Authors:Legal Action Group
Last updated:2024-05-24
Home Office plans for ‘e-visas’ are a ‘disaster waiting to happen’
Marc Bloomfield
Description: Home Office sign_Yau Ming Low_iStock
Government plans to replace biometric residence cards, currently issued to migrants to prove their lawful status, with ‘e-visas’ from 31 December 2024 are ‘a disaster waiting to happen’, according to one leading immigration solicitor.
Speaking at a parliamentary event organised by the young migrants charity We Belong, Smita Bajaria, outreach solicitor at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said employers, who are obliged by law to check their employees immigration status, ‘can’t cope with the existing system’. A move to an all-electronic approach would only cause more problems, she said.
Bajaria, who works closely with We Belong, also described record Home Office delays in processing immigration applications: some of her clients are waiting nine to ten months to be granted a Home Office fee waiver, and then the same amount of time again or more for their immigration application itself to be processed.
Bajaria was joined in her criticism of the Home Office by Conservative MP Tim Loughton, who described it as ‘the most dysfunctional department in government’. ‘It is a really difficult beast to control,’ he said, ‘and you don’t often get an immigration minister who is there long enough to understand the problem and do something to fix it.’ Loughton has long been a champion of the young migrants supported by We Belong, many of whom have grown up in the UK but face paying spiralling Home Office fees to maintain their lawful immigration status.
The audience at the cross-parliamentary event heard that the cost of limited leave to remain has increased by 47 per cent since 2022, and by 540 per cent in the past decade. Chrisann Jarrett, CEO of We Belong, said: ‘We simply ask for young people to be able to get on with their lives, free from immigration control.’
Labour MP Meg Hillier explained that many of her constituents’ lives were being blighted by unaffordable Home Office fees as well as the length and complexity of the route to settlement. ‘They are living in the UK, contributing to the UK, but on the edge of a twilight zone,’ she said.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron described Home Office fees as ‘ludicrous and arbitrary’. He told the young people in the audience: ‘We are keen to support you and keen to be here for the long run.’