The wife and I recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary, which means that Jocelyn is now eligible to apply for permanent leave to remain in the United Kingdom.
Here's a quick story-so-far summary for those of you who haven't been following along with the bureacratic burden of marrying someone from outside the EU - initially Joce had to apply at the UK embassy in Los Angeles for a "Fiancee Visa", on which to enter the UK before our wedding (cost £250). Then once married, she was able to apply to the Home Office for "limited leave to remain" for two years (cost £335).
Now, I was expecting the fee for permanent residency to cost a similar amount, so it was a shock to learn that, as of 1st April, the fee has been increased by a whopping 123% to £750! This news seems to have gone largely unnoticed, and since it only affects individuals wanting to come to this country, the newspapers certainly don't care. Only a few left-leaning periodicals picked up on the story:
- The Voice - Increase In UK Visa Fees Attacked
- New Statesman - Come In, But Cough Up
- Guardian - Welcome To Britain, All Major Credit Cards Accepted
Annoyed and frustrated at this huge increase, I've been looking for a way to register my dissatisfaction (other than through this blog entry!). There's an e-Petition on the Number 10 website which I've signed (and I'd encourage any British Citizens reading this to do likewise), but that didn't seem sufficient, so I fired up Word and drafted a quick letter to my local MP:
John Grogan MP
Dear Mr Grogan,
I am writing to draw your attention to the recent exorbitant increases in fees for applications to live in the UK, and the detrimental impact that these increases are having on ordinary families in your constituency.
As you may be aware, as of 1st April 2007, the newly-created Border & Immigration Agency raised the application fee for indefinite leave to remain in the UK as the partner of a person present and settled in the UK from £335 to £750. Furthermore, the requirement to additionally pass a test on “Life in the UK” at a price of £34 brings this cost to £784, or an overnight increase of some 134%, clearly far outstripping the current rate of inflation.
My American-born wife and I were married in York in April 2005, have settled in a house we have bought together in Sherburn In Elmet, and are expecting our first child in July. I have lived in the UK all my life, and work as a software developer for a Yorkshire-based PLC. My wife fulfils a challenging role working as a teaching assistant in a local secondary school. Being forced to find such huge fees in order to apply to continue living together in this country is simply extortionate, coming as it does on top of previous fees of £250 for a fiancée visa and £335 for further leave to remain.
I support the Government’s stated aims in respect of the UK Borders Bill to "ferret out illegal workers and employers who exploit them” and “increase the rate and number of illegal immigrants sent back to their home countries”, but I believe it to be grossly unfair to expect legal migrants, who are net contributors to society, to foot the bill for the additional resources required. To target those who cannot (yet) vote in this way is not only unreasonable, it is also short-sighted, and could result in skilled individuals and valuable public sector workers choosing to live in the homeland of their spouses rather than pay such punitive sums to remain in the UK.
I would appreciate it if you could raise this issue on my behalf with the minister responsible, and am interested in hearing what justification the government can offer for these seemingly unjust and ill-targeted fees.
I didn't really expect this to have any impact, but I had to at least make an effort, and what more can you do? I had never written to an MP before, so didn't know what response, if any to anticipate. But it certainly wasn't the response that I received:
"Breastfeeding manifesto"?! WTF?! I realise that John Grogan is standing down from parliament at the next election, but I would at least think that he (or his staff) could still find time to actually read his correspondence. *sigh*
Update (30 May 2007) - I've now received a response from the Home Office. See this post for more details.