New online application procedure: Know how to make an effective fee waiver request

Fee Waiver requests

 

In some cases, if an applicant cannot pay the fee for their application to remain in the UK because they are destitute or may become destitute as a result of paying the fee, they can use the on-line form to request a fee waiver. Relevant Home Office Guidance, Fee waiver: Human Rights-based and other specified applications, includes information about who is eligible for a fee waiver, what destitute means, how to request a fee waiver and the documents an applicant must send in to support their request.

 

Criteria for qualifying for a fee waiver

 

The criteria applies as follows:

 

  • The applicant has demonstrated, by way of evidence, that they are destitute. The definition of destitution is: they do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not their other essential living needs are met), they have adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it but cannot meet their other essential living needs.

  • The applicant has demonstrated, by way of evidence, that they would be rendered destitute by payment of the fee: this could be because whilst they have adequate accommodation and can meet their other essential living needs, it is clear from the evidence submitted that payment of the fee would leave the applicant with insufficient funds to pay for accommodation and essential living needs. This will require consideration of income after essential living needs have been provided for. Essential living needs are housing, utilities, and other essential items. The general approach is to identify all needs that are essential and which are not covered by other arrangements and assess the amount of money the average person needs to meet each of those needs. After accommodation and utilities have been taken into account, these needs include food, clothing, toiletries, nonprescription medication and household cleaning items. Provision is also made to cover the costs of travel and communication to enable the supported persons to maintain interpersonal relationships and access a reasonable level of social, cultural and religious life. There will also be a need to consider whether, if receiving accommodation and essential living needs support from family or friends, the applicant is able to borrow the required amount for their immigration application also (but only if receiving accommodation this way).

  • Where the applicant provided evidence that, although none of the destitution criteria apply, there are exceptional circumstances in their case that justify the grant of a fee waiver. Although a fee waiver will not normally be granted where evidence of destitution is not provided, or where an applicant cannot show that they would be rendered destitute by paying the fee, there may be exceptional circumstances affecting the applicant’s expenditure which mean that a fee waiver should be granted. Exceptional circumstances at this point relates only to the applicant’s financial circumstances and their ability to pay the application fee. A decision on whether there are exceptional circumstances is made by Home Office decision makers on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the applicant’s individual circumstances and those of any dependent family member and all the information and evidence the applicant provides in support of their fee waiver request. It is for the applicant to provide evidence that there is something exceptional about their financial circumstances and ability to pay that warrant granting the fee waiver request, even though they are not destitute or likely to be rendered destitute by payment.

Any individual circumstances raised will be considered. These may relate to age, disability, pregnancy and maternity, race (including ethnic or national origins, colour or nationality), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex or sexual orientation of the applicant, gender reassignment, or the same issues relating to any dependent family member. Individual circumstances can also include caring or childcare responsibilities. The significance of considering such individual circumstances is that they have the potential to impact on the applicant’s resources and therefore the consideration of whether the applicant is destitute or would be rendered destitute by payment of the fee, or whether there are exceptional circumstances relating to their financial circumstances and ability to pay the fee such that the fee waiver should be granted.

 

When a fee waiver request can be made

 

A fee waiver request may be made only if an applicant is applying to remain in the UK for one of the following reasons (relevant application form is in bold):

 

  • under the 5-year partner route, where the applicant does not need to meet the minimum income threshold because their partner is in receipt of one or more specified benefits and who instead must demonstrate that their sponsor can provide adequate maintenance – Form FLR(M)

  • applications for leave to remain under the 5-year parent route – Form FLR(M) or form FLR (FP)

  • applications for leave to remain under the 10-year partner, parent or private life route, where the applicant claims that refusal of that application for leave to remain would breach their rights (or the rights of other specified persons) under ECHR Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life– Form FLR(M) or form FLR (FP)

  • on human rights grounds, including where the applicant was previously refused under the family route but granted Discretionary Leave or leave outside the Rules – Form FLR(HRO)

  • applications for further leave to remain from applicants granted discretionary leave (DL) following refusal of asylum or humanitarian protection, where the applicant claims that refusal to grant further leave to remain would breach their ECHR rights – i.e, to extend leave as someone who was refused asylum or humanitarian protection and given Discretionary Leave instead – Form FLR(DL)

  • Applications for further Discretionary Leave( DL) from victims of trafficking or slavery who have had a positive conclusive grounds decision from a competent authority of the national referral mechanism (NRM), have already accrued 30 months’ DL and are seeking to extend it for reasons related to trafficking or slaver-i.e, to extend leave as a person who was previously granted leave as a victim of trafficking or slavery – Form FLR(DL)

There is no fee waiver available for applicants for leave to remain under the 5-year partner route whose sponsor is not in receipt of one or more of the benefits specified at paragraph E-LTRP.3.3. of Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules. Such an applicant must meet the minimum income threshold and so they are not eligible for a fee waiver.

 

Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain( ILR) are not covered by the fee waiver policy. ILR applications need to be accompanied by the correct fee in order to be considered.

 

However, applicants who make an application for limited leave to remain may request a longer period of limited leave than would normally be granted, or ILR, and where full reasons are provided for why this is appropriate in their case, this will be considered.

 

Submission of a fee waiver request and relevant considerations

 

There is no charge for making a request for a fee waiver.

 

From 4 January 2019, fee waiver requests are to be made using the digital (online) request form and submitting the request online.

 

Applicants must submit their fee waiver request before applying to remain in the UK.

 

Where applicable, an applicant should include the same applicants in their fee waiver request as they will include in their leave to remain application, for example a dependant partner or any dependant children.

 

An applicant may apply for a fee waiver on behalf of one or more of their dependents, even if they are not applying for a fee waiver for their application. This may be appropriate if the applicant can pay some, but not all, of the fees for the applications.

 

An applicant must provide evidence that they qualify for a fee waiver. This will be different depending on their circumstances, but might include documents such as letters from local authorities, or bank statements.

 

When applying for a fee waiver the applicant will be asked to provide details of their financial circumstances. This will mainly be in the form of statements covering the 6 months period prior to the date of application for all bank or building society accounts they hold, and a full breakdown of their monthly income and expenditure at the time of application.

 

The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they qualify for a fee waiver. Home Office caseworkers will normally expect to see information and evidence relating to the applicant’s income, their accommodation, the type and adequacy of this, and the amount of their rent/ mortgage or of their contribution towards this, and their outgoings in terms of spending on things like food, utility bills. This information should be supported by independent evidence, such as their pay slips, bank statements, tenancy agreement, utility bills. The nature of the evidence provided will vary depending on the individual circumstances of the applicant, but the Home Office caseworker should expect to see evidence appropriate to the circumstances that are being claimed.

 

Applicants will be asked for details and evidence about themselves, any dependants they plan to include in their application for leave to remain and anyone else in their household or who helps the applicant with money, accommodation or meeting their essential living needs.

 

Where the applicant states that relevant documentary evidence cannot be provided, for example where an applicant is street homeless, the Home Office caseworker will need to be satisfied that the person’s circumstances are as they claim, by making an assessment of their credibility.

 

Assessment of income and assets

 

The fee waiver request form asks for details of household income and assets. This therefore includes income and assets belonging to the applicant’s spouse or partner, (as well as any other adult with whom the applicant lives and from whom they receive financial support) and to their children and any other dependants.

 

The following must be taken into account:

 

Income:

 

  • from employment or self-employment

  • from non-employment sources

  • of the applicant’s spouse or partner (as well as any other adult with whom the applicant lives and from whom they receive financial support) or parents from employment or other sources

  • from welfare benefits or tax credits received by the applicant or their spouse or partner (as well as any other adult with whom the applicant lives and from whom they receive financial support) or parents

  • from other family or friends

 

Assets:

 

  • cash

  • money held in bank and building society accounts (including non-UK based accounts), including accounts belonging to the applicant’s spouse or partner (as well as any other adult with whom the applicant lives and from whom they receive financial support), parents or children

  • investments, including any investments belonging to the applicant’s spouse or partner (as well as any other adult with whom the applicant lives and from whom they receive financial support), parents or children

  • land or property

  • goods held for the purpose of a trade or other business

The following items need not be declared but it is expected that expenditure on them will be reflected in the financial statements provided:

  • cars or other vehicles

  • other personal possessions, such as mobile phones, computers

 

Employment and self-employment income:- Applicants must provide full details of any employment, including how much and how often they are paid. They should include evidence such as pay slips, tax returns, details of their own business if they are self-employed.

 

Illegal working:- If a person discloses in their fee waiver application that they are, or have been, receiving income through working, but they do not have permission to work, their earnings and any cash or savings derived from this work will still be an asset when assessing eligibility for a fee waiver. The applicant will be informed by the Home Office that they may be committing a criminal offence and should stop working immediately.

 

Welfare benefits and tax credits:- If an applicant (for example on account of their previous National Insurance contributions) or their spouse or partner (or any other adult with whom the applicant lives and from whom they receive financial support) or parents is in receipt of welfare benefits, child benefit or tax credits, this support should be taken into consideration as income when assessing eligibility for a fee waiver.

 

Sources of support – family or friends, a local authority or a registered charity

 

If the applicant is being supported by family or friends, a local authority or a registered charity, Home Office caseworkers would expect to see corroborating documentary evidence confirming provision of support and detailing the nature and amount of the support provided. In all cases evidence must be up-to-date. Documents dating back more than a few months will be useful in establishing how the person’s finances have changed over time but should be given reduced weight in establishing whether the applicant meets the fee waiver policy at the point the decision is made.

 

  • Applicants in receipt of local authority support:-Where an applicant is receiving support from a local authority, for example under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, the local authority will have conducted their own assessment of the applicant’s needs before making a decision to grant support and those needs will generally involve or include destitution. Such a person may apply for a fee waiver, even though they are not destitute because the local authority is providing for their accommodation and other essential living needs. If it then transpires, by way of evidence (particularly on the basis of evidence from the local authority), that they would be destitute but for the local authority’s support they should be granted a fee waiver, on the basis that they would be rendered destitute by payment of the fee. The applicant will not be able to rely solely on the fact that they are in receipt of local authority support if there is evidence that they have additional assets or income or that that support is being provided for social care reasons which do not include preventing destitution.

  • Applicants in receipt of support from a registered charity:-Applicants who are being supported by a registered charity will need to provide evidence of their financial position and accommodation arrangements. They should be able to provide documentary evidence from the registered charity explaining the nature and amount of the support being provided and why the applicant is being provided with support.

  • Support from family or friends:-Support provided to the applicant or a dependent family member by family or friends must be considered in assessing their income and outgoings. Such support could be financial or in terms of providing accommodation or meeting other essential living needs, such as providing food or paying bills. If this support is of a limited duration or is about to end, the applicant must provide a full explanation of why this is so, along with relevant documentary evidence. An example of the sort of documentary evidence which could be provided might include a signed statement from the person who has been providing them with support or accommodation explaining why they are no longer able to do so. Documentary evidence of that person’s financial situation showing the support provided, such as regular payments to the applicant’s bank account, and demonstrating that the person’s financial circumstances have changed such that they cannot continue to support or accommodate the applicant should also be provided.

 

The Checklist

 

A checklist will be automatically generated upon completion of all required sections of the on- line form. The list of documents required to be sent to the designated address set out within the checklist depends upon the information relied upon in response to questions asked.  For example where an applicant is supported by social services, then a letter from social services will be required to be posted to the Home Office along with other documents indicating the type of support provided, why support is being provided, confirmation by social services that the applicant’s essential living needs are being provided for them and when support began.  Where the applicant is being supported by a friend or relative and they are living with them, a letter of support will need to be provided confirming provision of support and detailing the nature and amount of the support provided. Documentary evidence of that person’s financial situation will also need to be provided.

 

The documents set out in the checklist and any other additional ones , along with the signed consents generated online, will need to be posted to the Home Office to a designated address to reach them within 10days of submission of the on-line fee waiver request.

 

Section 3C leave safeguards

 

The purpose of Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 (“section 3C leave”), is to prevent a person who makes an in-time application to extend their leave from becoming an overstayer while they are awaiting a decision on that application and while any appeal or administrative review they are entitled to is pending.

 

Where an applicant makes a fee waiver request before their current leave expires, and then they make an application for leave to remain, the date of that application will be the date they submitted the fee waiver request.

 

Requests for a fee waiver made by those who have current leave to remain, and whose leave expires whilst their fee waiver request is being considered, will be allowed 10 days from the actual date of their fee waiver decision to submit an application for leave to remain or further leave to remain. After this, their leave will be treated as expired.

 

If however an applicant makes a fee waiver request and they have no leave or their current leave has expired and then submit an application for leave to remain, the date of application will be the date they submit that application for leave to remain, not the date they submitted the fee waiver request. Requests for a fee waiver made by those without current leave to remain mean that the applicant will not be able to benefit from the 10 days period allowed as set out above.

 

Timeframe for assessing the request

 

No service standards apply to the assessment of whether the applicant qualifies for a fee waiver, but Home Office caseworkers must make reasonable efforts to decide such requests promptly, especially those involving a child or an applicant who is street homeless, disabled or otherwise in vulnerable circumstances. Where the applicant qualifies for a fee waiver and their application is passed to a caseworking team for substantive consideration, normal service standards will apply to the consideration of the application.

 

If the request is successful

 

If, after considering the information sought and provided, it is clear to the Home Office decision maker that the required amount for the immigration application cannot be met other than by the applicant making changes to accommodation and essential living needs that would lead to destitution, then a fee waiver may be granted.

 

Home Office decision makers are now required to take into account the whole of the amount to be paid by an applicant when a fee waiver request is made. The whole of the amount means the immigration application fee, and the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) combined. Where an applicant can pay the whole of the immigration fee but none, or only part of the IHS, the immigration fee will be required, and the waiver will be applied to the IHS. If the applicant is unable to pay the fee or the HIS, the Home Office will waive both.

 

If an applicant qualifies for a fee waiver, they will be told by letter. This letter will include a personalised code that an applicant will enter in their application for leave to remain that shows which fee waiver they have qualified for when applying for leave to remain application.

 

If an applicant is granted a fee waiver they will be issued with a Unique Reference Number to be used when applying for leave to remain online. This application must be submitted within 10 working days of the date of the decision.

 

(The applicant  must then make an Service and Support Centre (SSC ) appointment within a certain number of days. Failure to do this could result in the URN no longer being valid and a new fee waiver application may be required.

 

Applicants who have been granted a fee waiver and who fit any of the following criteria may be eligible to apply for travel assistance to attend their closest SSC:

 

  • in receipt of asylum support or Local Authority support

  • Domestic Violence customers

  • a responsible adult attending an appointment with a child in social care

  • anyone where paying for travel would render them destitute

  • where travel is over 3 miles

This is because the number of SSCs is low in relation to the centres of population that are covered and compared with the number of locations available for similar services. Applicants may be requested to provide evidence of their inability to pay for their own and their dependants travel to and from the SSC.

 

Payment of reasonable travel costs should only be made where the individual is on low or zero income and has no significant savings. In other words, it should only go to those genuinely in need. The distance to be travelled should be greater than that which might normally be involved in travelling to a health appointment, or similar appointment).

 

Submission of additional evidence

 

If the Home Office caseworker is not satisfied the applicant qualifies for a fee waiver then:

 

  • if the applicant made their request for a fee waiver in time (for example they had valid leave on the date their application was submitted), they should normally be advised that they do not qualify for a fee waiver and that they should submit the additional evidence requested that demonstrates they qualify for a fee waiver. They must, within 10 working days submit additional evidence that demonstrates they qualify for a fee waiver.

  • if additional evidence is provided within that period that demonstrates the applicant qualifies for a fee waiver the applicant is issued with a fee waiver token that enables them to apply for a free immigration application. The applicant has 10 working days to make a leave to remain application to retain 3C leave

  • if the applicant provides further evidence within 10 working days but this does not demonstrate that they qualify for a fee waiver, the application should be rejected as invalid. If no further evidence is provided within 10 working days, the application should be rejected as invalid. The applicant has 10 working days to make a paid leave to remain application to retain 3C leave. If a paid application is not made within 10 working days, the applicants 3C leave will expire.

  • if the applicant had no valid leave at the date of application, they should normally be advised that they do not qualify for a fee waiver. In order to have their immigration application considered, the applicant would need to apply with the specified fee or make a new application for a fee waiver.

 

Refusal of fee waiver request

 

The fee waiver request may be refused if the applicant has not provided sufficient evidence of income, outgoings, and overall financial circumstances.

 

It can also be refused if it is reasonable to conclude that the applicant has intentionally disposed of funds, for instance, by voluntarily giving or loaning funds to a third party.

 

It can also be refused if the applicant has been purchasing items that are well outside of what is defined as essential living needs or has been spending extravagantly and thereby not demonstrating they are endeavouring to ensure that they have sufficient cash in hand to pay a fee approved by Parliament.

 

A fee waiver decision is not subject to a reconsideration request as it is not an immigration decision. A decision will be made on the basis of the information set out in their application and any supplementary information about their circumstances which they provide in support of their application. It is open for an applicant to make a further request for a fee waiver.

 

Submission of leave to remain application

 

Where an applicant makes a fee waiver request online service and they qualify, they must also apply for their leave to remain application online. Although the leave to remain application may be started online, it should only be submitted after receipt of a decision on the fee waiver request.

 

Tips

 

  • Send  effective representations in support of the fee waiver application

  • Where detailed or specific clarifications need to be made, prepare a statement to be signed by the applicant

  • Where the applicant and/or a member of their household has provided bank statements for the last 6months, provide an explanation of all the substantial outgoings and incomings for this period. Where no clarifications are provided at the time of submission of the request, the Home Office will very likely write in and require the relevant breakdown.

  • Ensure the applicant is aware of the need to provide  bank statements for all accounts they hold as the Home Office will be in a position to make relevant checks and unearth bank accounts which an applicant may no longer be using.

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