Yet again another increase of fees for Home office applications and Tribunal fees. Read more on my overall view on the proposed higher fees and tactics to buy yourself time to pay.
On 21 April 2016, the Government published a consultation paper proposing new fees for proceedings in the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) and Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber).
The Government is proposing to increase fees in the First-tier Tribunal from £80 to £490 for an application for a decision on the papers and from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing.
There is also a proposal to introduce a new fee of £455 for an application to the First-tier Tribunal for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.
The Consultation also states that the government is also proposing two new fees for the Upper Tribunal. In permission to appeal applications issued in the Upper Tribunal where permission has been refused initially in the First-tier, the proposal is that a new fee of £350 should be charged, which is stated to reflect the full cost of these proceedings. Where permission is granted, either by the First-tier or the Upper Tribunal, the Government is proposing a fee for the appeal hearing of £510.
Never minding the general stated need to reduce the burden on the taxpayer of running the UK courts and tribunals, my very first question is on what basis and exactly how would someone, after applying a bit of common sense and fairness come up with a figure of up to £800.00 as being required from future Appellants before they can be heard in the Tribunal?
Is it not enough that they have to pay substantially increased home office applications fees, the current lodgment appeal fee and of course, lets not forget, the NHS Health Surcharge?
Survival Tactics Thus far
Where there is an inability, for some reason to prove eligibility for a fee waiver or fee exemption, the tactics that some applicants and appellants may have been using in order to either enable valid submission of leave to remain applications or acceptance of a lodged appeal by the Tribunal is as follows:
- Submit the relevant home office application fee ( say £811.00 for Form FLR(FP) and then await some weeks for the home office to give the usual 10working days, demanding payment of the NHS Health Surcharge( £500.00 per applicant for the above said application form). For the past few months the home office have been taking longer and longer to acknowledge receipt of FLR(FP) applications- up to one and half months before a request is made for payment of the surcharge. This gives those applicants facing financial challenges some time to source the relevant funds, however a strict abidance with the 10working day deadline is necessary as the home office will reject an application as invalid for non-payment of the surcharge if the deadline is not met.
- Submit the appeal within the required time limit and then await a notice from the Tribunal requesting payment of the appeal fee within a given time limit. The priority in this case is therefore timely submission of the appeal itself. Splitting the issue of actual lodgment of the appeal and submission of the appeal fee gives an appellant some much needed breathing space both allowing time to “recover” from an adverse decision from the home office and to source the relevant appeal fee.
Would these tactics in the Tribunal really work in the long term if the changes as to the proposed amounts are implemented? There is a world of difference between needing breathing space to source £140.00 in a couple of weeks, in comparison to £800.00 during the same period time. Further, it now seems fairly unpredictable as to when the First Tier Tribunal will make and send out a decision following a substantive hearing. If an appellant has struggled to source the current £140.00 in relation to the appeal lodgment fee, how are they to source the £455.00 to appeal further where they would only have 14days to apply to the First Tier Tribunal for permission to appeal?
Some More Questions
Having in effect “ bought “ an expensive slot to be heard in the Tribunal, it is only fair, appropriate and a mark of respect for the already anxious distressed immigrant who has paid for the service( or should I say in light of the proposed exorbitant appeal fees, been “ fleeced”), that the following is considered too:
- Will Appellants still be required to be present for their appeal hearings by 10am, yet wait endlessly and seemingly aimlessly all day at the venue waiting to be heard without an indication of when they will be heard, apart from being told to hang around nearby and the usher will call you? I mean will there actually be a service for the immigrant Appellant having regard to the amount of funds they would have provided?
- Will Appellants now be routinely informed in advance of their substantive hearings that they are on the “ float” list ? just so that they don’t have to wake up at cock’s crow, only to arrive at the hearing venue at 10am and then perhaps be informed at 3pm ( with no apparent hint or indicator of compensation) that they should now leave and wait for a new hearing listing due to lack of judicial time?
- Will Appellants pay the appeal fee and wait 4 or more months for their hearings to be listed to be heard(as is currently happening in the Tribunal) and upon repeated requests to have the appeal listed, expect to receive a Notice in response stating, “ Thank you for your correspondence dated 11 April 2016 in which you set out reasons requesting that the First Tier Tribunal( Immigration and Asylum Chamber) expedite the appeal hearing date for the appellant. These have been considered by a Judge of the First Tier Tribunal. The Judge has decided that the information provided does not warrant the appeals hearing date being brought forward. Any further requests for expedition of the appeal hearing will only be considered if you are able to put forward new facts of a compelling or compassionate nature”?
- Does this mean that when Appellants turn up at their appeal hearings expecting to be substantively heard, where through no fault of their own or their representatives, there is a defect in service of required documents, that some Presenting Officers will now stop churning the lines that “ I am without instructions”, “ file is in transit”, “ I don’t have sight of the Appellant’s bundle” or as per a recent response of 4 March 2016 from the Presenting Officers unit in response to the grant of permission to the Appellant, “ I am unable to provide a response to the claimant’s grounds challenging the First Tier- Tribunal’s decision because the determination is not attached and I am unable to locate it”? This despite the initial Judge’s decision being served upon both parties by the Tribunal months earlier on.
- Does this mean that the quality of home office decision making will improve? The point is not the possibility of the £800.00 being returned to an Appellant by way of fee award if the appeal is allowed, but the fact that if a seeming baseless decision is made by the Home Office, why let someone go through all the trouble of seeking to source a sum of money that might be unattainable to some just so that they can challenge such a decision?
- So if the home office are also going to be paying the £455.00 etc to enable lodgment of a permission application does this mean that we might see a substantial reduction of such permission applications emanating from them in response to allowed deportation appeals or allowed appeals generally?
Will most Appellants kick off Tribunal proceedings by reluctantly being forced to go via the paper decision route rather than an oral hearing simply so as to have a Judge consider their appeal? The Government wants to achieve full cost recovery for appeals in Tribunal proceedings, however this clearly will be at a cost of accessing justice for some people.