On 9 September, the UK Borders Agency published a notice of mid-year visa and naturalisation fee increases, proposed to come into effect at the beginning of October and November 2010. This is in addition to the fee increases that were already brought in on 1 April 2010. The proposed fee levels represent a breach of the human rights of British citizens and put the UK in contravention of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, of which the UK is a signatory.
Article 16 of the Declaration states, ‘Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution…The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.’ The fee levels combined with the pre-entry English language tests present a direct impediment to family life.
In April, the government raised the cost of settlement permits to £840 from £820; now it proposes to raise the fees another £60 to £900. This does not include the £34 fee for the Knowledge of Life in the UK Test – more if one doesn’t pass the first time – or the £9.99-£17.50 for the official study guides without which one cannot hope to pass the test, as it does not actually contain questions and answers one would know through everyday life in the UK.
I am the non-EU wife of a British citizen. I have brought £130,000 into the UK economy from other countries in the past four years. Yet the UK government has the audacity to justify the fee increases on the grounds that I am burden to the taxpayer.
While the UK government has the right to control labour migration, it does not have the right to prevent family reunification or to interfere with its citizens’ right to marry anyone without regard for nationality. Such high fee levels cannot be anything but an impediment to family life, yet we have no option but to pay them because my visa will expire, so we have to pay whatever the government demands.
The application process is a further violation of citizens’ right to freedom of movement. When I applied for my first spousal visa, we had to send both my husband’s and my passports to the UKBA. They kept the passports and our marriage certificate for the entire three-month processing period, which meant neither of us could leave the country. Should a family emergency have arisen, I could have withdrawn my application and received my passport back, but I would immediately have become an illegal immigrant, would have forfeited the entire visa fee, and would have had to re-apply from outside the UK, during which indefinite period of time my husband and I would have been separated. Now my application for settlement is looming, and I have only a 95 per cent guarantee that the UKBA will be able to process my application within six months, which means again being entirely without identity papers or the right to travel.
In 2009, applications for children, husbands and wives to settle with their family members in the UK made up 69 per cent of settlement grants. Of the spouses, 87.5 per cent were married to British citizens. This means that the proposed measures overwhelmingly affect the rights of British citizens to family life without interference from the state. I cannot do more than express my extreme outrage and beg people to campaign to their MPs to block this measure when it is submitted for parliamentary approval in the coming weeks.