In relation to Home Office application fees, an applicant’s first thought should be, “how will I qualify for a fee waiver?” rather than, “where will I obtain the money to pay for my application fees?”.
There is no reason why a person applying for leave to remain on human rights grounds should make provision of Home Office application fees where the requirements of the Home Office’s Fee Waiver Guidance appear capable of being met.
The fact that an applicant is in employment and has savings is no bar to submitting a fee waiver request.
There should be no hesitation in requesting a fee waiver where an applicant has a partner and they are both in employment.
An applicant in the UK, with a bank account held for example in Nigeria, having a non- UK based husband living and working in Nigeria, can apply for a fee waiver.
There can be several reasons why an applicant may not wish to avail themselves of the fee waiver procedure: transactions appearing in provided bank accounts statements may in themselves give an account which may require clarifications from an applicant in relation to either source of income or the presence of savings adequate to cover the required application fees.
Relatively new Guidance on fee waivers published in June 2020 now provides for evidential flexibility with the following issues also relevant for consideration:
“A fee waiver may be granted if the applicant is assessed and it is found that any of the following apply:
- they are not able to pay the fee
- they are destitute
- they are at risk of imminent destitution
- their income is not sufficient to meet a child’s particular and additional needs
- they are faced with exceptional financial circumstances”
In relation to evidential flexibility, the Guidance now helpfully states:
“Whilst the onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient evidence for the fee waiver to be granted there will be some cases where providing evidence is more difficult than in others. Among these cases will be some where it is foreseeable that repeated requests to the applicant to provide evidence may not result in further relevant information being produced because the initial statement of circumstances indicates that further documentary evidence does not exist or cannot reasonably be provided by the applicant because it is not available to them.
Evidential flexibility means that the decision maker can grant the fee waiver without seeking further additional evidence or documentation if they are satisfied that reasonable evidence has been provided in the round as to the applicant’s circumstances and that, without a fee waiver, the applicant will not be able to apply for leave to remain.
Situations in which the decision maker may be flexible in requiring further additional evidence are as follows:
- the applicant is a single parent and restricted in seeking and taking employment due to the need to look after children (this includes both pre-school children and children who can no longer attend a school due to COVID-19 restrictions)
- cases where eviction notices have been issued, or eviction has actually taken place
- cases where family, friends, or an identifiable organisation is providing essential living needs, e.g. a charity or food bank, and the applicant has no other means of being provided with essential living needs
- the applicant is the parent or main guardian of a child who is not attending school because of COVID-19 concerns
- there is evidence of vulnerability related to pregnancy, a long-term health condition, disability, or mental illness – this includes dependants as well as the applicant
There is no automatic presumption that an application will be successful, but if the case meets any of the conditions set out above, the effect of that will be to require the decision maker to consider if further information and evidence is necessary. Although the above list is not exhaustive it is not expected that there will be many other types of cases where evidential flexibility will be appropriate. Each case should still be considered on its own individual merits. Whether to apply evidential flexibility can still be outweighed by other relevant matters, including the intentional disposal of funds and other countervailing evidence”.
Example outcomes of fee waiver applications
Single mother with monthly income of £3000 and savings of £4450 in the household:
A single mother in part – time employment earning £691.91 a month seeks to submit a fee waiver request prior to making an extension application for permission to stay as a parent.
She receives public funds, including child benefit, Carer’s Allowance, Disability Living Allowance in relation to her British child including working tax credits totalling £2316.41 month.
She also receives £30.00 a month from the father of her British child.
The total monthly income is £3038.32.
In relation to the applicant’s outgoings, these are £3012.12 monthly.
The fee waiver request form asks for details of household income and assets. This includes income and assets belonging to an 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.
Not only are the applicant’s bank account statements provided but also those of her children.
The British child’s bank account has funds of £3550.00.
Her other dependant child, for the purposes of the leave to remain application, has funds of £900.00 in his bank account.
As regards the total funds of £4450.00 in the children’s bank accounts, representations are made regarding the children’s evidenced medical conditions, pending family court proceedings which are expected to require the services of a family solicitor on a private paying basis as well as the future expenses the family is expected to incur in moving to larger council accommodation. The Home Office decision maker is also requested to take into account the children ‘s best interests.
Outcome: fee waiver is granted within a matter of days of uploading representations and supportive evidence.
Applicant and British partner working in the UK:
Applicant seeks to extend her leave having initially been granted leave to remain as the parent of a British citizen child. She also has an older dependant child who is under the age of 18 who lives with her and is to be included in the leave to remain application.
Applicant earns £950.00 a month.
She has a new partner and since he is part of her household, his earnings of £2400. 00 a month are disclosed to the Home Office.
£140 a month is received in relation to the applicant’s British child.
The total income of the household is £3490.00 a month.
£700 remains from the income after the expenses of the household are considered.
Outcome: fee waiver request is granted without further enquiries from the Home Office.
Applicant with a bank account in Nigeria with husband living and working in Nigeria:
The Applicant came to the UK on a visit visa.
She intends to submit a leave to remain application following the outcome of a fee waiver request.
She receives the equivalent of £150 a month from her husband( who has never been to the UK but lives and works in Nigeria earning the equivalent of £1200 a month). The applicant is temporarily accommodated by social services on an emergency basis as she also has her Nigerian child with her in the UK.
The expenses of the household in Nigeria including the husband’s bank statements, his payslip as well as amount of rent paid each month in Nigeria are provided.
Currency converter, www1.oanda.com/currency/converter/, is utilised to work out the exact income and expenses in Nigeria.
Outcome: fee waiver request is granted in less than two weeks.
In situations where it might appear on the surface that submission of a fee waiver request is an exercise in futility, it is important to obtain relevant legal advice perhaps a few weeks prior to the expiry of any leave to remain(a fee waiver application is required to be submitted in advance of the substantive leave to remain application).
It is often the case that an effectively prepared fee waiver request will take up much more time in preparation than the leave to remain application itself however there are substantial savings to be made where a fee waiver is granted- it is clear that none of the applicants in the above scenarios had to part with the £5224.40 that would otherwise have been required by the Home Office in each of their circumstances.