The British Academy responds to government proposals to increase visa fees and raise the Immigration Health Surcharge

25 Jul 2023

The British Academy has responded to the government’s plans to raise visa fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge. The Academy believes that visa fees should be substantially reduced to a level similar to other countries such as the USA and Germany, and that the Immigration Health Surcharge should be removed.

The UK’s immigration fees are already some of the highest in the world and the Academy is concerned that these increases will reduce the UK’s attractiveness and ability to retain and attract international researchers. It will be particularly damaging for those early and mid-career researchers with young families who will not be able to afford the significant upfront amounts.

The issue of fees is just one of the continuing barriers and deficiencies with the UK’s immigration system, including the current short-term mobility visa system, highlighted by the Royal Society last week. Challenges include:

  • the bureaucratic and unwieldy nature of UK visitor visas
  • the high visitor visa refusal rates for applicants from the Global South
  • the experience of engaging with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) dampening demand to collaborate with the UK
  • the need to either reform this visa category or establish a new one in order to be effective for researcher mobility.

Responding to the announcement, Professor Simon Goldhill FBA, Foreign Secretary & Vice-President of the British Academy, said:

“Increasing visa fees so substantially would be the wrong decision. Visa costs are already unjustifiably high in the UK and need to be significantly reduced. Both the costs and their upfront payment are prohibitive for many researchers and their families and they will understandably question whether the UK is really the place they wish to build their careers and lives.

“This is not what UK immigration policy should be aiming to achieve and it is directly opposed to the Government’s own ambitions for world-leading research and innovation and to grow the UK research workforce by 2030. It is not credible to aim to attract and retain excellent researchers and innovators globally while simultaneously raising significant barriers which no other comparative country has. This will be particularly damaging for those early and mid-career researchers with young families who are at the forefront of driving research and innovation yet will not be able to afford the fees.

“Choosing where to live, collaborate and work is a personal choice as well as a professional one. The cost, complexity and experience of the UK’s immigration system are major impediments to our colleagues and partners wishing to engage with or work in the UK. If the UK wishes to boost its international collaborations and networks in research, including the humanities and social sciences, then our immigration system must stop closing down such opportunities and creating so many burdens and barriers.”

Sign up to our email newsletters