Home Office charging bereaved partners £2,400 for leave to remain in UK

Bereaved spouses with the right to remain in the UK are facing destitution and deportation because the Home Office is charging them thousands of pounds to stay, the Guardian has learned.

People whose British spouses or partners have died are calling on the Home Office to waive the £2,404 fee for the “bereaved partner concession”, which grants a husband or wife indefinite leave to remain.

According to Home Office data published last month, the administrative cost of processing such a visa is an estimated £491 – about five times less than the cost to the applicant.

Many of the bereaved have no recourse to public funds and are on very low incomes, especially after the death of their spouse, so struggle to pay the high fees.

Eucharia, a Nigerian woman, met her husband, Patrick, in 2014 and married him in 2017. Eucharia had a good job in Nigeria and the couple first remained in their respective countries, visiting each other regularly. Eucharia has a 13-year-old daughter, Chimkasinma.

Then Patrick fell ill. In January 2020, Eucharia moved to the UK permanently with her daughter to look after Patrick. Both of his legs and one of his arms were amputated after developing sepsis. She was granted a spouse visa.

While he was alive, Patrick’s income had provided for the family’s needs. He died of end-stage renal failure in September 2021 and Eucharia was left struggling not only with her grief but with the difficulty of providing for herself and her daughter.

She wants to remain in the UK with her daughter and is surviving on universal credit, which leaves them both £500 a month for all their basic needs after paying rent. She is applying for work in care homes.

Eucharia said: “We asked the Home Office for a fee waiver for the bereaved partner concession but they said no. The whole thing has really crushed me. My daughter has been given cans of food to bring home by her school to help us out. She is always looking at my face to see if I have been crying. I don’t like her to see me down. I want her to be happy.

“I have to find money for two applications – one for me and one for my daughter, which amounts to almost £5,000. I don’t have that money.”

The Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London is campaigning for a fee waiver. Nick Beales, its head of campaigning, said the charity had come across at least six cases, including Eucharia’s, and that there could be many more.

The charity is supporting two women whose husbands died of Covid, while the husband of a third was murdered.

Beales said: “It’s difficult to think of any possible justification for the government introducing a concession to protect grieving widows such as Eucharia, but then pricing them out of actually being protected. This is all the more harsh and indefensible when you consider that only £491 of the £2,414 application fee covers administrative costs and the rest is government profit.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office does not make a profit from fees and to suggest that we do is inaccurate. Fees are set at a level to provide the resources necessary to operate a sustainable immigration system. Those who benefit from using the UK’s migration system should contribute towards the cost of operating it, reducing the burden on the UK taxpayer.”

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