19 March 2007
UK-Yankee is protesting what it sees as unfair and disproportionate increases to immigration and nationality fees.
The Immigration and Nationality Directorate announced above-inflation increases for the entire range of visa and naturalisation fees. The cost of Indefinite Leave to Remain (permanent residency) will jump from £335 to £750. Naturalisation costs catapult from £200 to £575, and a visa based on employment in the UK leaps from £85 to £200. Under the new fee structure, the total cost of complete naturalisation will now be over £1500 for each individual application. This will amount to a prohibitive cost for families with children. While the government wants immigrants to fit in and assimilate, these excessive fees would force a large number of immigrants to remain as non-resident aliens rather than naturalise or obtain ILRIndefinite Leave to Remain as they had planned.
“We’re a community group, not a political organization,” says Leah Davies, the founder of the web-based group UK-Yankee (www.uk-yankee.com) whose more than 5000 members are primarily North Americans either legally settled in or in the process of immigrating to the UK. “UK-Yankee has never taken a position on either American or British politics, but the basic injustice of this sudden increase has forced us to act for the first time. These increases turn citizenship into a luxury good, something that causes financial hardship. Many of us come to the UK because of transatlantic family relationships. By approaching the issue from a business perspective, the INDImmigration and Nationality Directorate Former name of the UK government overseeing visas and immigration has ignored the human costs of these new barriers.”
Almost half of the UK visas issued worldwide are to North Americans. According to Lord Avebury during his speech at the House of Lords debate on fee increases, it is perfectly acceptable "to overcharge applicants from the richer countries to make up the deficit.”* Caryn Radlove, a graphic artist and art history lecturer who is married to a British citizen, asks: “Is it right to assume that because I’m from a ‘richer country’ that I’m rich?”
“No matter how we define it, these new fees are on attack on family values. By making settlement and citizenship so expensive, the INDImmigration and Nationality Directorate Former name of the UK government overseeing visas and immigration will keep all but the wealthy families apart,” says Nicole Ferguson-Hanna, an editor from Birmingham married to a British citizen.
“We’re from the United States, but we’re also aware these new fees mean to frighten people from lesser-developed regions from legal pathways to citizenship,” says Dr. Stephen Shapiro, a naturalised Associate Professor of American Studies. “It can be seen as a form of institutional racism.”