What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?
The aim of the fee is for temporary migrants to make a reasonable financial contribution to the NHS. Once the surcharge is paid and a person has being granted leave, people are entitled to use the NHS in a similar way to UK residents. You will still need to make a contribution towards healthcare services through payment of taxes and National Insurance – the health surcharge is just an additional payment that you make when applying for a UK visa.
Who needs to pay it?
You will need to pay the IHS if you are applying for a visa or immigration application:
- For more than 6 months, if you’re applying outside the UK
- For any length of time, if you’re applying inside the UK
Who is exempt?
Visitor visas and short-term visas (including fiancé(e)s) for less than 6 months are excluded from paying for the IHS when applying from outside the UK. If you’re applying to remain in the UK permanently, you don’t need to pay either.
Certain sponsored workers, and their dependants, who work as qualified doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are also exempt from paying the surcharge. A full list of people who are exempt can be found here.
How much does it cost?
The fee was introduced by the coalition government in 2015. It was originally set at £200 per year. It was doubled to the current fee of £400 per year in 2019 for the majority of visa applications. The funds are reserved solely for the NHS and distributed in England and to devolved health administrations. The Home Office announced that the IHS fees have raised approximately £1.5billion since it was introduced.
The current fee was due to increase by over 50% to £624 on 1st October, but the Health Charge Amendment Order 2020 was filed late on 6th October. The delay means that the increased fee won’t come into force until 27th October.
The discounted rate of the IHS fee will increase from £300 to £470 per annum. This applies to Students, Dependants of Students, Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Temporary Migrants and applicants under the age of 18.
So, for leave to remain as a spouse of a British citizen/settled person, the total fee will increase from £1,200 to £1,560 for the 30 month relevant period. For a Tier 5 entry clearance application for two years of leave, the charge will increase from £600 to £940.
The charge, and the scheduled increases, have generated much controversy, particularly against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Things to consider
A change of policy was announced on 20th May, which led to the exception for migrant workers in the health and care sectors as mentioned above.
You’re still required to pay the IHS fee even if you hold private medical insurance and do not intend to use the NHS. The IHS fee applies to dependants on any application with a discounted rate for children. You’ll also still need to pay for certain types of services, such as prescriptions, dental treatments and eye tests.
The charge and the proposed increase presents yet another significant financial obstacle for prospective migrants coming to the UK, so those looking to apply for a UK visa who are subject to the charge are urged to file their immigration application prior to the price increase toward the end of October.