The Home Office made a crucial decision in October 2018 to increase the NHS immigration surcharge that is paid by temporary migrants who reside within the UK for longer than six months. This increase is coming into effect this year, and it is vital to understand the increase and how it may affect an application. This surcharge increase is being deployed to add much-needed funds to the NHS. Estimated projections state that the increase could produce as much as £220M a year which would go directly to NHS services already in dire need of financial support. Most visa applicants will be affected by the increase, including those applying for a UK settlement spouse or unmarried partner visa from abroad as well as FLR applications under the 5-year partner route to settlement made from within the UK.
What is the NHS health surcharge?
The immigration health surcharge or IHS allows any person who temporarily resides in the UK to access NHS services in the same manner as UK residents so long as they have a visa that is valid for longer than six months. The surcharge was introduced in 2015 as a way of allowing the NHS to better deal with the additional strain from immigration. It has so far risen around £600M which has been paid directly into NHS budgets across the country. The charge is usually paid in full as part of an immigration application made from abroad or within the UK. It is designed for non-EU nationals since those who are EU residents currently enjoy the privileges of the NHS at no extra charge. This may change after Brexit, and we will provide updates if there are any potential changes to the way EU residents can access NHS services.
Who will it affect?
The immigration health surcharge rise will affect everyone who is currently paying the annual charge, including temporary spouse and de facto partner visa holders. It is those who are from outside of the European Economic Area and intend to live in the UK for longer than six months. It will affect all new immigration applications. Dependents of principal applicants are usually required to pay the same fee as the main applicant. The general surcharge will double and rise from £200 per annum to £400 per annum. It will affect all visa applications that are longer than six months. Migrants who reside in the UK for a shorter period of time will be required to pay for NHS services at the point of access. This includes those who are in the UK on visitor visas. There are certain groups exempt from paying the surcharge, and these include asylum seekers and victims of modern slavery. They will continue to remain exempt from the surcharge.
What are the current charges?
Under the current system, the standard NHS immigration health surcharge for partners was £200 per annum. Therefore, for a visa application of 5 years, this would be a total of £1000. The charge for students or those on a youth mobility scheme was £150 per annum. All these charges will be subject to the change from January 8th onwards. It is advisable to check with the Home Office as to whether an application will be subject to the old charges or the newer ones. In general, all applications made after the above date will incur the newer charges.
What date will the changes come into place?
The increased surcharge will come into full effect after the 8th of January 2019. It will apply to all those who meet the requirements to pay the current charge, and there is no slow rollout in place for specific applicants. If an applicant is a recipient of NHS immigration health, then they will be affected by this surcharge rise from this date onwards.
Will the old discounted rate be affected?
Students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme would have been previously paying a discounted rate of £150 per year. This discounted rate will rise to £300 per annum. Students who have applications with a period that is less than six months a year will pay half of the rate of that year. However, if it is over six months, they will be required to pay the full fee for the year.
What are the NHS immigration health requirements?
As of now, there are no planned changes to the NHS immigration health requirements. However, they may change in the near future, we will provide updates if any changes are announced. The immigrant health surcharge can currently be paid online. This is applicable to both postal and online applications which may be done through visa application centres. For postal applications, this fee is paid before the application is sent and the reference number of payment is needed on the application. Online applicants will need to pay the charge through the application itself. Alternatively, they can pay when the booking for the appointment is made.
The NHS will hope that this surcharge increase will not deter applicants from applying for UK visas. It will hopefully provide the NHS will much-needed funds that will allow them to cope with increased demands from both migrants and residents. We will provide any updates on any possible future changes to the immigration health surcharge (IHS).