are requested together with the fee which should be levied. The extension of mobile services is given as an example; at present it is possible for applicants based in the UK to pay for a mobile biometric unit to visit their premises for a £6000 fee. Mobile services have also been rolled out in China and India.
Other questions included are:
- Should customers have an option to pay for individual premium services or should they have to sign up for the full premium end to end package. A premium PBS service for companies was introduced in 2012 where businesses can sign up for a tailored service for Home Office assistance with the processing of their PBS applications for an annual fee of £25000 or a more restricted service for smaller companies for £8000.
- Should the level of the fees cover the cost of the application processing in all cases or should some application types attract lower than cost fees for example visitor applications where the UK wishes to attract tourists and needs to consider what other countries are charging. Similarly, should some applications attract higher than cost fees where the applicant will obtain a significant benefit. An application for settlement in the UK is a good example of this.
- Finally, the Home Office would like views on its proposal within the Immigration Bill to introduce a revised charging framework. At the present time it is only possible to increase or introduce new fees once a year in April. However, if the Home Office introduces new schemes, like the Registered Travellers Scheme or the GREAT club scheme, both of which we have covered in previous updates, they will need to have the flexibility in order to levy a fee for these services at the point of introduction.
The Home Office is seeking views from businesses as well as individuals and if you would like to respond, you should complete the questions in the Fees and charging Immigration and Visas Consultation Document, and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3 December.
Changes to Document Requirements
From 28 October 2013, applicants applying for extensions of stay, settlement or British citizenship in the UK by virtue of their marriage or relationship with a British person or a person present and settled in the UK, will no longer need to submit the original passport of the British national when applying by post. Instead a copy of the British passport can be provided.