The Government is proposing a massive fivefold increase in immigration appeal fees.
The proposal would see the fees in the First Tier Tribunal rise from £80 to £490 for a paper hearing and from £140 to £800 for an oral hearing.
This means an increase in excess of 500%.
A new fee of £455 for an application for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal would also be introduced.
There are rising concerns that the increases, if implemented, will discourage many migrants from pursuing appeals with many being simply unable to challenge often incorrect decisions. The result will be that many families will be forced to spend months if not years apart.
Although fees for successful appeals can be refunded at the discretion of the presiding Judge as is currently the case, it is likely that rather than facing an expensive and protracted appeals process (the Tribunal is so backlogged it is taking up to 12 months for many cases to be heard), many people will simply allow unlawful and poor decisions to remain unchallenged.
This is particularly concerning in light of Government figures that 44% of the appeals that were determined in the First Tier Tribunal in 2013/14 were allowed, with a further 20% of appeals being withdrawn prior to the appeal hearing.
Law Society President, Jonathan Smithers, has said: “It is fundamental to the rule of law that access to the courts and tribunals should not be determined by the ability to pay – the provision of justice should not be an accounting exercise.
There is a serious risk that fee increases of 500% will prevent many people from challenging often incorrect Home Office administrative decisions about their entitlement to enter or remain in the UK.”
The proposals follow hot on the heels of a further hike in in visa application fees this March which saw a massive 25% increase in already high applications fees for the year 2016-17. It also comes not long after the significant and wide reaching changes to appeal rights which have seen appeal grounds limited to human rights and asylum ground only.
It is worth noting that there are no similar proposals to increase fees by a similar amount for other Courts and Tribunals. These only apply to immigration appeals. A suggestion is that this could be challenged as discriminating under Race Relations and Equality legislation.
Set against a background of every increasing visa fees, fast changing and complex immigration rules, poor and inconsistent decision making by Home Office officials, and reduced appeal rights, these proposals would put enjoying a family life together in the UK even further out of reach for many British families where there is a non-UK national member and put off those coming to the UK to invest, undertake skilled work or study in the UK.
Sign the petition against the proposals here.
For further information and advice contact June Holmes on 0191 243 8164 or email email@example.com