UK Home Office announces new immigration fees

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The UK Home Office has announced a general increase in existing immigration fees to take affect in the near future. Some new fees were announced as well, including a one-time license fee for companies who wish to hire foreign labor from outside the European Union and the European Economic Area.

While most fees will increase only slightly, the Home Office said that others will increase substantially. This includes fees for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), which is set to be replaced in March by the General Highly Skilled Migrants (GHSM) sub-category of Tier 1 under the UK's new points based immigration system.

First time Tier 1 GHSM approvals will cost GBP 600, increased from the current HSMP fee of GBP 400. Fees for further leave to remain under the Tier 1 GHSM sub-category will increase to GBP 750 from the current HSMP fee of GBP 350.

Businesses will be required to pay a one-time license fee to act as a sponsor for migrants they wish to employ. The fee will be set at GBP 300 or GBP 1000, depending on the size of the company. Educational institutions, who will act as sponsors for foreign students, will be required to pay GBP 400 for a license to act as a sponsor.

Defending the new fees, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said that the updated fee structure will be in line with those of other countries, and that those who benefit the most from the immigration system should pay for it.

"We welcome the contribution that legal immigrants make to the economy and cultural life in the UK, and we have ensured that these fees, which will usher in the biggest reforms to the immigration system in a generation, are at levels that will not damage our international competitiveness," said Byrne.

"We are confident that we are not out of line with other countries' prices and that the people we want to come here will not be deterred from doing so," he added.

For those who were thinking about applying for immigration to the UK under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, now may be the best time.