The Home Office is expected to raise the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) substantially in the new year (2024) for visa applicants coming to the UK. The details of the changes have been set out in the draft ‘Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023’. The order will come into force on either 16th January 2024 or the “twenty-first day after the day on which it is made”, subject to parliamentary approval. The increase in the IHS follows the publication of an ‘Equality Impact Assessment’ in October 2023, which sets out the proposed changes, who they will affect, and the impact of the public sector’s duty to equality when exercising their duties. The IHS fee hike comes only a few short months after the Home Office increased visa fees for those on Work and Family routes on 4th October 2023.
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will increase from £624 per year to £1,035 per year. This represents an increase of 66%. For children, students, student dependants, and youth mobility workers, the IHS will increase from £470 per year to £776 per year.
The IHS has increased numerous times since its introduction in 2015. In 2015, the rate was set at £200 per person per year with a discounted rate of £150 for students and their dependants. In January 2019, the IHS doubled to £400 and £300, respectively. The IHS was further increased to £624 and £470, respectively, on 1st October 2020.
The amount of money payable upfront when applying for a visa will depend on the type of visa, the number of applicants, and the duration of the visa. Here are some examples of how much applicants can expect to pay under the new IHS fee regime in early 2024:
A single adult applying to come to the UK on a 5-year Skilled Worker will pay an IHS of 5 x £1,035 = £5,175 (please note this does not include the cost of the Skilled Worker visa itself). This is an increase of £2,055 compared to the current IHS fee structure.
A Skilled Worker visa applicant coming to the UK with their spouse and two children will pay:
A single adult applying for a student visa lasting 3 years will pay an IHS of 3 x £776 = £2,328. This is an increase of £918 compared to the current IHS charges.
A Student Visa applicant coming to the UK with their spouse and two children for 3 years will pay:
The purpose of the IHS is to cover the cost of the use of the National Health Service (NHS) by visa holders who require medical care during their time in the UK. The IHS must be paid to the Home Office by the main applicant and any dependants joining them when applying for a visa. Crucially, the IHS is payable upfront for the whole duration of the visa. Most visa applicants must pay the IHS, including those on Work and Family visa routes.
There is no IHS fee for those applying for indefinite leave to enter or remain, a Health and Care Worker visa (or as their dependant), status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or in a range of other limited circumstances.
The Home Office is justifying the increases expected in early 2024 on the basis that it was a 2019 manifesto commitment and also the need to fully reflect the full cost to the NHS of treating Health Charge payers. As the IHS Equality Impact Assessment published in October 2023 explains, “The increases to the Health Charge will ensure that the full cost of providing NHS services for those who pay the Health Charges are covered”.
The IHS has faced widespread criticism for imposing an unfair additional tax on immigrants to the UK. According to the House of Commons Library, “Some people object to the IHS on principle, arguing that it represents a double taxation for temporary migrants who, like other UK residents, already contribute to the NHS through regular taxes”. The Home Office themselves justify the IHS on the basis of the high cost to the state of providing medical treatment to non-EEA nationals of around £1bn, in addition to the excessive resource burden on the NHS.
There is little doubt that the substantial increases in the IHS will cause some visa applicants concern. The timely planning of your visa application is essential. This will ensure that you can avoid a significant increase in costs, where possible. It is important to note that visa applications made before this date will not be subject to the increased fee. However, if your visa application is refused and you reapply after the change becomes effective, your new application will incur the higher fee. In some cases, it is also possible to apply for a fee waiver of application fees to reduce the overall cost of applying for a visa. This may apply, for example, if you are a partner, parent or dependant child of someone who has a family visa or has permission to stay in the UK on the basis of their private life. Please contact us at A Y & J Solicitors for more information and assistance with your Work or Family visa application and to ‘get it right first time’.
A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with UK Skilled Worker visas. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or contact us today. We’re here to help!