UNITED KINGDOM: Home Office Launches Consultation on Charging Fees
On November 12, 2013, the Home Office launched a three-week consultation to review proposed changes to the charging principles. As part of the consultation, the Home Office sought views on how it charges customers and the services it provides. The last consultation on charging was carried out in 2009. This was a good opportunity for stakeholders to have their voice heard.
One area where the Home Office is focusing its attention is the introduction of premium or business support services to improve the customer experience, both at the application stage and when passing through UK immigration control. Examples of appropriate services were requested together with the fee that should be levied. The extension of mobile services was given as an example; it is possible for UK-based applicants to pay £6,000 for a super premium service, where officers visit the applicant's premises to enroll biometrics.
Other questions in the consultation included:
- Should customers have an option to pay for individual premium services or should they have to sign up for the full premium end-to-end package? A premium customer service for sponsors under the Points Based System (PBS) was introduced in 2012. Under this scheme, businesses may sign up for a tailored service for Home Office assistance with the processing of their PBS applications for an annual fee of £25,000, or a more restricted service for smaller companies for £8,000.
- Should some application types continue to attract lower-than-cost fees? For example, should the UK charge lower fees for visitor applications because the UK wishes to attract tourists and needs to consider what other countries are charging? Similarly, should some applications, such as those for settlement, attract higher-than-cost fees where the applicant will obtain a significant benefit?
- Finally, the Home Office said it would like views on its proposal within the immigration bill to introduce a revised charging framework. At present, it is possible to increase or introduce new fees only once a year in April. However, if the Home Office introduces new schemes, like the Registered Travellers Scheme or the GREAT club scheme (more about this below), they will need flexibility to levy a fee for these services at the point of introduction.
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