Fee waiver in immigration applications is available in exceptional circumstances to applicants for leave to remain in the UK who are relying on the grounds of family life or private life, but not to any other immigration category.
The assessment is made in respect of the full amount of the fee. If the applicant is unable to pay the full amount, part payment will not be required. A similar assessment is made in relation to the Immigration Health Surcharge. If several family members are applying together but their funds are not sufficient to cover all applications, a waiver may be given in relation to the children or dependent partner.
The new guidance attempts to implement the decision of the Upper Tribunal in a case which challenged the legality of the “destitution” test in fee waiver application. The new policy shifts the focus on “affordability”.
Until now, an applicant for a fee waiver had to demonstrate that payment of the Home Office fee would render them destitute or that they are unable to pay the fee even with the help of friends and family in the UK. This required financial assessment of anyone who supported the applicant to whatever small extent.
The new policy, although still extensively refers to destitution, differs in some substantial points. There is no need to provide financial information relating to friends and family other than members of the same household. There is no requirement to demonstrate that the applicant is unable to borrow the money to pay the fees.
Applicants in receipt of local authority support or those who rely on family and friends or charitable organisation to meet their essential living needs may apply for a fee waiver. There is no automatic entitlement, but the decision-maker is expected to take all evidence in the round and decide whether the applicant is unable to pay the application fee, the IHS, or both.
The applicant is expected to provide bank statements and demonstrate their expenditures and all sources of income for a period of six months before the application. The caseworker will decide if the money is spent on essential living needs or on extravagance, to use the Home Office’s expression, in light of the applicant’s circumstances and obligations.
Essential living needs are food and utility bills. Buying a personal possession that is clearly not essential or too expensive for the applicant’s circumstances would be viewed as an intentional disposal of funds.
Support from friends and family
Where support is provided by friends and family, any regular payments are taken into consideration in the assessment of income. If support is likely to be reduced or ended, the applicant will have to provide a letter from the sponsor explaining the cause.
Nevertheless, the positive news is that friends and family are not required to demonstrate that they are unable to pay the applicant’s fees, as was the previous policy.
How to apply for a fee waiver
The application is made in advance of the application for leave to remain. You will receive a decision on the fee waiver first and then make the application for leave to remain. If your leave expires while you are waiting for a decision on your fee waiver application, you will not become an overstayer. You will have additional 10 days after the decision on your fee waiver request to submit the application for leave to remain. You will receive an electronic pass to use when making the application which will also establish the applicable fee or will allow you to make the application without payment.
Fee waiver is technically available to applicants who do not have current immigration status. However, a fee waiver application would not protect the applicant from a removal decision.