Visa fee waiver

UK visa applications are getting more expensive everyday. Spouse visa application is becoming prohibitively expensive. NHS surcharge makes it even more of a burden.People who are unable to afford visa fees may apply for visa fees waivers. The right to a fee waiver applies only to certain categories of applicants and visas. In general, only those who would be, for example, separated from their loved ones are eligible for visa fees waiver. What is more, fee waivers apply to the visa applications. ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) applications are not eligible for fee waivers.

Further below we talk about who is eligible for fee waiver from Home Office and which visas are considered essential for applicants and thus eligible for a fee waiver.

Types of visas for which fee waivers can be issued

  • applications for leave to remain under the 5-year partner route from applicants who are not required to meet the minimum income threshold because their sponsor is in receipt of one or more specified benefits and who instead must demonstrate that their sponsor can provide adequate maintenance
  • applications for leave to remain under the 5-year parent route
  • applications for leave to remain under the new 5-year route being introduced under the Private Life Rules
  • applications for leave to remain under the 10-year partner, parent or private life route, where the applicant claims that refusal of that application for leave to remain would breach their rights (or the rights of other specified persons) under ECHR Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life)
  • applications for leave to remain on the basis of other ECHR rights
  • applications for further leave to remain from applicants granted discretionary leave (DL) following refusal of asylum or humanitarian protection, where the applicant claims that refusal to grant further leave to remain would breach their ECHR rights
  • applications for further DL from victims of trafficking or slavery who have had a positive conclusive grounds decision from a competent authority of the national referral mechanism (NRM), have already accrued 30 months’ DL and are seeking to extend it for reasons related to trafficking or slavery

Who can apply for Spouse visa fee waiver, applicant and dependants

One or more family members who are dependants on an application can be granted a fee waiver. An applicant can complete a fee waiver request form for the relevant individual dependent family members, or by the main applicant stating that they can pay the fee for their application (and possibly for some dependants) but are unable to pay the fee for all of their dependants.

In these circumstances, the main applicant will be asked to specify which dependants are applying for a fee waiver and which are not. However, it is not possible for part of the immigration fee to be waived and part of the fee to be paid for individual applicants.

How to apply for a fee waiver

Application for a fee waiver should be done online. An online form must be completed. Applicant needs to provide evidence of his financial situation. After submission the application is assessed according to strict rules.

Situations where fee waiver is granted

What applicant has to demonstrate for Home Office to grant visa fees waiver:

The onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy the decision maker that a fee waiver should be granted, but there will be some cases where providing evidence is more difficult than in others.

It is the applicants responsibility to provide sufficient evidence for the Home Office to make decision.

Applicant must not only demonstrate that he can’t aford the fees. He aso has to show that he was unable to save for the fees after funding his immediate needs, such as food and housing. The caseworker will also loook at the applicants spending and savings.

How the Home Office process for fee waiver looks like the steps

  1. Are you satisfied that the applicant is either destitute nor at risk of imminent destitution?
  2. Does the applicant pay for their accommodation?
  3. How are they meeting their essential living needs? (such as do they pay for them/are they donated? If so, from whom?).
  4. What sources of income do they have?
  5. Have they provided evidence of sources of income, including details of all bank accounts that they and their partner hold (if not, these details must be requested)?
  6. Does the applicant have sufficient surplus income, excluding accommodation and essential living needs, to afford the fee?
  7. Has the applicant made any non-essential and excessive purchases, such as money spent on holidays, gambling or other non-essential purchases?
  8. Is the information provided, even if not complete, sufficient to indicate that evidential flexibility, as described above, should be applied?
  9. Do they have sufficient savings to pay the fee?

Destitution and fee waivers

Those who are deemed to be destitute or in immediate danger of becoming destitute will receive fee waiver.

Who is destitute according to Home Office definition:

  • those who do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not their other essential living needs are met)
  • applicant who has adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it but cannot meet his/hers other essential living needs

Who is at risk of becoming destitute:

  • those who will be destitute in the near future
  • people whose living conditions, whilst not amounting to destitution, are not sustainable
  • payment of the fee would leave the applicant with insufficient funds to pay for accommodation and essential living needs in the near future

Some examples of imminent destitution:

  • anyone likely to become homeless within the next 3 months from the date of application (“within 3 months from the date of application” is being used as a measure of the near future)
  • anyone whose temporary accommodation, say on a friend’s floor or in a spare room, is going to come to an end within 3 months of the date of application
  • anyone at risk of losing their accommodation in the next 3 months (which might include tenants with rent arrears notices)
  • someone with no work and unlikely to be able to meet living costs for beyond 3 months

How the essential living expenses are calculated

Surplus income is assessed as income after accommodation and essential living needs have been met. This includes housing or accommodation and utilities, food, clothing, toiletries, non-prescription medication and household cleaning items.

Provision is also made to cover the costs of travel and communication to enable the supported persons to maintain interpersonal relationships and access a reasonable level of social, cultural and religious life.

A broad breakdown of these essential living needs and the weekly cost associated with them can be found in the latest report on review of cash allowance paid to asylum seekers. See also the letter from the Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts to Chief Executives of Local Authorities dated 8 June 2020 which sets out a new weekly rate.

These essential living needs and costs are a guide and caseworkers should consider whether the costs explained by the applicant are reasonable. Applicants for a fee waiver are not expected to be purchasing these items at a cost significantly higher than what is quoted in the data, nor should they be spending excessively on items that are clearly not essential for their living needs.

Applicants with children

The duty in section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child in the UK means that consideration of the child’s best interests, which can also be expressed as the child’s well-being, must be a primary consideration, but not the only consideration, in carrying out immigration functions that affect them.

The following questions, in addition to the earlier questions, are relevant to assessing if the request should be granted because the applicant is faced with:

  • meeting the further essential needs of a child or children, and is unable to do so on account of their low income
  • being required to find the amount necessary for the fee would deprive the child of having these further needs met

It is also important to understand if the child is supported only by one parent or by both.

Questions to consider when assessing an application in relation to children:

  1. Does the applicant have children?
  2. Do the children live with both parents or with only one parent?
  3. Do both parents provide support or only one parent?
  4. Has the absent parent ever provided support?
  5. What impact will paying the fees have, given the parent’s low income, on the ability of the child to enjoy or maintain full participation in school activities?
  6. If it will have an impact, which are the activities in which the child cannot participate (private lessons and activities not provided by the school are not included unless part of a plan approved by the school)?
  7. Does the child have further needs based on a protected characteristic, such as extra travel costs through participating, additionally to the parent, in a faith or other centre providing for children and young people, or does the child have needs based on making adjustments for a disability?

The purpose of this consideration is to assess whether a fee waiver rejection would have a disproportionate impact on the child’s well-being or best interests.

Situations in which application for fee waivers will be rejected

The fee waiver request may be rejected if the applicant has not provided reliable information about availability of accommodation, provision of essential living needs, income level and outgoings, and overall financial circumstances.

It may be rejected if it is reasonable to conclude that the applicant has intentionally disposed of funds, for instance, by voluntarily giving or loaning funds to a third party.

It may also be rejected if the applicant has been purchasing items that are within their income but outside of what is considered as essential living needs and the evidence is that they are not taking reasonable and proportionate steps, to ensure that they have sufficient cash in hand to pay a foreseeable fee.

More information on fee waivers can be found on the Home Office webpage.

Documents required with fee waiver application

It is the responsibilty of the applicant to provide documents necessary for Home Office to asses the application. If the evidence is not sufficient, caseworker will contact applicant for more evidence.If after two contacts there is no answer the caseworker may refuse application.

Which information and documents should applicants provide with their fee waiver request:

Information and evidence relating to the applicant’s income, their accommodation, the type and adequacy of accommodation, the amount of their rent/mortgage or of their contribution towards this, and their outgoings in terms of spending on things like food and utility bills. This information should be supported by independent evidence, such as their pay slips, bank statements, tenancy agreement and utility bills.

The nature of the evidence provided will vary depending on the individual circumstances of the applicant, but the caseworker should expect to see evidence appropriate to the circumstances being claimed.

Applicants must provide full details of any employment, including how much and how often they are paid. They should include evidence such as pay slips, tax returns, details of their own business if they are self-employed e.g. invoices.

Dishonesty and misrepresentation of income, financial means

What the caseworker in fee waiver requests will be particularly interested is whether the applicant was:

  • providing support or loans to others without any detail as to how these are being applied
  • voluntarily giving funds away to a third party
  • paying debts before they are required to do so or paying more in response to a debt than is required
  • buying a personal possession that is clearly not essential to their living needs.
  • spending extravagantly or excessively