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Key immigration issues impacting RMC clients

Written by RMC Immigration Department Manager, Danai Papachristopoulou

In the last two years, we have seen several changes in the immigration rules, increases in application fees, changes to the legal requirements and three asylum bills going though Parliament. All these ongoing changes have created a range of barriers which impacts our clients when trying to navigate the immigration system. In this piece, we hope to outline some of the key issues RMC clients face.

1. Steep increases in application fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) 

Most application fees increased by 20% in October 2023 and the IHS saw a 66% increase.  

For example, the total fee for a partner of a British Citizen extending their leave to remain in the UK is now £3,635.50 (an increase of £1,000 since February 2024). If the same partner is outside the UK and is applying to join the British Citizen, the cost would be £4,951. 

More increases were recently announced with the fee for most application for leave to remain based on family and private life increasing by 20% from £1,048 to £1,258

This has made the fees unaffordable for many of our clients who have to now apply for fee waivers, a process that is not only arduous but also prolongs the waiting time for a decision. 

2. Long delays in Home Office decision-making  

Currently the advertised average processing time for family life applications inside the UK is 12 months. People remain in limbo while they wait for their application to be processed, cannot travel, and while they often have the right to work, they face difficulties proving this to their employers. 

The advertised average processing time for applications from outside the UK is 24 weeks. However, our experience suggests family reunion visas can take up to a year and sometimes even more. This results in long term separation of families with applicants often living in unsafe countries.  

3. The changes in EU Settlement Scheme and the impact on vulnerable EU nationals  

After changes in the law last summer, many vulnerable EU nationals and their family members are facing difficulties proving their right to be protected under the Withdrawal Agreement and be granted status in the UK. These are people that missed the initial deadline to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme or were previously refused and while it used to be easy to reapply with new evidence, the threshold for showing reasonable grounds for the delays in applying has increased significantly with many applications being rejected straightway with no right of appeal.  

4. Lack of legal aid 

Asylum claims are some of the few matters that are still eligible for legal aid. However, asylum seekers are unable to access free legal representation as legal aid providers in the region are at capacity. Given the complexity of the asylum process and possibility of removal to Rwanda access to legal aid is essential.  

5. Illegal Migration Act 2023  (IMA 2023) and the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill  

The Illegal Migration Act 2023 will change the way people seek asylum in the UK. It has not been enacted yet in its entirety but has already created uncertainty amongst asylum-seekers who are unsure if and how their claims will be processed. 

6. Increase of the minimum income requirement  

The minimum income requirement for applications of partners of British and settled people is increasing from £18,600 to £29,000 from the 11th April 2024. This will result in many of our clients not being able to sponsor their partner’s new application for leave to enter or remain in the UK. 

See our full breakdown of the impact of this in our specialist blog

7. Issues when proving status/right to work/right to rent 

The Home Office is intending to phase out all physical documents by the end of 2024 and digitalise the way people prove their status and right to work. Migrants are already experiencing issues when trying to access their status online with the website not always working or sometimes showing wrong information. This is a major concern for the next year. 

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