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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#InflationBusting: Theresa May planning 4% hike in Visa Fees - Reports

Home Secretary is planning to "dramatically" increase visa fees in a bid to fund a £50 million deficit in the Home Office budget in a move described as "unacceptable" by business leaders.

The plans are revealed in Home Office documents leaked to the Times on Monday advising a fee hike for all visa categories of 4%, well above the current rate of inflation.

The hike in fees is reportedly an attempt to pre-empt planned cuts in Home Office finances set to be unveiled in Chancellor George Osborne's Budget statement in March.

Business leaders have slammed the proposal.

Dr Adam Marshall, executive director of policy from the British Chambers of Commerce, told the HuffPostUK that increasing visa fees is the "wrong signal to send to the business community".

"Piling additional costs on the business community is an unacceptable way to plug a hole in the Home Office budget", Dr Marshall said.

“Both exports and inward investment depend on simple and cost-effective access to visas.  Higher costs will deter business visitors, and could result in cancelled or delayed business deals.

Mrs May's plans come just months after the government scrapped a proposal to charge a £3000 fee from visit visa applicants from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria. 

The so-called "security bond" was branded "highly discriminatory" by business leaders, especially in India, one of the biggest investors in the British economy.

Visit visa applicants from India pay up to £120 for a six-month visa while students are required to pay considerably more depending on the length of their courses.

Other visa categories such as applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for work permit applicants can cost up to £2000 per person.

In a statement, the Home Office defended increases in visa fees, saying it was "reducing the cost of the immigration system to the taxpayer".

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