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Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) Order 2017

Volume 778: debated on Thursday 9 February 2017

Motion to Approve

Moved by

My Lords, the purpose of this order is to make minor technical changes to the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2016, which remains in place and continues to set out the overall framework and maximum amounts that can be charged for immigration and nationality functions, as agreed by Parliament last year.

The order before your Lordships’ House does not itself set fees; they are set by regulations which are updated annually. The regulations for 2017-18 fees are due to be laid before Parliament in March. The minor technical changes made by this order include bringing fees for entry clearance to the Channel Islands within the scope of the 2016 order. This change is being made following the extension of provision in the Immigration Act 2014 to those jurisdictions by way of Orders in Council, the effect of which will be to enable the Secretary of State to set fees in relation to them.

The order also makes express provision for the Secretary of State to charge for an approval letter in respect of applications for entry clearance to the Isle of Man as a tier 1 exceptional talent migrant. It will ensure that the scope of the charges set under the Immigration Act 2014 for above-basic Border Force officer services, such as attendance at premium airport lounges, or port-owned fast-track services, is broadened for the future, for example to cover above-basic services provided at sea. The order also permits a charge to be set for providing information in addition to the current services that include providing advice, training and assistance. We consider that this charge will better reflect the nature of the information and advice services we provide.

To be absolutely clear, this change does not affect existing Home Office basic status checking services, for example those provided to employers or landlords in the UK, which will continue to be provided free of charge. It does not affect in-country services, for example calls to employers’ or landlords’ helplines, or the nationality helpline, which will continue to be charged at local rates. Nor will it affect the availability of information for sponsors and educators. This order makes provision for international services only. Customers using these services are able to access more detailed information over and above the basic level of the service which is available online. This is a standard, free-to-use service available on GOV.UK in all cases.

We are also seeking to change the way in which fees for some information and advice are structured, adding scope for a fixed fee in addition to the per-minute fee currently provided for in the 2016 order. This is to accommodate likely changes to the overseas contact centre services, where a new service provider, who will assume responsibility for the service in May 2017, may offer and charge for webchat and email services in the future. The proposed maximum amount that can be charged for these new services is based on the per-minute rate set out in the 2016 order. To be clear, under the new contractual arrangements there are no plans to increase the per-minute fee for accessing telephone services overseas.

Lastly, the order will also update the description of an electronic visa waiver so that it accurately matches the process and policy intent, as set out in the Immigration Rules. This service enables visitors from Oman, Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar to travel to the UK without a visa.

I emphasise that we are not seeking to change the overarching framework for immigration and nationality fees, or the maximum fee levels that were agreed by Parliament and set out in the 2016 order. As I have already mentioned, the next set of immigration fees regulations, which are due to be laid in Parliament in mid-March, will come into force in April. They remain completely within the parameters agreed by Parliament and in line with the impact assessment published with the 2016 order.

It is important that we strike a good balance between the economic interests of the UK and the need to maintain a sound immigration system. Be assured that this Government will ensure that fees for immigration and nationality services enable the UK to retain its position as an attractive destination to work, study and visit. I beg to move.

I thank the Minister once again for explaining the purpose and thinking behind the second order we are considering this afternoon. The order makes changes to the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2016, which sets out the maximum amount that the Secretary of State may charge for the provision of certain immigration and nationality-related services and products. In particular, this order extends certain provisions of the 2016 order to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The powers that this order will give the Government in relation to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have until now been exercised by the Government under the terms of other fees regulations and powers.

In extending certain provisions of the 2016 order to the Channel Islands, this order, among other things, sets the maximum fee which the Secretary of State may charge a person who applies for entry clearance to the Channel Islands, with the actual fees to be set in subsequent regulations. As I understand it, though, in setting such a maximum fee—and, indeed, the maximum fee in relation to the approval letter in connection with entry clearance to the Isle of Man—the level of that fee must be consistent with the Home Office’s current laid-down approved charging policy. On the assumption that my understanding on that score is the case, I have no questions or queries to raise on the order.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his contribution, and I can confirm that that is indeed the case. As I said earlier, we aim to set out shortly the individual fee levels for 2017-18 in regulations to be introduced by the negative procedure. This amendment to the 2016 fees order does not increase the maximum amounts that can be charged for any immigration or nationality service. The Government believe that those who use and benefit most from the immigration system should contribute more to the cost of the system, reducing the burden on the taxpayer. It remains the Government’s ambition to move towards a border, immigration and citizenship system that is fully funded by those who use it. I commend the order to the House.

Motion agreed.