Earlier this month I grumbled about the recent 134% increase in the cost of applying for a UK settlement visa. Well, I'm pleased to report that my MP has now forwarded a response from Joan Ryan MP, an Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, which reads as follows:
"I understand Mr Nelson's concerns about the impact of changes to our fees. Clearly, it is not in the interests of the country to make changes that will undo the many positive benefits that migration brings to the UK. But we are building confidence in our immigration system, and a key part of delivering this - as set out in the recently published enforcement strategy - is new resources to fund improvements in both the controls and the services we offer.
The Government made every effort to give the public as much time as possible to know what the proposed fees would be from 2 April and 7 March was the earliest time that we could publish the proposed charges. We have ensured that this information has been made available as widely as possible.
The Government's response to the public consultation on the charging proposals that ran at the end of last year was published on 7 March. In this we set out options for introducing a flexible charging model to allow us to set fees at levels that are both fair and deliver the additional resource that is crucial to step change in enforcement that we have promised. Over 3000 documents were sent out; over 400 people participated in 13 stakeholder events; and we received 340 formal responses. 87% agreed we should set fees flexibly to take into account wider policy objectives and 79% agreed new fees should reflect a range of factors, not only those of value to the migrant.
From April we increased the fee for settlement from £335 to £750 for postal applications. We did this to bring us more into line with similar fees charged in other countries (we are considerably less costly than many) and in order to reflect the administrative costs of determining settlement and ensuring compliance with our immigration laws. Settlement brings with it the right to access the labour market and the majority of the benefit system for the applicant and their dependents. We also hope and expect it is an act that cements the relationship between the individual and this country, both of whom benefit by managed migration.
The Government has already committed to keep the fees we charge under regular review and continue to appraise performance in all areas of the business in detail. The new fees will enable the Border and Immigration Agency to continue improving service as well as paying for robust immigration control.
I hope this information has been helpful."
Whilst I still think that the recent hike in fees was extortionate, and too little notice was given of these increases, I am obviously biased as it is my credit card which has been bruised, and I must admit that the letter above makes some reasonable points.
Mostly, I'm just pleased to have been able to make my voice heard in some small way, and received a well-written personal response from those responsible for the decision - to that end, the process seems to work. In these modern times, it's very easy to sign electronic e-Petitions, phone radio talk shows, email the newspapers or, yes, write an angry blog post on a subject, but for all their ease and speed, those methods of spleen-venting can be ultimately unfulfilling. Sometimes the most effective course of action remains to simply put your grievances down as ink on paper and drop them in a postbox.
Now, fingers crossed that the visa application (mailed earlier this week) goes through without a hitch...