Our Kafkaesque immigration system: what it really costs to come here to work

The Home Office, London. Photo by John Lord, Wikimedia Commons

So, I’m sure I’m not alone in having noticed a big increase in anti-immigrant sentiment since the latest release of the numbers by the Office for National Statistics, and let’s be honest, it’s not that surprising, is it? So, keeping to the zeitgeist of the week, I thought I would bring in a reminder that the migrants who come to our island to work in our British industries are hardly doing it for free – far from it.

My own naturalisation, which started in 2016 and came to a conclusion in 2022, cost me just over £12k. This is not chump change. This is not a cost easily borne and why I get incredibly irate when bobbing heads natter on about how much migrants take, without a full understanding of just how much you have to actually give to call Mud Island your home.

Now, let’s dive headfirst into this, shall we? I have written elsewhere about Lina, but here I’m going to write about the Pereiras. The Pereira family – new faces, same racket. They’re the latest to run the gauntlet of our Kafkaesque immigration system, with Mr. Pereira bagging an invite to our grey and pleasant land for his engineering brain. He’s been invited under the Shortage Occupation List to come and work as a civil engineer.

Now, Mr Pereira, being the family man that he is, would really like to bring his family (consisting of Mr Pereira-Vasques and two tiny Pereiras) with him – you know, because he likes them and all that. Most of Mr Pereira’s own costs are covered by the firm that is whisking him to Blighty, but they have made clear that they’ll not be paying for his family to join in.

Here follows a brief sojourn through the spending that Mr Pereira and his family will be doing over the course of six years to call this country their new home.

Stage 1: The Wallet-Thinning Welcome
First off, the Pereiras drop £6,368.70 (£2,122.90 per Pereira) for their visa applications from outside the UK for one adult and two kids. That’s not pocket change you find under the sofa cushions. Then there’s the NHS surcharge – a cheeky £2,846.25 per adult and £2,134 per kid. Because, you know, healthcare ain’t free, even if you’re not using it yet. And let’s not forget £450 for English tests, because speaking the Queen’s isn’t as simple as a nod and a “cheers, mate”. Total: £13,932.95

Stage 2: The Visa Vampire Strikes Back
Round two of daylight robbery comes with visa extensions. That’s £3,615.60 more on applications (£1,205 per application) and another hefty £2,587 for the health surcharge for Mr Pereira-Vasques and £3,880 for the two kids. And yes, the government still wants them to prove they can speak English and have not completely forgotten how to do so since their last shake down, so throw in another £450 for good measure. Total: £10,533.10

Stage 3: The “Permanent” Cash Crunch
Now, this is where the Pereiras get the right to remain indefinitely – for a price, of course. Cough up £13,271 (at a cool £3,317.75 per application) for the applications for the whole family (this is generally something employers don’t pay for, so Mr Pereira is included) and £200 (to prove they know how to queue and moan about the weather) on the ‘Life in the UK’ test. This is also not forgetting the £150 per person being paid to prove that they can speak English. Yet again. Total: £14,071.00

Stage 4: The Naturalisation Shakedown
Last, but certainly not least, naturalisation. It’s £1,500 per Pereira for the lot of them to finally wave their very own Union Jacks. Total: £6,000

Stage 5: The Extras Let’s not gloss over the fact that this doesn’t include lawyer fees, because deciphering immigration law without one is like trying to read Suetonius to a toddler.

Grand Finale: The Wallet’s Last Stand
After all is said and done, the Pereira family has shelled out a staggering £44,537.05.

That’s the price to pay for the rain, the NHS, and the right to complain about the weather like a true Brit. (The other very important thing to note is a little qualifier that will be on the back of each one of the Pereiras’ Biometric Residence Permits, which reads “no recourse to public funds”. That little sentence right there? Yup, that means no benefits for the Pereiras. They can access the NHS, and god knows, they pay through the nose for it, but anything else in the form of additional support? A hard no from His Majesty’s Government.)

The crux of our little mathematical jaunt? Migrants like the Pereiras aren’t freeloaders or the drain on resources they’re painted to be; they’re paying an arm and a bloody leg through the nose for the privilege of contributing to our society.

And now, with the government’s positively malicious plan to limit dependents? That’s a new low. It’s not policy; it’s punishment – a mean-spirited clampdown that reeks of “I’m alright, Jack” dressed up in policy drag.

When making comments on how much it is perceived that immigrants take, especially those who have been invited by us to come work here, it’s incredibly important to realise just how much is given for the opportunity. For me personally, it’s unacceptable. It’s a massive financial barrier which borders on migrant communities being fleeced for no good reason beyond a petty cruelty.

Now, thank you for reading all the way to the end, I am reminded now and then that I do go on a bit, but I do hope this brings a bit more light to the true cost of migration – not the one that the UK pays, but the one that migrants pay to live and work here.