From today, the UK’s immigration health surcharge has been doubled from £200 to £400 per visa applicant per year.
The increase also applies to those eligible for the discounted rate, which has risen from £150 to £300. This affects students and those on youth mobility schemes.
The new rates apply to all relevant applications made to the UK Home Office after 8th January 2019.
The change comes despite concerns about the impact of the increased payment on migrant workers and young people who have been in the UK since childhood. UK employers across all sectors are being warned that the new rates will add to the total cost for points-based workers, such as Tier 2 visa employees, and their families in the UK.
What is the immigration health surcharge?
The surcharge is payable by individuals from non-EEA countries applying for leave to remain in the UK for longer than 6 months.
It allows visa holders to access NHS services during their period of leave in the same way as UK citizens and settled persons, receiving free treatment and being charged for care and services as a UK permanent resident would.
The immigration health surcharge is not payable by individuals with valid UK indefinite leave to remain or who hold British citizenship. Vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers are also exempt.
Those on visitor visas are not affected and will continue to be charged for secondary care under the NHS.
Why is the rate increasing?
The immigration health surcharge was introduced in April 2015 to ensure financial contribution towards the NHS by long-term migrants.
More than £600million has since been raised by the charge. The funds have been distributed specifically for health spending to the Department of Health and Social Care and the health ministries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Today’s increase follows a review by the Department of Health and Social Care into cost recovery of treating surcharge payers. According to the review, the average cost to the NHS of annual usage by long-term migrants was around £470.
The government stated the rise is necessary to better reflect the costs to the NHS of treating those who pay the surcharge and by doubling the surcharge, hopes to improve cost recovery and raise an additional £220 million a year for the NHS.