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Govt to impose #500 surcharge on migrants

Any person who wants to enter the UK to work, study or join kin will have to pay the surcharge, reports Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2003 21:34 IST
Nabanita Sircar
Nabanita Sircar

The British Home Office plans to impose a £500 surcharge on every person who wants to enter the UK to work, study or join family members. With 900,000 immigrants coming into the country every year, the UK stands to make an additional £450 million annually.

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The fee-for-work permit applications is £95 now, but will go up to £125 in April. The top up charge will take the fees to £625. Students, people joining relations and those applying for citizenship now pay £155. They will pay £655 when the surcharge kicks in.

Asylum-seekers will be exempt. But the fees will apply to the 18,000 people a year who need to have an official "leave to remain" stamped on their passports.

The surcharge is in the small print of Home Secretary David Blunkett's immigration and asylum Bill, which will get a second reading in the Commons next week. The revenue from the surcharge will contribute to the £1.8 billion that the UK spends on its immigration and asylum system.

The Home Office has justified the new charge, with an official saying that migrants will make a "windfall gain through being granted access to the UK labour market". Ministers believe that migrants should pay more because of the benefits they receive once they are in Britain.

A Home Office document says, “It is both fair and economically efficient that government in raising revenue should look to appropriate some of the windfall gain that migrants derive.”

But the disclosure is expected to alarm and anger MPs as well as businesses that rely on migrant workers. To ease such concerns, the surcharge will be phased in an attempt to dilute its impact.

The Home Office's assessment of the impact of the surcharge admits that if fees are set too high, they will encourage illegal entry, overstaying and working and deter potential migrants. They could also have a negative impact on attracting the kind of skills the UK needs.

A 500 pound burden

• UK work permits to cost £625. Current charge: £95

• Fee for studying, joining families and citizenship will be £655.

• Current charge: £155

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST