Home Secretary Theresa May is reportedly keen to charge higher fees for UK visas as part of her efforts to reduce the effects of cuts to the Home Office budget.
The department is set to see its spending power reduced by 20-30 per cent in the next five years and Mrs May is understood to believe that more expensive visas are a way to address this.
But according to the Financial Times, her plans have put her on a collision course with Chancellor George Osborne, who is concerned that more expensive visas will result in fewer overseas students and visitors bringing money into the UK economy.
The current cost of a short term UK tourist visa is £85 and student visas cost £322. Mr Osborne has been trying to attract more Chinese money into the UK by simplifying the visa system for Chinese visas.
Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke to Indian President Narendra Modi about the dramatic fall-off of Indian students choosing to study in the UK during Mr Modi’s recent visit to Britain.
Mrs May is said to be targeting visa price rises as she tries to handle the sensitive and controversial subject of cuts to police numbers in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. The Home Office is responsible for the police as well as counter-terrorism and border security, all of which are now in the spotlight.
Last year, the department made just over £1 billion from visa charges but spent £11 billion on the costs of crime and policing – more than 70 per cent of its overall budget. The police say that the service cannot cope with cuts of more that 10 per cent without its ability to deal with attacks such as those seen in Paris being compromised.
In order to keep police reductions within this figure, the Home Office would need to rake in double what it currently makes from visa charges.