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Families ‘face £28,000 in costs’ due to ‘unjustifiable’ Home Office visa and healthcare fee hike

Raquel Roberts Dos Santos with her husband Manoel and two sons Emanoel and Jaime  (Raquel Roberts Dos Santos)
Raquel Roberts Dos Santos with her husband Manoel and two sons Emanoel and Jaime (Raquel Roberts Dos Santos)

Heartbroken workers and families will be forced to leave the UK, face debt or even poverty following a spike in visa fees and the international healthcare surcharge, migrant advocates warn.

From October 4 the Home Office will charge between 15 and 35 per cent more for visas to visit, live, study and work in the UK.

This increase is despite an immigration expert saying that the country is already struggling to regain its pre-Brexit workforce.

British businesses will also take a “massive hit” in paying extra for “the brightest and the best” when an “unjustifiable” 66 per cent increase in a migrant healthcare payment is introduced later this year, they warned.

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Overseas student visa fees are rising by 35 per cent from £363 to almost £500, while workers applying to live indefinitely in the UK - including doctors and their families and spouses of British citizens - face a 20 per cent increase, with a visa fee of roughly £3,000 per person.

Some families will have to fork out £28,000 to move to the UK as a result of the changes, and it’s feared migrants already working in the UK may end up undocumented if they cannot afford their next visa.

“It feels really heartbreaking because the UK is my home and I’ve invested so much into this country and into being here,” a senior university researcher living in the South West with her husband, who works for the Government, said.

The researcher, 30, who the Standard has agreed not to name, said she is already looking for jobs in other countries.

“We worked out it would cost us over £10,000 over the next couple of years to stay here.

“Although we have good salaries for UK standards, it’s just really not affordable for us,” the woman said.

She said it would cost the couple around £3,000 more under the fee changes next month.

“Supposedly my husband and I are both the types of migrants that the UK wants. The extra  £3,000 is becoming unrealistic.”

British mother Raquel Roberts Dos Santos, who lives in Portsmouth with her two sons, said it will take her years to save more than £8,000 to bring her Brazilian husband and stepdaughter to the UK under the new fees.

“They don’t see the damage that is being done to children, little boys and single mothers who then have to try and deal with everything. It’s just nonsensical.”

It’s the first significant increase in visa fees in many years, with the Home Office claiming the extra revenue will “pay for vital services and allow more funding to be prioritised for public sector pay rises”.

But immigration lawyer Rose Carey, Partner and Head of Immigration at Charles Russell Speechlys, said the spike in fees is “short sighted” and even “counterproductive”.

“At a time when the UK economy is struggling…we need to be doing things to open the UK for business.

”By increasing visa fees, it’s going to make it even harder for people to come to the UK to set up businesses and move their workers into the UK easily.

“We have to be very careful about a time when the UK economy is struggling, about keeping the UK attractive. Putting fees up is problematic.”

Charity Migrant Voice said migrants are not “an unlimited magic money tree for [the Home Office] to continue to exploit”.

“We have seen families forced into destitution and having to choose between food or paying for their visas,” director Nazek Ramadan told the Standard.

Fizza Qureshi, CEO of the Migrants’ Rights Network, said the fee increase “will force thousands further into poverty and debt during a cost of living crisis, or to leave the country”.

Spokesperson for refugee and migrant charity RAMFEL, Nick Beales, said: “There is actually a real risk that these extortionate fees…will see students and medical professionals decide to take their skills to countries where they feel valued and appreciated.”

An NHS recruiter and father of two, who the Standard has agreed to keep anonymous, has lived in the UK for 23 years.

The Nigerian national, 49, said his children were born in the UK but do not yet qualify for citizenship, nor he or his partner.

He estimates the cost to keep his family in the UK under the new visa fees will be around £15,000 - £1,000 more than before the fee hike.

“I’m already getting really stressed and worried about the situation because right now I haven’t even got a grand left in the account to try and prepare for this,” he told the Standard.

“People have got British kids here, they’ve been here for years, they’ve been paying their dues. Why are we being treated different?”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is right and fair to increase visa application fees so we can fund vital public services and allow wider funding to contribute to public sector pay.”

Income generated from visa fees can only be used to fund the migration and borders system, the Home Office said.

The healthcare surcharge has not increased since 2020 but the cost of providing healthcare has increased, it said, adding that there is little evidence that fee increases have significantly affected demand on work, study and tourism routes.

If you are impacted by the visa fee increases and want to share your story please email miriam.burrell@standard.co.uk.