The Government has changed its position and reversed the 500% increase in tribunal fees for immigration appeals that commenced on 10 October 2016.
The Tribunal fees will now be charged at the old rates. Those who have paid the higher fees from 10th October 2016 will have the difference in fees refunded. The extended system of fee exemptions will continue for those with a Home office destitution fee waiver and children in local authority.
Following Brexit, the original fee increase would have effected EU nationals and their family members in particular since the volume of immigration appeals likely to be generated by permanent residence applications are on the rise. Moreover, the Home Office would have been liable to pay the appeal fees in cases where appellants succeeded in having their decisions overturned.
An announcement was made by Sir Oliver Heald, Minister of State for Courts and Justice on the 25th November 2016 stating that “ we have listened to the representations that we received on the current fee levels and have decided to take stock and review the immigration and asylum fees, to balance the interests of all tribunal users and the taxpayer and to look at them again alongside other tribunal fees and in the wider context of funding for the system overall...from today all applicants will be charged fees at previous levels and we will reimburse, in all cases where the new fees have been paid, the difference between that fee and the previous fee…we will bring forward secondary legislation to formalise the position as soon as possible”. In the interim, the change will come via the use of the Lord Chancellor’s discretionary powers to reduce fees.
The statement also states that ‘’the increase to Upper Tribunal fees, which has not yet been implemented, will also be reviewed and that there will be a further consultation.” The broader fee exemptions which were introduced at the same time as the higher fees will remain in place.
The announcement was warmly welcomed by the Law Society Chief executive Catherine Dixon who stated that “we are delighted the government has listened to our concerns. We are also pleased that those who paid the increased fee are to be reimbursed. The Law Society vigorously opposed the fee increases because equal access to justice is more important than income generation when it comes to setting court and tribunal fees. We note the government is now embarking on a wider review of tribunal fees which we welcome and we will be monitoring that process carefully.”
Bar Council chair Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said the ministry's announcement was encouraging and Bob Neill, chair of the Commons justice committee, echoed the welcome.
The statement hints that some sort of increase is still on the horizon, but perhaps not as dramatic. A consultation plan regarding new tribunal fees, including the immigration and asylum chambers (first – tier and upper tribunal) will be published ‘in due course’.
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