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Debating the Controversial UK Immigration Health Surcharge Increase: Implications and Concerns

Introduction

The UK Government has recently announced a significant increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) effective from 16 January 2024.  The decision has sparked debates and controversies among various stakeholders, including migrant workers, healthcare professionals, and politicians. In this article, we will delve into the details of these increases, the reasons behind them, and the potential impact they may have.


Understanding the Immigration Health Surcharge

The Immigration Health Surcharge, introduced in April 2015, is a fee that applicants pay when applying for a UK visa online. This surcharge allows migrants, who are not exempt, to access the National Health Service (NHS). It is important to note that holding private medical insurance does not exempt individuals from paying the IHS. Certain services, such as prescriptions, dental treatment, eye tests, and assisted conception, still require separate payments.

Initially set at £200 per person per year in 2015, the IHS was doubled to £400 in December 2018 and further increased to £624 in October 2020. However, under the new government plans, the main rate of the IHS will soar to £1,035 per adult per year, marking a staggering 66% increase. The discounted rate for children and students will also see a significant rise, from £470 to £776 per person per year.

To put this into perspective, an adult applying for a 5-year visa will now need to budget a total of £5,175 for the IHS alone, before factoring in visa application fees. Similarly, a family of two adults and two children will be required to pay £18,110 over the course of 5 years.


Reasons Behind the Increase

The UK Government has justified the substantial increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge as a measure to raise funds for public sector wage increases. John Glen, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated that the surcharge rates had been frozen for the past three years despite high inflation and wider economic pressures. The increase in the IHS is meant to cover the full healthcare costs of those who pay it and contribute to funding pay rises for doctors.

However, this decision has faced criticism from various quarters. Doctors in Unite, a representative organization for healthcare professionals, has expressed their discontent, calling the move "immoral and divisive." They argue that migrant workers already contribute through National Insurance deductions, which fund the NHS. The increase in the IHS can be seen as an additional penalty, effectively taxing migrants twice for the same service.

Charities, unions, and politicians have also criticized the policy as "deeply unfair" and "deliberately divisive." They argue that the increase in the IHS and visa application fees will damage the UK economy by discouraging skilled workers from overseas.


Who Is Affected by the Immigration Health Surcharge Increase?

It is important to note that not everyone is required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. The requirement to pay the IHS depends on the specific immigration route an individual is applying for. The following categories of applicants are exempt from paying the IHS:


  1. Those applying for a visitor visa.

  2. Those applying for a visa for six months or less from outside the UK, such as a Fiancé Visa.

  3. Those applying for indefinite leave to enter or remain in any route.

  4. Those applying for a Health and Care Worker visa or as a dependant of a Health and Care Worker.

  5. Those applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.

  6. Those applying for British Citizenship.


There are also various other exceptions to the requirement to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. It is crucial for individuals to understand their specific circumstances and consult with immigration professionals to determine their eligibility.


Increase in UK Visa Application Fees

In addition to the increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge, the UK Government has already increased UK visa application fees effective from 04 October 2023. Work visas and visit visas were increased by 15% increase, while study visas, certificates of sponsorship, settlement, citizenship, wider entry clearance, leave to remain, and priority visas increased by at least 20%.


Conclusion

The UK Government's decision to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge and visa application fees has sparked debates and a conclusion that migrants are being discriminated against. While the government argues that these increases are necessary to fund public sector wage rises and cover healthcare costs, critics argue that it is unfair and will discourage skilled workers from coming to the UK. Understanding the implications of these increases is crucial for individuals planning to apply for a UK visa. 


Seeking professional advice and staying updated on the latest developments is essential to navigate the changing landscape of immigration policies. For tailored and competent advice regarding your immigration matter, please contact Bailey James Legal today and speak with a specialist: www.baileyjameslegal.com - 0203 294 1870

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