Destroying, hopes, dreams, and lives: How the UK visa application costs and process impact migrants’ lives

What you need to know:

  • A single person is expected to pay at least £2,593 every 2.5 years for their visa renewal application fee and NHS surcharge alone, with two-thirds of respondents spending thousands on additional costs and another two-thirds going into debt to cover the expense.
  • The pressure of these costs impact every part of migrants' lives, with many left more vulnerable to exploitation at work, unable to spend time with family and friends, and some being unable to feed their children properly.
  • As a result, 95% of respondents had extremely negative feelings about their situation, describing a sense of a "living hell". Many felt unable to live a "normal life" with the pressures of visa renewal.

This report by Migrant Voice, funded by Trust for London, gives an insight into the crucial but under-looked impact of the visa renewal application process on migrants. Through surveys, focus groups and direct interviews, the report illustrates the serious financial burden that visa renewal places on migrants, and shows how the associated stresses of the renewal process are having a detrimental effect on every aspect of migrants' lives.

What did Migrant Voice find out?

  • The cost of renewing a visa is very high. A single person is expected to pay at least £2,593 every 2.5 years for the application fee and NHS surcharge alone. This means that at current cost, an individual on the 5-year route would pay £5,186 and £10,372 if they were on the 10-year route before settlement.
  • Two thirds of respondents said they end up spending thousands of pounds in additional costs each time they renew their visas.
  • A third of respondents told us they have so far paid around £20,000 overall (for themselves and/or their family members), with 10% having paid in excess of £40,000.
  • Two thirds of respondents told us that they have had to go into debt to be able to pay for their visa costs. People have told us of debts reaching £30,000.
  • Our research showed that people are more vulnerable to exploitation at work, working extra-long hours, taking fewer breaks, working while sick, accepting lower paid work, because of the amount of money they must save for their visas.
  • The application process and the costs associated with it have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health. Some people said they felt they are in a “living hell”.
  • Some said that they were unable to feed their children properly, others that they were not able to help them to study or to send them to university. Some people specifically went without food or had to access food banks due to the impact of the visa costs.
  • 95% of respondents told us they felt extremely negative feelings about their situation, with some using words such as “terrible”, “hopeless”, “mental torture”, and “ruined life” to describe their situation.
  • Visa fees can also impact on every aspect of material life. Many felt that they are unable to lead what they consider a “normal” life.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated existing problems for over half of the respondents
  • The survey participants come from a wide range of walks of life; yet they are all affected by the costs of visas.

What is Migrant Voice calling for?

  • Visa fees for adults must not be higher than the administrative cost, children should go free
  • Abolish the Immigration Health Surcharge
  • Cap all routes to settlement at 5 years
  • Cut waiting times and improve communication from the Home Office, devise a quicker, simplified and less stressful visa application process

27 April 2022