Following a consultation in which the vast majority of respondents opposed massive fee increases in the Immigration Tribunals system, the Home Office has opted for… massive fee increases in the Immigration Tribunals system.
Under the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) Fees (Amendment) Order 2016 the increases will affect First-Tier Tribunal appeals against decisions made on or after 10 October 2016.
The basic fee for an oral appeal to the First Tier Tribunal will rocket from £140 to £800. An appeal without a hearing will cost £490 (up from £80).
According to the consultation response, fees will also be introduced for further appeal stages including charges of £455 and £350 for applications for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, and a further £510 for an Upper Tribunal hearing.
The Government’s rationale is that people who “benefit” from using the Tribunals service should bear its costs. There is no mention of the fact that the system is the only means of challenging decisions of the state made against individuals, where those decisions could in many cases result in whole families being pulled apart.
The fees increases accompany other measures designed to make Home Office immigration decisions unassailable:
- The Immigration Act 2016 will make most appeal rights exercisable from outside the UK only (so-called “deport first appeal later”)
- The Home Office is increasingly certifying claims as “clearly unfounded”, forcing appellants to apply for Judicial Review in order to claim a right of appeal int he Tribunal
- The Ministry of Justice’s vision for an online “lawyerless” civil justice system
These changes are particularly harsh for families where each appellant will have to pay an appeal fee: £3,200 to start an appeal for a family of four.
On the bright side, in a newly-emptied Tribunals system, perhaps it will now take less than a year for appeals to reach a hearing.