From 6th April 2016, all UK visa applicants from Australia and New Zealand who wish to settle in the UK with their unmarried partner, fiancée or spouse will be required to pay a £200 annual NHS surcharge as part of their immigration application. Prior to this, those going through the immigration process and applying for a UK settlement visa would have been entitled to 100% free NHS medical care due to reciprocal healthcare agreements. Australians and New Zealanders enjoyed this special privilege with the United Kingdom due to them having been part of the British Empire in the past. To reciprocate, Australia and New Zealand allow all British immigrants the right to free healthcare.
The Immigration Health Surcharge was introduced in April 2015 for all non-European Union members but had excluded Australia and New Zealand because of the special relationship between the countries. Within half a year of its implementation, it had raised more than £100 million for the National Health Service. The surcharge covers prescription charges, dental treatment, ophthalmic tests and other ‘extras’ that residents of the UK are normally expected to pay for, unless they receive income support payments or they are tax exempt due to a low income. Young people travelling to the UK to study and those up to 30 years of age will be given a £50 discount on the charge. It will not be applied to tourists visiting less than six months, but if you are a husband or wife wanting to make a new life in the country, you will be expected to pay it.
While the new plan may help a cash strapped Britain, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has hit out at the UK government, accusing it of being ‘cheap’. He said “I think we have had this relationship based on the history of our country and New Zealand being a British colony. I would have thought charging Kiwis £150 if they are over there for a bit longer as a surcharge, over and above the national health system, is pretty cheap and not really in keeping with the history of the two countries.” He added that the policy chipped away at the rights of New Zealanders in the UK. As British immigrants are still allowed free healthcare when they emigrate, some are calling for Australia and New Zealand to follow suit with their own charges.