We have a strong tradition in the North West of looking out for each other and for the importance of fair play. This shows itself in us taking care of our neighbours and people in our communities when times are hard, when tragedy strikes and when other people try and unfairly take advantage of us. That is why we are standing up for the hundreds of mothers, fathers, school children, work colleagues and family members in our region who are being exploited by the Home Office for profit, in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

Today with IPPR and Praxis we publish a partnership report showing that people embedded in our communities, most of whom have lived in the UK for at least a decade, are being charged £5,000 in profit by the Home Office on top of their immigration applications. This is happening because the Home Office has put them on an immigration pathway known as the ten year route to settlement.

People like Sarafina, who came to the UK from South Africa as a teenager, went to a local high school and who thinks of herself as from Manchester and British in all but paperwork. Having arrived as a dependant on her mum’s visa, it took 17 years to resolve her immigration situation and she is now on the ten-year route. Living in Greater Manchester with her toddler daughter who is a British citizen, Sarafina work at a local charity, paying her taxes like everyone else, but struggles every month to pay her rent, bills and childcare while saving for her immigration applications.

Like Sarafina, all the people in our report are on, or have been on, the ten year route and have the legal right to be in the UK because of family connections or because of their long-term ties to the UK. Their future is here. Over 300 people took part in our research (14% were based in the North West).

  • 93% were parents
  • 60% had been in the UK over a decade, 15 % of those for over twenty years
  • 82% of people who borrowed money to pay Home Office visa fees were still in debt
  • A fifth experienced homelessness or housing problems as a result of being on the ten-year route

Over the course of ten years on the route, adults pay £13,000 in visa fees, for children it’s £11,000. That’s per person. Imagine a family of four – saving nearly £50,000 for visa fees at a time when we know people in the North West are having to choose between buying food and putting the heating on. If you don’t pay, you lose your legal right to be in the UK. Scandalously, £5,000 of each person’s immigration fee is pure profit for the Home Office – £20,000 for a family of four.

This exploitation has to stop. There’s nothing inevitable about it. The ten year route is a political choice,  and people subjected to the ten-year route are clear that it must change.

  • Make it shorter: people should be allowed to settle, free from immigration applications, after five years. Ten years is too long and leaves children spending the whole of primary school with family in limbo.
  • Make it more affordable: people should only pay the actual cost of their visa, not extortionate additional profits to the Home Office that leave families sofa surfing because they can’t afford their rent.

    Our research shows how the ten-year route is holding people back and holding people down, contrary to the ambitions of our regional leaders for how people should live in the North West. We stand alongside people with lived experience of the ten year route in calling for this government to conduct an urgent, independent review into this punishing, exploitative policy.

    Click here to download the new report. If you enjoyed reading it, you can help us by sharing on social media, and register for our online launch on Tuesday 7th March 2023 to hear more from the report authors and people with experience of the 10-year route. To read more about how we’re organising in the North West read Fatou’s blog.