This statement was prepared by RAMFEL’s Experts by Experience group, established in September 2022 to influence our campaign work and serve as a solidarity group. The group is currently made up of 35 members, people who themselves are on the 10-year route to settlement. The group meet regularly to discuss and identify key areas of focus, develop RAMFEL’s the strategic direction of the group, and undertake training.
Those who would like to support the group’s campaigning work can do so via this link.
We are a group of people who are on the 10-year route to settlement in the UK. We are worried about the impact that the government’s planned rise in visa fees and the immigration health surcharge will have on us, our families and our children.
The increase in visa fees is unfair and should be condemned. It will really affect a lot of migrants and it is not fair on all of us that have already been in this country for more than 10 years. It is also insensitive and too much to bear with the increases in the cost of living and other economic problems in the country. It is an act of cruelty towards us migrants.
We cannot afford even the current visa fees, which for a single person, is already £2,608 every 2.5 years. This is simply too high. Many among us have families – one member of our group has a family of 6 for and it already costs £15,648 to renew their visas, but this would go up to £23,070 with the increase. This is ridiculous. On top of this, there are legal fees. We are all worried that we are not going to be able to renew our visas, because we do not earn enough and we do not have enough savings. The government should consider people like us who do not have much money but are working every day to support our families.
There are so many other problems with the 10-year route to settlement and it is really difficult. The entire process is tough, and current waiting times for renewals are long because of government delays. This creates a huge headache, and your employer might suspend you without pay while waiting for the decision from the Home Office. This is something you go through every 30 months, so you can never have job security. And on top of that, they want the fees again, each time.
Some of us are still paying back loans of thousands of pounds that we needed to pay for immigration applications and registering our children as British citizens. It means we can’t pay our bills, we can never take our children on holiday, we can’t buy our children the clothing they need.
The government is using migrants as political excuses. One minute they do not want us here in the country, next we are useful when they want to use us to pay for the public sector pay increase.
The impact of the new visa fees will be families driven to impoverishment, increased stress levels and mental health problems, finding the money becomes an obsession. And on top of this, the cost of living crisis. There is also the constant worry of becoming an overstayer because you cannot afford the fees.
Many of us are health workers, and it is particularly unjust that we are made to pay the government’s health surcharge when we are already contributing to the NHS. The government is just robbing Peter to pay Paul, without recognising the positive impact that migrants bring. Most people on the 10-year-route, for instance, work very hard and pay tax, and often still have to work a second job to pay their bills. Migrants with no recourse to public funds worked really hard during Covid, and even though we were scared to leave our homes we did not have a choice. We were on the front lines in large numbers, and those of us that are carers did not get the bonus that NHS staff received. Now visa fees are being increased again, and the same people are being exploited yet again.
The government should reverse this outrageous proposal. At the same time it should reduce the number of times that people have to renew their visas, so that people have more time to save up the thousands of pounds that are needed. Finally, we urge the government to reduce the 10 year route to 5 years, to reduce the burden on us and our families.