5 March 2021

Following a successful challenge in the Upper Tribunal by JCWI and others, the Home Office has agreed to change its policy on who is eligible for a fee waiver when applying for entry clearance.  

People applying for a visa to enter the UK on human rights grounds – for example, to live in the UK with their family members – have to pay around £3000 to submit an applicationThose who are already in the UK can apply for something called a fee waiver, so that they can apply for the visa without paying the fee. A landmark case last year means that people who are already in the UK can apply for a fee waiver if they cannot afford the fee – before this, you would have to prove that you were destitute or that there were exceptional circumstances in your case. 

However, up until now it’s been almost impossible for people who are outside the UK to apply to enter the UK if they can’t afford the fees. The Home Office guidance said that, essentially, only people who were living through a natural disaster or a civil war could get a fee waiver to make a human rights application to come to the UK. This meant that lots of people, for example those who wanted to join their partner or children in the UK, simply couldn’t make an application because they couldn’t afford the fee.  

Many of JCWI’s clients were separated from their loved ones by this policy. If they’d already been in the UK, they would have been able to apply for a fee waiver – but because they weren’t, they were effectively barred from making an application and reuniting with their families.  

After seeing a number of clients refused financial help just because they were outside the UK when they applied, JCWI’s Duduzile Moyo decided to challenge the Home Office’s unfair policy. The case was taken forward by JCWI’s Enny Choudhury, who identified scope for challenging the policy following legal judgement in May 2020. Along with Nath Gbikpi from Islington Law Centre, she then instructed barrister Alasdair Mackenzie from Doughty Street Chambers to challenge the Home Office over its out-of-country fee waiver policy. 

After being challenged in the Upper Tribunal through judicial review proceedings, the Home Office has finally accepted that its current policy is unlawful. It has agreed to issue new policy so that people who are unable to pay the application fee aren’t barred from applying just because they’re outside the UK. It hasn’t said when the new policy will be published, but it can’t come soon enough. Too many families are separated because of things like visa fees and the Minimum Income RequirementThe Home Office needs to act fast and change its unlawful policy so that families can be together, where they belong. 

Enny Choudhury, who worked on the case for JCWI, said: 

This brings to an end the unfair and unlawful policy of the Home Office to deny a fee waiver to those who cannot afford to pay, and are therefore forced to remain separated from their families. This couldn’t come soon enough. The pandemic has made it even harder for families to be apart, especially for children who are without their parent, not knowing when they might see themWe urge the Home Office to publish its new policy without delay”
If you have made a fee waiver application for an entry clearance visa and it has been refused, or if you make an application in the future and it is refused, please do get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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