From 1st June 2017, it will cost £5.48 per email to email UK Visas and immigration (UKVI) from outside the UK.
The move has left the best immigration lawyers and support groups in shock and furious.
The Home Office has recently outsourced its visa enquiries service to Sitel UK, a subsidiary of French-owned Acticall Sitel Group.
The charge will cover the first email and all follow-up emails relating to the same subject.
The fee must be paid by credit or debit card before the email is submitted.
Why has the change been brought in?
At present customers can email UKVI free of charge. The Home Office says responding to email enquiries from overseas customers, under existing arrangements, costs the Home Office a 'significant' amount to run.
The Home Office states the move will, “help the government reduce costs and ensure those who benefit directly from the UK immigration system make an appropriate contribution”.
One solicitor told the Law Society Gazette that to even begin to justify such a charge, UKVI would have to “up their game considerably”.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. In addition to the new charges, UKVI has reduced the number of languages it is offering from 20 to just eight: English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, French, Hindi, Russian and Spanish.
Previously the service offered Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, English, French, Gujarati, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhala, Spanish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese.
For many years, there have been complaints about the accuracy of information being delivered from the UKVI and its predecessor, the UK Border Agency.
The charge will not apply to enquiries generated from people already living in the UK.
What can overseas immigration applicants do to minimise the charges?
To minimise the amount charged by UKVI, those making immigration enquiries could try:
- putting all their queries into a single email
- using an existing email chain to respond to UKVI emails, do not create a fresh email
- refraining from following up queries as this could be seen as a new enquiry
If you are applying for a UK visa from outside the UK, contacting an experienced immigration solicitor in the first instance may be the best option to ensure you receive swift, accurate answers to your questions. An immigration lawyer can also assist you in filling out the forms required for your visa and collate the necessary documents.
OTS Solicitors is regarded as one of the best immigration law firms in the UK. If you need advice on any immigration law matters, please phone our office on 0207 936 9960 to talk to one of our dedicated immigration lawyers.
For the best expert legal advice and outcome on your UK immigration application, contact OTS immigration solicitors on 020 7936 9960 or contact us online.
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Posted on: Friday, 02 June, 2017