The government announced uniform price hikes for immigration and the Immigration Health Surcharge on Thursday, July 13, 2023. These fees are to help fund a wage increase for public sector employees.
How much is the Immigration Health Surcharge going up?
The required Immigration Health Surcharge fees that immigrants must pay at the time of application in order to use NHS services will increase by a significant 40% per applicant. The main fee will increase from £624 to £1,035 per year, and the discounted rate for students, those under 18, and those applying for the Youth Mobility Scheme would climb from £470 to £776.
How much are work and visit visa fees going up?
Application fees for work and visit visas will increase by 15%.
The government says that fees for the following categories will increase by “at least 20%”:
- study visas;
- certificates of sponsorship;
- entry clearance applications (other applications apart from work and visit visas);
- leave to remain applications;
- priority service;
- settlement applications; and
- citizenship applications;
Are fees being simplified?
In addition to the above fee increases, the Minister for Immigration separately announced several simplified fee arrangements for smaller fees previously applicable to some applications, including the following:
- Abolition of the £19.20 fee for biometric enrolment;
- Abolition of £161 fee for transfer of conditions applications;
- Abolition of fees for amendments such as a migrant’s name, nationality, sex marker and photograph on physical documents;
- Elimination of fees for Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) where a document has expired and entails no further changes, such as expiration of BRPs for migrants holding Indefinite Leave to Remain; and
- Harmonisation of costs for students and those who opt to use the priority service by ensuring applications from within and outside the UK are the same.
When will the new fees become effective?
An implementation date has yet to be announced.
Are immigration rules being loosened for foreign construction workers?
On 17th July the Home Office announced a loosening of UK post-Brexit immigration laws to help solve a scarcity of experienced construction workers. The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) will now include carpenters, plasterers, roofers, and bricklayers, according to the Home Office. Two fishing industry occupations are also added, agriculture and fishing trades not elsewhere classified (fishing industry jobs only) and fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations not elsewhere classified (e.g. deckhands – conditions apply). The expanded list covers applications submitted on or after 7th August 2023.
The UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a government-approved list of occupations for which there are not enough resident workers to fill vacancies. The list is regularly updated based on developments in the job market.
Roles on the list have lower application fees and salary criteria for visas. It has, in the past, been extended to workers in health and social services, as well as butchers.
Why are the rules being changed?
The decision by the government to approve the Migration Advisory Committee's recommendations regarding builders is a reference to the construction industry's difficulties in filling positions ever since skilled worker numbers declined in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Why is there a shortage of skilled labour?
After Brexit, many skilled workers, mostly from Eastern Europe, did not return to the UK due to the added impacts of COVID. Notably since 2017, the construction industry has lost more than a third of its EU workforce, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS – 2021).
Who will benefit from the relaxation of the rules?
The immigration laws being relaxed would especially benefit home builders, who have long lamented the lack of trained workers. 41% of members of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) reported having trouble finding bricklayers, and nearly half of the respondents delayed work as a result of a general lack of expertise.
The National Federation of Builders said: "It's great that the government is listening to industries”. The NFB has long been campaigning to add these desperately needed roles to the SOL.
They commented that "foreign workers remain vital to make up for a shortfall in the UK construction workforce."
How 3CS can help
For further information, help, and advice on any business immigration matter please get in touch with your usual 3CS contact.