Most immigration and nationality applications, whether made inside or outside the UK, require payment of a fee. If you have paid a fee, you may later wish to seek a refund. This post sets out the circumstances in which you may be eligible for a refund of your UK visa application fee, and if so, how you can apply for a UK visa application fee refund.
Can My UK Visa Application Fee Be Refunded?
The Home Office has a general power to refund any UK visa or immigration application fee. Paragraph 13D of the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2018 (as amended) sets out that "The Secretary of State may refund any fee, or any part of a fee, paid under these Regulations." In some circumstances, the Home Office may even have a legal obligation to issue a refund.
However, if you have made a valid UK visa or immigration application, which the Home Office has considered and then either granted or refused, the general position is that it will not refund your application fee.
So, when can you receive a refund of a UK visa application fee?
When the Home Office Must Refund a UK Visa Application Fee
There are several situations in which you must receive a refund of your UK visa application fee:
- Your application was fee exempt. Some immigration routes are exempt from fee requirements. Examples include applications for asylum; applications based on Article 3 ECHR (prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment); leave to remain under the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession; and applications made by children in local authority care. If a fee is paid in respect of such an application, the Home Office must legally reimburse it.
- Your application was invalid. There are specific criteria, which vary according to the type of application, which determine whether an application is valid. If an application is invalid, it will not be considered. If that happens, your fee will be refunded minus a £25 administration charge (unless, of course, your application was rejected as invalid because you did not pay a fee in the first place).
- Your application was inappropriate or
void. An application is void if before or during the
time it is being processed, it becomes meaningless, and the
application fee must be refunded in full. This generally happens in
the following situations:
- You have applied for limited permission to stay, but you already have (or during processing you obtain) settlement in the UK;
- You have applied for entry clearance but you are exempt from requiring entry clearance (for example, if you are a member of the home forces or a diplomat);
- The applicant has died, and you have notified the Home Office, before a decision is made.
- You were charged and paid the wrong fee.
- A court or tribunal orders the Home Office to refund the fee.
What if I Withdraw or Vary My Visa or Immigration Application?
If you withdraw your application, you may be able to get a fee refund, but this depends on the timing of your withdrawal. You will be eligible for a refund if you withdraw your application before the relevant deadline as set out in the table below:
|Type of application||Deadline for withdrawal|
|Application requires biometric data to be submitted||Before submitting biometrics (if you have paid Priority Visa or
Super Priority Visa fees, or an in country biometric enrolment fee,
these will also be refunded)
If you fail to submit biometrics within the specified period, you will not be eligible for a refund if the Home Office has gone on to process your application
|Application requires documents to be submitted at an application centre||Before submitting documents|
|Application is being made using the UK Immigration ID Check app||Before clicking 'confirm and upload' to upload supporting evidence and before the specified period for submitting evidence has elapsed|
|Application does not require biometric data to be taken or attendance at an application centre||Within 7 days of submitting the application|
Withdrawing your application must be done in accordance with the relevant rules and guidance. Please see further information on the government's website.
If you submit a further immigration application that has the effect of varying your initial application, the application fee for the first application will be refunded.
Refunds for Premium Services: Priority Visa and Super Priority Visa
According to the Home Office's guidance, a refund of fees for Priority and Super Priority service may be sought "where the applicant has taken necessary steps to complete their application, but the application has not been considered within the published timescales".
In practice, if your application is not processed within the timescale promised, then whether or not you are entitled to a refund will likely depend on the complexity of the application.
|Application Type||Priority service||Super Priority service|
|Assessed by Home Office as non-complex||Priority fee fully refunded||Either Super Priority fee fully refunded;
Or, if the application is processed within the Priority timescale (but not the Super Priority timescale) - then the difference between the Super Priority fee and the Priority fee refunded
|Assessed by Home Office as complex||No refund||No refund|
If your application is determined within the published timescale, but the decision is not communicated to you (if your application was made within the UK) or you are not notified that the decision is available for collection (if your application was made outside the UK), your full Priority or Super Priority fee will be refunded.
If you have not supplied required information in time for the application to be considered within the published timescale, you will not be eligible for a refund.
Refunds for Premium Services: Sponsor Licence Premium Service
If you have paid for expedited processing of an employer Sponsor Licence application, your fee will be refunded if:
- You have withdrawn your application before submitting your mandatory documents
- You do not submit all your mandatory documents within the specified timescale
- The Home Office is unable to process your application within the premium service timescale because the application is deemed complex
- The Home Office is unable to process your application within the premium service timescale due to its own error
- The Sponsor Licence application is invalid
You will not get a refund where:
- You have withdrawn your application after submitting your mandatory documents
- The Home Office is unable to process your application within the premium service timescale because it requires additional information which you do not provide in time
- Your Sponsor Licence application is refused
British Citizenship Ceremonies
If your application for British citizenship is refused, and you have already applied for a citizenship ceremony, the fee for the ceremony will be refunded. A refund will also be made where the Home Office disapplies the requirement to make a citizenship oath and pledge at a citizenship ceremony because of the special circumstances of the case.
If you withdraw an application for citizenship but have already paid the ceremony fee, this will be refunded so long as the ceremony has not yet been arranged.
How Do I Contact the Home Office for a Fee Refund?
If you have submitted your application, but have not yet provided your biometrics or uploaded your documents, you should withdraw your application in order to obtain a refund. You can do this by doing the following:
- If you were asked to attend a biometrics appointment, you should use this form to withdraw your application. If you applied outside the UK and used AccessUK, you should log on to your account, and go to 'Section 6: further actions' to cancel your application.
- If you have been invited to use the smartphone app to verify your identity and upload documents, you should sign into your account using the link from your sign-up email. You should then select the option 'Withdraw this application'. You should receive a refund if you have not yet uploaded your documents.
Please note, however: if your leave is extended by virtue of section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 whilst your application is pending, the withdrawal of the application will likely bring the extension of your leave under section 3C to an end, rendering you an overstayer. If you think you may be in this situation, it would be sensible to proceed with caution and to seek legal advice before trying to obtain a refund.
If you have already provided your biometrics or uploaded documents, but are entitled to a refund for some other reason, this should in theory be granted automatically. If a Home Office caseworker spots that your application is invalid or void, they must provide a refund, even if they have not received a specific request from you or your immigration adviser.
However, it may be sensible to contact UKVI to withdraw your application and alert them to the need for a refund. It may be necessary to do this where, for example, the applicant has died and you are acting on behalf of his or her estate. Contact details for UKVI can be found here.
How Long Does It Take the Home Office to Refund a Visa Application Fee?
The Home Office does not publish information on how long it will take to grant an immigration application fee refund. If you have requested an application fee refund and are waiting for a response, you may wish to contact UKVI to ask for an update. Alternatively, you may wish to speak to one of our barristers to discuss whether you are due a refund.
Can I Get a Refund for Costs Other Than My Application Fee?
In making an immigration or nationality application, you may incur a range of costs beyond the application fee.
If you have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge or Immigration Skills Charge, there are separate rules and procedures governing if, and how, you can obtain a refund. These will be the subject of a further post.
If you have paid a fee to one of the Home Office's commercial partners (such as UKVCAS), that will generally have its own procedures for handling refunds. For example, to request a refund from UKVCAS, you will need to submit an enquiry through their website and select 'Refunds'.
If the Home Office has made a mistake in handling your application, and you feel you deserve to be reimbursed for costs other than your application fee (for example the cost of flights, hotels, or replacing lost documents), you can make a complaint, and you may be awarded an Ex-Gratia payment.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.