The Big Business That is Immigration: How Countries Make Money Selling Citizenship
As we draw closer to the October 31st deadline, Brexit is becoming more and more in the news. It is a daily story, and a story that changes daily.
One day the Prime Minister has a deal in place, another day he does not, one day the EU is listening to the possibilities being put forward, and on another day they giving a resounding, no! They do not like what is being proposed.
As for us in the galleries watching, a few things come to mind:
* We see the GBP our Pound slipping away in value.
* We are being told our EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) will no longer be accepted in the majority of EU countries for healthcare when we are a broad. Which could drive travel insurance policies up higher in cost.
* Some food prices may change and rise.
* Some business are not ready for Brexit, and the impact it could have on some companies.
* Immigration is still an issue as there are as many as 4 million EU Nationals in the UK wishing to stay here after “free movement” ends, and they also want to keep and/or bring their families here to the UK.
This only scratches the surface of the changes to come.
Not to give a history lesson as to how and why the whole Brexit came to be, as many of us should know, it was a referendum for us to vote to stay or leave the EU.
The vote to leave won, by a narrow margin, but leave won.
To many there were two (2) huge points to debate, and why people voted as they did:
* Leaving the EU would free up money we pay to the EU for membership, which can be used to fund our beloved NHS.
* Leaving the EU can limit immigration, we can control our boarders better and slow down and control the immigration process.
These are all good and valid reasons to vote leave, however, immigration and citizenship here in the UK and in many other countries is a huge business.
In response to the cries and concerns from EU Nationals, and the fact there are nearly 4 million living and working in the UK, and they are are friends, neighbours, and work colleagues, the government set-up the EUSS or European Union Settlement Scheme as a new form of immigration for EU Nationals to receive status to stay in the UK; this after free movement ends.
Initially there was a fee of £65, but this was shortly scrapped, and those that paid the fee had it refunded to them.
The criteria for this scheme to stay in the UK was simple:
* Identity: Prove you are from the EU.
* Eligibility: Prove you reside in the UK.
* Suitability: You are not a career criminal.
From these factors, you would receive one of two statuses to stay in the UK:
Settled Status: If you have lived in the UK for five (5) or more years, you can receive Settled Status, which allows you live in the UK indefinitely, and any children born here to parents with Settled Status, automatically become citizens.
Pre-Settled Status: If you have been in the UK for less than 5 years, you would receive Pre-settled status, which when you have been in the UK for 5 years, you can apply for Settled Status.
The EUSS is free.
Those with Settled Status, can after 12 months apply for Citizenship, Citizenship for now, is not free.
Citizenship in the UK
There are many ways to get Citizenship here in the UK, for many it is the fact they had a Visa to live and work here, and have resided here five (5) years.
If you received Settled Status under the EUSS, after 12 months you can apply for Citizenship, however, for now the same rules apply.
Those applying must pass a Life in the UK test, which tests your knowledge of the UK, and also your proficiency of the English language.
Then there also are the fees, which currently are £1,330, plus additional costs for biometrics, the Life in the UK test, and any travel expenses you may incur.
So Citizenship is not cheap, and if you are a family seeking to become citizens, it can be rather expensive.
How Much Does the Government Make Off of Immigration?
While it may be difficult to get exact figures, it is believed the Home Office makes £500 million “surplus” off of immigration and citizenship fees a year.
That’s big business.
The Dean of Durham Law School, Thom Brooks has stated, “The Home Office already makes a hefty profit of up to 900 per cent on the processing of immigration-related fees. Not only are migrants paying the full costs for the delivery of immigration services, a large share of what is charged goes to non-immigration purposes including the profits of firms services are outsourced to.”
The Home Office in response stated, “The Home Office does not make a profit from application fees. Visa, immigration and citizenship fees are set at a level that helps provide the resources necessary to operate our border, immigration and citizenship system, to reduce the burden on UK taxpayers.”
There are a few things to keep in mind, immigration, boarder controls, and similar departments are all funded off these fees, and provide a lot of jobs here in the UK.
If it were free to move and live here or anywhere in the world, you’d see more movement, and without having to work and earn that movement, many do not feel a value for it, and this can cause issues.
Selling Citizenship and Investing in a Country
Technically the UK does not “sell” Visas or Citizenship, it is earned, and also granted based on being given a work Visa to stay and work here, ancestry, and also by investing here in the UK.
There are countries that do sell Citizenship. For a price you can buy a passport and never even have lived there.
And for some counties, this is not just big business, but provides a lot of money for that country.
Some countries charges to get a Visa or Citizenship starting costs are:
* Antigua and Barbuda: $100,000
* St Kitt’s and Nevis: $150,000
* Montenegro: $274,000
* Portugal: $384,000
* Spain: $550,000
* Bulgaria: $560,000
* Malta: $1m
* US: $500,000 and $1m invested in a business creating 10 jobs
* UK: $2.5m
The UK has many Visas to stay and work here in the UK, and one of them is a Tier 1 Investor Visa.
Invest £2 million here in the UK, and you can get a Visa to stay, and in time become a citizen.
If you remember back when the Brexit was announced, ROI/Republic of Ireland saw a huge spike in the number of people applying there for passports.
ROI is in the EU, if you have a passport from Republic of Ireland it gives you free movement in the EU.
It is a gateway to the EU, via ROI.
There are other ways to get to countries, get a Visa or settled status, such as here in the UK, and not be from the EU or a qualifying country.
If a non-EU National is married, or in an accepted relationship with an EU National, they are allowed to apply under the EUSS for status. Their status will depend on how long they have been in the relationship; if less than 5 years, Pre-Settled status.
This means the EU can be used as a gateway to the UK by non-EU Nationals, and be allowed status for free, and eventually Citizenship, which for now still has a fee. As to if this fee will be waived for those entering the UK under the EUSS in the future, remains to be seen.
There may be countries that the UK may not allow Citizens from that country access to the UK, however, if they use the EU, either as a family member of someone who is an EU National, in an accepted relationship with someone who is an EU National, or possibly been an asylum seeker from a country the UK does not recognise to enter the UK, and were given a passport in an EU country, they can enter and remain in the UK.
These all can be used as a gateway to the UK, and to other countries, and in the instance of using the EUSS, defeating the costs of such immigration and getting a Visa, costing the country money.
As to if it is right or wrong to charge these fees for Visa’s, Citizenship, is debatable. The debate aside, it is still big business around the world.