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Cannot afford an immigration application: fee waiver explained

29 July 2021 Amna Ashraf Blog

With the rise in living costs and a worldwide pandemic impacting financial growth, affordability (of at least one thing) has probably crossed everyone’s mind at some point over the last year. For migrants who are normally expected to comply with a paid application process to allow them continued stay in the country, shortage of finances poses a very real and serious concern.

So what exactly can a migrant do if they cannot pay the fees for an immigration application? Luckily, there is a fee waiver provision which is available for some visa categories. Not so lucky however is lack of an automatic approval. Home Office have set a criteria that has to met with the onus being on the applicant to provide relevant and supporting evidence in a standalone application.

Which categories are eligible?

In short, all applications where human rights is the substantive reason behind the application and the minimum income threshold does not apply. Examples of categories include:

  • Spousal 5 year route to settlement, where adequate maintenance applies due to the sponsor being in receipt of one of the specified benefits under Appendix FM
  • Spousal 10 year route
  • Private life route
  • Parent of a British child, 5 or 10 year route
  • Discretionary leave applications
  • Further extension by those who already hold discretionary leave
  • Victims of trafficking or slavery
  • Victims of domestic violence who hold spousal entry clearance or leave to remain

Categories which are not eligible include indefinite leave to remain and citizenship applications.

What is the present criteria?

After some case law developments, Home office’s latest fee waiver policy dated 5 March 2021 finally reflects the position accurately. An applicant has to show only one of the following:

  • They cannot afford all or part of the fees
  • They are already destitute (cannot met essential or accommodation needs)
  • They are at risk of imminent destitution or would become destitute if they paid all of part of the fees
  • Their income is not sufficient to meet their child’s particular and essential additional needs 

How to calculate affordability and which evidence to include?

Calculate your disposable income: income/ savings minus expenditure / debts. A table format works best with each entry on either side backed up by evidence. Money that family members, friends or third parties such as banks can provide as a loan is no longer expected by home office. If there is disposable income and/or savings, then the need to use them elsewhere can also be explained.

Evidence wise, the more you provide to support each point you make, the better. For income and savings, going back 6 months in bank statements and payslips is recommended to show a fuller picture. If there are debts, include confirmation of the latest position. If savings are to be used elsewhere (e.g. a car required for essential use), provide proof of where there are to be used with a letter to explain why that is important for you or your children.

When and how do I apply?

For those that do not presently hold leave, the fee waiver application just needs to be submitted before the substantive application. There is no deadline as such but the aim should be to apply as soon as possible in order to minimise further overstay.

For those that do valid visa/leave to remain, the fee waiver as a standalone application is to be made no earlier than 28 days before the visa / leave to remain expiry date.

To apply, find the correct form for the substantive application on gov.uk website. One of the initial questions asked is whether you wish to rely on a fee waiver, select this and you’ll be taken to a fee waiver application. After this online application is submitted, you then have 10 days to submit the supporting evidence either by uploading it online or posting it.

Possible outcomes

If the fee waiver is granted, an email will be sent relaying the decision and providing a code. This code is to be inserted within the substantive application which needs to be submitted within 10 working days of the fee waiver’s decision. If this deadline is met, and the fee waiver application was submitted before the applicant’s original expiry date, the permission to work and stay will be preserved until a decision is made on the substantive application. This is commonly known as the ‘3C leave’, a term most people are now familiar with.

If Home Office deem that a person does not qualify on the basis of the evidence provided, then what they do next and the status held by the applicant depends on whether the applicant made an ‘in time’ application i.e. had valid visa/leave to remain when the fee waiver was submitted.

When submitted in time, Home Office usually request that additional evidence be provided within a fresh 10 working day period. A second chance, essentially. The applicant’s 3C leaves continues meantime. Then:

  • If the evidence is not provided within that 10 working day period or further evidence is still insufficient to meet the criteria, the application will be rejected as invalid. A final 10 working day period is then available to the applicant to make a paid application, after which their 3C leave would end. Adhering to this is therefore very important in order to preserve access to NHS, continue work and not become an overstayer.
  • If the evidence provided is sufficient, the fee waiver will be approved and the applicant is ready to submit the substantive application. If they do this before the deadline, then their 3C leave continues

For an application submitted out of time, Home Office normally do not provide that second chance to submit further evidence and refuse the fee waiver. There is no right of appeal or reconsideration. The applicant can either submit a new fee waiver application or skip to a paid substantive application. The applicant’s overstayer status remains until they either leave the country or are granted leave to remain in any category.

Need help?

Our firm can assist with a fee waiver and substantive application, ensuring we represent your case in the best possible light. Details can be found on our contact us page.


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