UK government is set to charge People who want a UK visa with a £5.48 bill – just for writing an e-mail to the British government.
The charge comes into force this Thursday as part of a cost-cutting drive after UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) gave a private firm the contract for its customer enquiries.
Any non-UK residents who want a visa will now have to pay the fee by credit or debit card before they can even submit an online e-mail form to UKVI.
It covers general enquiries, not just full visa applications which carry a separate fee.
The department, part of the Home Office, is also slashing its number of languages from 20 to eight and restricting opening hours for all but English speakers.
The move will be followed by a hike in fees for foreigners using the NHS and firms hiring foreign workers if the Tories – who want to cut net migration below 100,000 a year – win the general election.
A Home Office source said the service had “cost a significant amount to run” so charging foreigners will make it cost-neutral.
But Lib Dem business spokeswoman Susan Kramer claimed the move would cut tourism and high-skilled Labour coming to the UK.
She said: “The Conservative manifesto pledge to reduce immigration to the tens f thousands is at best delusional – but at worst experts have warned that trying to achieve it could cost us £6bn.
“Theresa May is putting party politics ahead of the country’s well being and she should be ashamed.”
The move has been taken after outsourcing firm Sitel UK won the contract for running the enquiries service. It was already privatised and had been run by two separate firms.
Previously the service offered Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, English, French, Guiarati, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese , Korean, mandarin, Portuguese, Russian , Sinhala, Spanish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese.
Now it will offer English plus Arabic, Cantonese, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish.
The Home Office stressed advice is available on its website, but admitted the cut to language services would affect 1 in 25 calls and e-mails to UKVI.