Start typing and hit "Enter" to search.

Destitution Policy for Immigration Application Fees Deemed Unlawful

A judgment by the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in Liggison v Secretary of State for the Home Department JR/2249/2019, has concluded that the Home Office's immigration policy on waiving the application fee for destitute immigrants is unlawful. The case centered around a family of Ghanaian nationals who were previously refused a fee waiver for their indefinite leave to remain (ILR) application based on Article 8 ECHR grounds (i.e. human rights). The fee being charged was £7,665, which included the immigration Health surcharge. At the time of the application for ILR, the family's legal representatives, the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMEL) included a fee waiver application letter, which stated:

"it is submitted that there is no prospect of the family raising the funds for this application - £7665 with the Immigration Health Surcharge – within the foreseeable future, ie 12 months and on this basis a fee waiver should be granted. Account statements for all bank accounts held by the family, as well as credit cards held by our client, are enclosed. Our client has a savings account and an ISA with Barclays, but she does not receive statements for these accounts. However, her current account statements show that the balance for her savings account has remained consistently at £0.00 whilst the ISA's balance stands at £0.01. It is clear that our client and her partner have no meaningful income, and it is repeated that there is no "prospect of them raising the funds for this application. In summary, it is submitted that our client qualifies for a fee waiver due to her inability to raise the funds for this application".

In January 2019, the Secretary of State for The Home Department refused the fee waiver application based on the conclusion that while the family could prove they could not afford to pay the fees, they could not prove that they would be made destitute.

Affordability vs destitution

In the Upper Tribunal hearing which took place in May 2020, the applicants submitted that the "refusal of the fee waiver application was unlawful and that the respondent's extant published policy on such applications – Fee Waiver: Human Rights-based and other specified applications, version 3.0 (dated 4 January 2019) - is itself unlawful". In making his judgment, Judge Blundell focuses heavily on the Secretary of State for The Home Department's (the Respondent) interest in whether the family is currently or will be made destitute by paying the application fees rather than whether they can afford to pay. More crucially, however, he concludes that the policy and its guidance are unlawful. There are several reasons why he draws this conclusion, including the policy:

  • does not provide an underlying test of affordability
  • refers to the need to find 'exceptional circumstances' in relation to the ability to pay – however, many who cannot afford to pay may not necessarily have exceptional circumstances
  • the policy guidance is dominated by questions of 'destitution', leaving the core matter of affordability to be obscured - as established in R (Omar) v SSHD [2012] EWHC 3448 (Admin) and R (Carter) v SSHD [2014] EWHC 2603 (Admin), the test of 'affordability' which should have been applied when considering a fee waiver is "whether the applicant can afford to pay the fee; "The guidance is not consistent with the affordability test which emerges from Omar and Carter and which is agreed to be the correct test".

Is the human rights application itself a breach of human rights?

Another key question which arose in the Upper Tribunal case was whether applicants with a valid human rights case and who have attempted to regularise their position may be left in a 'half-world' or 'limbo' state if they are forced to wait for a decision by the Secretary Of State For The Home Department because they don't meet the criteria for a fee waiver. This is because applications with the correct form and fee are likely to be processed in a timely manner, but those that do not may face a significant wait.

While the Home Office provides a 'safety net', which means even if an application for leave to remain based on human rights grounds is not 'effective', and hence the case will still be considered before the applicants are required to leave (in large part because the Secretary Of State For The Home Department has a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of children), the family would, in the intervening period be "confined to a hostile environment". In other words, the family may face an indeterminate wait for a decision on their case, which would not be in the best interests of the welfare of the family or the children.

On this matter, Judge Blundell stated robustly, "it is difficult to see how that the Respondent can be said to have regard to her statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when children such as the third, fourth and fifth applicants are confined to the hostile environment as a result of the Respondent's adoption and application of a fee waiver policy which fails to reflect the affordability test properly or at all. I recognise, as did Mr. Mackenzie, that the children have existed in that environment for some years, as a result of the decision made by the first and second applicants to overstay and found a family whilst in the UK unlawfully. But their parents subsequently made an application to regularise their position in the UK and were entitled to consideration of that application at public expense if they were genuinely unable to afford the requisite fee. It is the erection of an improper obstacle to that consideration, in the form of an unlawful policy, which means that the children are not entitled to consideration of their applications' forthwith' and must instead wait for consideration of their human rights claims in the fulness of time".

Final words

This Home Office has already been granted permission to apply to the Court of Appeal. If the decision made by the Tribunal is ultimately upheld - that the fee waiver policy is unlawful - this will raise questions regarding how many have had their application refused in the past, or who have paid application fees but didn't need to. We will keep you updated as a matter of progress.

Get In Touch

Some of our Happy Clients

Reiss Edwards Awards

ACQ5 Awards Award
Lexis Nexis
Three Best Rated
Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge
ACQ5 Awards Award ACQ5 Awards Award
Lexis Nexis Lexis Nexis
Three Best Rated Three Best Rated
Department For International Development Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge University Of Cambridge

O.L

Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing.

As a lawyer myself I can categorically say that he knows his stuff, gentle, responsive, cares about you and not just about the money, very professional.
I mean I can go on and on!

Andy and the entire team at Reiss Edwards are amazing!

Thanks again Andy.

Kiran Sardar


I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this professional as there are lots of emotions always involved in each and every case.

The way they dealt with my case during COVID19 Situation is highly appreciable. I would definitely recommend Joe D. and Anna F. Anna is an amazing lady, her patience is beyond my words.

Her hard work and professionalism have no boundaries. She is the right person for all type of cases.

Thanks to Anna and Joe for all your support and guidance which helped me fulfill my dream.

I would say Reiss Edwards is lucky to have Joe D. and Anna F. Great job Reiss Edwards.

thanks once again. Anna you’re a Gem and a Star.

Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was outstanding. Handling the case with constant correspondence over a lengthy, lockdown delayed 7-month application process. Her expert advice guided us successfully through some difficult times as a result of COVID-19. Some of the best service I have received for any service ever! Often replying to emails late at night, offering to send additional correspondence to the home office and going above and beyond in handling our case! Well done and thank you Reiss Edwards and thank you Anna!!".

Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR application was successful 6 weeks after the submission amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I also think the portfolio put together by the team at Reiss Edwards has played a big part in the quick turnaround of my application".

Jesse Lee

"Reiss Edwards did a great job, and so much work, for their reasonable fixed fee. I would heartily recommend them to anyone looking to secure a Visa and /or Visa renewal. I will use them again when mine needs to renew. Great value".

Majlinda Berisha

"The help, the professionalism, the kindness from this team is phenomenal. A massive thank you to Anna Foley.

I have had a really tough time with getting my husband’s visa. My last immigration lawyer made many mistakes that caused stress, disappointments and sadness.

I was weary about getting another lawyer as I thought I was going to go through the same experience but no, it turned out better than what I had hoped or even imagined.

What I received was: constant emails and calls updating me and asking if anything else is needed. If I called and they missed my phone call I would get a call back within 10 minutes. All of my documents were carefully checked and I would get a reply the next day if anything was missing or not correct. There were times that I was impatient and asked to just send the visa off, but was reminded that everything had to be perfect and correct before submitting the application. I was told about every option I had and discussed what the best would be. I was always spoke in a nice, calm, polite manner.

The overall intelligence of this team, especially Anna Foley for me, is outstanding. I am speechless. Anna done such an amazing job on my husband’s application that although we couldn’t apply for the fast service and was told to wait for 12 weeks, we got a reply within 5 weeks.

That alone shows what an amazing and talented team Reiss Edwards are. Thank you".

Christine .C

"I wholeheartedly recommend Reiss Edwards to anyone who is in search of immigration advice. I had the pleasure of speaking with Amar who has been very thorough in finding a solution to my enquiry, and followed up with additional information even after the consultation. I normally don't leave reviews, and this firm already has enough good reviews for me to need to my own anyways! However, in this instance, I do hope that my review can let anyone who reads it be aware that RE is a great choice, these people care enough to help you the best they can".

Zohaib Butt

"I had the chance to use Reiss Edwards services for my Tier 2 extension. Marija dealt with my case and I found her very professional and experienced in dealing with my application. The care and attention to detail was exceptional. I would definitely recommend Reiss Edwards!".

Quintus Liu

"Knowledgeable, experienced, and relatable. Translated a complex process into steps that are easy to follow. Cruised to 3 successive wins on my Tier 1 graduate/entrepreneurship visa which allowed us to play our part in making the UK a better and healthier place!".

Khasan Vosijonov

"Thank you, Ms. Anna Foley! I am writing this with tears of joy.

As a family, we are all grateful to Anna Foley and her firm Reiss Edwards, for doing all the hard work and giving us the best support. Finally We found the best law firm".

Saira Lawson-Brown

"Highly professional organisation and really supportive solicitors. Ina Iteva the solicitor that was provided to us was a blessing in disguise, as our first solicitor was let go off due to pandemic. She was so supportive and understanding throughout the process, and my husband spouse visa was granted due to their effort and attention to detail. We constantly try to keep in touch with her and consider her as more of a friend now than a solicitor. Sure, to bother her and the firm more in the future".

Nora Nkechi

"My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recommend Reiss Edwards as an Immigration law firm in London. Thank you to the team".

Deepak Chartbhurjh

"This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listening to me, will be using them again. I used Reiss Edwards for my Tier 2 visa application and it was successful. The team was ever present and happy to answer my question. The caseworker that dealing with my case went on holiday yet by case did not suffer one bit. Another lawyer stepped and took over the case without any hassle".

Hakeem Salam

"I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter and that of my family. It was an EX1 application. They dealt with the matter properly and even when complications were coming up from the Home Office, they helped resolve the issue properly. They are very professional and are very popular in London. I am happy to have worked with them".

Top Notch Immigration Service

"Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled our documentation and also the list of documents they sent was efficient and top quality. They helped us professionally throughout the process. We are very happy with the immigration advice we received from the team. We highly recommend them".

Mo Hussein

"I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration application. Both for my initial application and extension. They are really affordable. The team of solicitors at this firm are probably one of the most efficient and economical in terms of cost. They offered free advice over the phone and spent good time with us before inviting us for consultation".

Gallagher Jones

"I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They acted with utmost professionalism throughout the entire application. I spoke with Joe Dinh, he is an immigration solicitor and he is one of the best solicitors out there. He ensured that there was little to no room for error. At some point I thought he was over cautious. He remained calmed and continued to assure us on our immigration matter. Most people in his position would have panicked but he was calmed and continued to assure us. We received out positive outcome very quickly".

Richard Stone

"I have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the application, I was not sure which law firm i should hire to facilitate the paperwork. After a few hours of research, i decided to go with Reiss Edwards and i must confess that I wasn't disappointed. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards handled my case well and they really knew what they were doing. They were fully aware of what documents I needed and it was easy for them to tell if my case was going to be easy or not. At the end of the day, I have not received my British citizenship within 3 months. If anyone is looking for a good immigration lawyer to handle their case, contact Reiss Edwards".

Fong Li

"Investing over 2 million pounds is definitely not a routine decision. We had to make sure that the Tier 1 investor immigration lawyers that we'd be picking has to be one of the best within the Tier 1 investor category. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they were able to get us not only the Tier 1 investor visa but also suggested profitable investment portfolios in addition to what we already had in mind".

Nancy Jacquard

"It's a shame that you don't have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my experience with Reiss Edwards is nothing short of an excellent rating. They handled my application for an Indefinite Leave to remain in April 2014 and did my husband's one very recently including my daughter. Every time i have approached them, they have continued to treat me with courtesy, respect and patience. Amar was indeed a very thorough and professional gentleman. He is very knowledgeable, corporative and engaging. He responded to my emails, calls and enquiries promptly. He was always reassuring. I could not have asked for a better Immigration service. I would recommend them over and over again for anyone looking for an immigration advice. They gave me a free immigration advice when i called them, and the quality of the advice was something other charge thousands for. If you need a particular, name, Amar would be it. He exemplifies, for me, the true, professional gentleman. He is a valuable asset to Reiss Edwards".

Florence Giwa

"I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a 20 minutes free immigration advice. I met with Amar to discuss my ILR refusal. He gave me a great deal of quality advice and decided to take on my messy case. I had doubts on the merits of my case by he was relatively convinced he could win it. That made me quite secure. To be honest, things did not start as quick as I would have wanted, but they kept on communicating the process and state of things to me.A big thank you to Verusha and Foram. They were also very helpful. Brilliant and informative. Their fee was fair and reasonable, especially if you compare them to other law firms and immigration law firms in London; some of whom even told me that i would not be able to get an indefinte leave to remain in this country. The process was long but was worth it. In the end, a big thank you to Reiss Edwards".

Salisu Ibrahim

"Fantastic Solicitors!!! My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused by the Home Office and they gave her 14 days to leave the country. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they said "OK don't worry we will sort this out". They put together the list of documents for me to obtain and they prepared a bundle which was as thick as the printer it came out from.We followed everything they asked us to do and in the end we won our appeal and got our spouse visa. We can't recommend them enough and we have promised ourselves never to make any more UK visa applications without them".

Amir Sandeep

"The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people. Their experience in and around UK immigration law is quite extensive; be sure that you application is in safe and competent hands. My immigration matter was an indefinite leave to remain application based on Tier 1 on a self-employment basis. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards made sure that the application was perfect and ready to be accepted. I got a positive decision and I recommend them highly for anyone who needs a UK immigration help".

Reiss Edwards Reviews

O.L

"Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing, as a lawyer myself I can categorically say tha...

Read More

Kiran Sardar

"I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this profes...

Read More

Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

Read More

Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR applicatio...

Read More

Jesse Lee

"Reiss Edwards did a great job, and so much work, for their reasonable fixed fee...

Read More

Majlinda Berisha

"The help, the professionalism, the kindness from this team is phenomenal. A mas...

Read More

Christine .C

"I wholeheartedly recommend Reiss Edwards to anyone who is in search of immigrat...

Read More

Zohaib Butt

"I had the chance to use Reiss Edwards services for my Tier 2 extension. Marija ...

Read More

Quintus Liu

"Knowledgeable, experienced, and relatable. Translated a complex process into st...

Read More

Khasan Vosijonov

"Thank you, Ms. Anna Foley! I am writing this with tears of joy. As a family, we...

Read More

Saira Lawson-Brown

"Highly professional organisation and really supportive solicitors. Ina Iteva th...

Read More

Nora Nkechi

"My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recomme...

Read More

Deepak Chartbhurjh

"This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listen...

Read More

Hakeem Salam

"I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter a...

Read More

Top Notch Immigration Service

"Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled ...

Read More

Mo Hussein

"I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration...

Read More

Gallagher Jones

"I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They ac...

Read More

Richard Stone

"I have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the a...

Read More

Fong Li

"Investing over 2 million pounds is defintely not a routine decision. We had to ...

Read More

Nancy Jacquard

"It's a shame that you don't have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my expe...

Read More

Florence Giwa

"I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a ...

Read More

Salisu Ibrahim

"Fantastic Solicitors!!! My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused...

Read More

Amir Sandeep

"The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people....

Read More