Consuls awarded 44% rise in fees

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The Independent Online
Hourly attendance rates for consular officials abroad have quietly been increased by 44 per cent this month.

The increase in charges, which was slipped through Parliament without a Foreign Office press release, put up the rate from pounds 50 to pounds 72 an hour - with a maximum daily charge of pounds 520; the equivalent of an annual salary of pounds 150,000.

Providing an example of the kind of work that can attract the stiff new charges, the Consular Fees Order 1996 says that "where the attendance is for the purpose of supervising an examination", the charge may be divided between the people taking the exam.

Last year, as part of an operation to move towards "eventual full-cost recovery", consular fees increased by an average of 60 per cent, and that exercise is continued this year with an overall average increase of 20 per cent in charges.

But with charges for issuing emergency passports and other services remaining at their existing level, that increase dis- guises some marked changes.

Special reduced rates for the under-25s for issuing a transit visa to pass through the United Kingdom, and for single visit entry clearance, have been abolished. Fees are doubled, from pounds 12.50 to pounds 25 for a transit visa, and from pounds 16.50 to pounds 33 for single visit entry clearance.

While the fee for issuing an emergency passport remains pounds 10, the charge for arranging re-patriation of a person or group travelling together has gone up by a fifth to pounds 72, and the charge for providing emergency currency supplies - "against the payment of a sterling cheque" - has gone up by the same rate, from pounds 30 to pounds 36.

The only apparent price cut is for "transmitting a record of a marriage under the local law to the appropriate Registrar General", which has been halved, to pounds 20.