London: The British government is set to increase visa fees across most categories of applications from 18 March, in a move that will affect thousands of Indians who were the largest group of skilled workers to be granted visas to live and work in Britain last year.
The changes, proposed in January this year, mean a 2% rise for most fees, including the short-term visitor visas and most work or study applications, and a 25% increase in fees for nationality and settlement visa applications.
The UK Home Office said the increases will reduce the UK taxpayer contributions towards the border, immigration and citizenship system and ensure that by 2019-2020 the system is self-funded by those who use it.
“These changes ensure that the Home Office can achieve a self-funding system, whilst continuing to provide a competitive level of service, and a fees structure that remains attractive to businesses, migrants and visitors," a Home Office statement said.
According to recently-released figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Indians formed the largest group of skilled workers to be granted visas to live and work in the UK last year.
Indians bagged the majority of the 92,062 visas issued to skilled migrants in 2015.
“Indian nationals accounted for 57% of total skilled work visas granted (52,360 of 92,062), with USA nationals the next largest nationality group (10,130 or 11%)," the ONS report said.
Most of these migrants go on to apply for settlement in the UK and will now pay around 25% more for such applications as the fee for a settlement application or so-called “Indefinite Leave to Remain" (ILR) application within the UK will increase from £1,500 to £1,875.
The main changes effective from 18 March are: visas linked most closely to economic growth, such as those offered to workers and students, will be increased by 2%.
A 2% increase will apply to all visit visas to help maintain the UK’s position as one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
An increase of up to 25% will apply to settlement, residence and nationality fees, as these routes deliver the most benefits to successful applicants.
An increase of up to 33% for optional premium services offered by the Home Office such as the super-premium service and priority visa services overseas.
Family and spouse visas will in future cost £1,195 and the fee for “Adult Dependant Relatives" is going up to £2,676.
The next step after ILR, leading to naturalization as British citizens, will cost £1,236 instead of the current £1,005.
Companies applying for a Tier 2 sponsor licence to enable them to recruit foreign workers, including Indians, still need to pay a fee of £1,476, which has remained unchanged.
A new £25 fee for processing invalid applications is also to be introduced.
At the moment, any fee paid for an invalid application is refunded. PTI