Migrant organisations have attacked recent immigration fee increases as hurtful and discriminatory.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a public sector wage increase policy last month financed in part by increasing visa application fees and immigration health surcharges.
The fees for work and visit visas will increase by 15%. Costs for study visas, settlement, citizenship, leave to remain, and priority visas will rise by 20%.
The immigration health surcharge, which gives visa holders access to free health services in the UK, goes up by 66%, from £624 to £1,035 for adults while the discounted rate for students and under 18s rises from £470 to £776 per year.
Organisations such as Kanlungan, a migrant charity based in Dalston, east London, denounced the policy and called it an “outright extortion of the UK government from the wages of migrant workers and their families.”
Luisa Pineda, 28, a welfare support and advocacy officer at the Dalston-based South East and East Asian Centre UK, said: “It’s very ironic that a lot of migrants here work public sector jobs and yet we are going to have to shoulder this amount for the public sector pay. It really hurts a lot of migrants.”
She claimed the announcement left the migrant community struggling to grapple with the policy.
Pineda added: “We have lives here. There still is that element of discrimination based on where we come from even if we’re paying the same taxes like everyone else, if not more.”
According to Pineda, the policy would also significantly affect the finances of migrant families, who would have to pay for each family member’s visa application.
She said: “I think [the policy] forgets that migrants are individual people who want to be respected and dignified.”
The Home Office, pictured above, was approached for a comment but did not respond.
Chief secretary to the Treasury John Glen spoke about the public sector and the immigration fee increases in the House of Commons.
He said: “The action we have taken today is the most responsible way forward, striking a balance between the demands of our public sector workers and the needs of our country and economy.
“This is a careful set of judgments. Clearly, they will not please everyone, but we have to make decisions in the interests of the whole economy at this time.”
He stressed health and care workers are exempted from paying the immigration health surcharge.
SNP MP Peter Grant questioned the visa fee increase. He said that the one of the economy’s challenges was a shortage of workers.
He added: “So what a brilliant move to address that by charging essential workers more to come here and contribute to our economy.”
No date has been set for when the policy comes into effect.
Featured image: JRibaX via Wikkimedia Commons