Home Office fee waiver policy updated 

22 August 2017

Policy summarised for people receiving social services' support

On 18 August 2017, the Home Office published a new fee waiver policy. The following information summarises the policy as it applies to people in receipt of social services’ support, and sets out what local authority practitioners may need to do to assist those who are in the process of making immigration applications.​

Legal advice

The fee waiver application is made at the same time that a person applies for leave to remain. Therefore, it is very important that people are signposted to an immigration adviser for advice and assistance with their immigration application. If they are applying to extend their leave, this must be done in plenty of time before their current leave to remain expires. There is no legal aid for immigration applications, but they may be able to apply for exceptional case funding if they meet the criteria for this, or they may be able to get free advice from a law centre.

The OISC has confirmed​ that a person who is not regulated to provide immigration advice may advise or assist a person to make a fee waiver application, so long as no advice is given about the immigration application. However, it is highly advisable that any help with the fee waiver application is only provided by a local authority practitioner after the person they are supporting has received immigration advice to ensure that the person is making the correct immigration application, that the fee waiver policy actually applies and what the implications of being refused a fee waiver may be. 

Who can make a fee waiver application?

The fee waiver policy has been extended to apply to more types of immigration applications. People who are making the following types of leave to remain applications can now apply for a fee waiver:

  • 5-year partner route - only where a person is not required to meet the minimum income threshold because their sponsor is in receipt of a particular benefit and so instead must demonstrate that their sponsor can provide adequate maintenance 
  • 5-year parent route 
  • 10-year partner, parent or private life route - where a person claims that refusal of that application for leave to remain would breach their rights under Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
  • Where other rights under the ECHR are asserted and this forms the substantive basis of an application
  • Extension of discretionary leave that was granted following refusal of asylum or humanitarian protection claim - where a person claims that refusal to grant further leave to remain would breach their ECHR rights. 
  • Extension of discretionary leave for a victim of trafficking or slavery who has already accrued 30 months’ discretionary leave and is applying to extend it for reasons relating to trafficking or slavery
Note that many types of applications can continue to be made without a fee, including asylum claims, Article 3 ECHR medical claims and most applications made by children who are being looked after by a local authority (but not children supported under section 17 of the Children Act 1989).

When will a fee waiver be granted?

The fee waiver will be granted when a person has provided evidence to the Home Office which demonstrates that one of the following three circumstances applies:

(1) They are destitute (do not have adequate accommodation and/or cannot meet their essential living needs).

(2) They would be rendered destitute by payment of the fee. This will apply when a person has adequate accommodation and can meet their other essential living needs but has no disposable income, which means they cannot either pay the fee now or save the required amount within a reasonable period.* 

They must also demonstrate that:
  • they are unable to borrow the required amount from family or friends without this compromising their ability to accommodate themselves and/or meet their essential living needs AND
  • there is no basis for believing that their financial circumstances are likely to change within a reasonable period* (where this applies), without this compromising their ability to accommodate themselves and/or meet their essential living needs. 
(3) When (1) and (2) do not apply and there are exceptional circumstances in a person's case meaning that a fee waiver should be granted. 

* A person will only be expected to delay making their application for a ‘reasonable period’ where they would continue to be lawfully present for longer than the next 28 days AND it would be reasonable in all the circumstances to expect them to delay their application for this length of time, taking into account in particular the potential impact of such a delay on their immigration status and access to work and benefits.  This would apply to a person who has current leave to remain or a European derivative residence card which is due to expire in more than 28 days’ time. A person will not be expected to acquire the fee within a reasonable period if they are an overstayer or if they are making their application to extend their leave within 28 days of their current leave expiring.

Home Office caseworkers must have regard to the duty under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to safeguard and promote the welfare of any affected child, and therefore the best interests of the child will be a primary consideration. 

What evidence must be provided?

When applying for a fee waiver a person will need to provide full details of their financial circumstances, including statements for six months prior to the date of application for any bank or building society account they hold. They must also provide a full breakdown of their monthly income and expenditure at the time of application. The policy provides further details about how specific forms of support will be taken into consideration and what documents a person must submit to evidence this. 

The policy is very clear that, apart from in some limited circumstances, the Home Office caseworker will not contact an applicant for further information. Therefore, it is essential that a person applying for a fee waiver submits complete evidence at the time of making the application in order to reduce the risk of the fee waiver being rejected. 

How will local authority support be considered?

The policy includes a new section which covers this:

'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. They will no longer be destitute where the local authority support is providing for their accommodation and other essential living needs. 

But, where the applicant can demonstrate, by way of evidence, that they would be destitute but for the local authority’s support (particularly on the basis of evidence from the local authority), they should be granted a fee waiver, on the basis that they would be rendered destitute by payment of the fee. 

Likewise, where the applicant can otherwise demonstrate, by way of evidence, that they would be rendered destitute by payment of the fee or that there are exceptional circumstances relating to their financial circumstances and ability to pay the fee such that the fee should be waived, they should be granted a fee waiver. 

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. 

Caseworkers should consider the information and evidence that the applicant has provided in making their assessment of whether the applicant qualifies for a fee waiver. If there is some evidence that local authority support may be being provided, but insufficient detail to make a decision, the caseworker may contact the local authority to request more detail.’

What happens if a fee waiver is rejected?

The Home Office will only consider an application which is valid, so when an immigration application is submitted, the correct fee must be provided, or if the person is applying for a fee waiver, this must be accepted before a caseworker will consider the substantive basis of a person’s application.

Where a person has applied for an extension of their leave ‘in-time’ (before their current leave has expired), and the Home Office is not satisfied that the person qualifies for a fee waiver, they will normally be provided with 10 working days in which to validate their application by either paying the fee or by demonstrating that they qualify for a fee waiver. If they fail to do this then their application will be returned as invalid after 10 days, and the person will become an overstayer if their leave to remain has expired by that time. 

Where a person was an overstayer at the time of submitting their application and the Home Office is not satisfied that the person qualifies for a fee waiver, then the application will be returned as invalid and instead of being given an opportunity to validate their application, they will need to reapply. 

Has the policy improved and what must local authorities do?

It is very important that local authority practitioners are aware of when the fee waiver policy might apply because a person receiving social services’ support is unlikely to be able to afford the fee for a leave to remain application. The fee for leave to remain on the 10-year settlement route is £993 (plus £500 for the Immigration Health Charge). Where people in social services’ support do manage to find money for fees, for example, by borrowing from friends, then there will be a greater risk that the NRPF condition will be imposed when leave is granted. 

Over the last two years, members of the Network have reported several problems with fee waivers being refused when a person's only income is social services' support, or without the Home Office making further checks with the local authority.  These have been reported to the Home Office as rejected fee waivers have resulted in extending the time that a person is dependent on social services’ support due to the resulting delay in getting their application for leave to remain accepted.

The general terms of the policy have not significantly changed, but have been fleshed out, so the new guidance is more specific about how different sources of income should be considered. 

The policy is very clear that full evidence needs to be provided at the stage of application, but it is not clear what level of evidence will be required from people receiving local authority support, as they cannot solely rely on being in receipt of this to be granted a fee waiver. The policy suggests that a fee waiver will be accepted if the person can demonstrate they would be destitute were it not for local authority support, and that evidence from the local authority will be given significant weight in determining this. However, if this is not clear, it appears that the person must demonstrate that they do not have any disposable income, cannot borrow from friends or family and that their circumstances are unlikely to change in the immediate future. The policy states that caseworkers may contact the local authority where sufficient detail of its support has not been provided, although this is not a requirement. 

The policy clarifies that where a person’s leave is due to expire within 28 days, or they are an overstayer, then they should not be expected to save up for the fee in order to apply at a later dateHowever, people with European derivative residence cards that are valid for five years, such as Zambrano carers​, will have to ensure that their fee waiver application clearly demonstrates that, as well as not having any disposable income, it would not be reasonable for them to delay making their leave to remain application in order to be able to save up for the application. It is unclear how the Home Office will consider continuing dependence on social services’ support when determining this. It will not be acceptable for immigration applications to be delayed when people are being supported by social services, due to the negative impact this has on children within the household and ongoing costs to the local authority. 

Where a person is receiving local authority support, even if full details of this is recorded on NRPF Connect, social services will need to supply a letter detailing the support, length of time it has been provided and why. It remains important for people using NRPF Connect to ensure they add details of financial support to the database as this may be referred to by the Home Office caseworker. 

There still appears to be no reference to an exemption from paying the Immigration Health Charge when a fee waiver is accepted, although this has been the case for some time and we have not had any reports of any problems arising from this. We would therefore continue to assume that where a fee waiver is accepted, there will be no requirement to pay the Immigration Health Charge. 

We will monitor the impact of the new policy and request that NRPF Connect users inform us about any cases they have where a fee waiver is not accepted under the new policy, so we can raise any concerns directly with the Home Office. ​

For more information see the H​ome Office policy: