Foreigners applying for more than six months visas will have to pay an immigration health surcharge as of the 6 April 2015 on, as part of UK’s government efforts to make migrants contribute to the financing of the NHS healthcare system.
Non-EEA nationals who apply to come to the UK to work, study or join family for more than 6 months will pay the health surcharge as part of their application process. It will also be paid by non-EEA nationals who are already in the UK and apply to extend their stay.
The surcharge is set at £200 per year and £150 per year for students, with dependents generally paying the same amount as the main applicant.
The amount payable will cover the entire period of permission to stay. For example, a person coming to the UK as a sponsored skilled migrant or renewing their work visa for three years, will be required to pay the charge in full for the three year period at the point of application for their visa. Such individuals would pay £600 on top of the visa application costs.
Some exemptions to this rule will apply. Interestingly, Australian and New Zealand nationals will be exempt of the charge. Migreat has listed the general exemptions below.
Cutting access to healthcare for migrants?
The Home Office states in public communication that “those who pay the surcharge will be able to access the National Health Service (NHS) in the same way as a permanent UK resident.”
The UK Government has taken steps to ensure that temporary migrants coming to live in the UK make a proportionate financial contribution to the cost of their healthcare, as part of a wider reform programme led by the Department of Health, stated in the Immigration Act 2014.
It’s estimated that the surcharge will raise £200 million a year, £1.7 billion towards the running of the NHS over the next ten years.
In 2011-12, the NHS officially spent £12m, or 0.01 per cent of the health service’s £109bn annual budget, on foreigners health. The number is small because immigrants tend to be younger and more economically active than natives – thus less requiring NHS services.
The surcharge will not apply to visitors, such as tourists or those coming to the UK for less than 6 months, or to EEA nationals residing in the UK. Tier 2 – intra-company transfer migrants and their dependents are also exempt.
Tier 2 inter-company transfers, Australian and New Zealand nationals must still complete the process through the surcharge web site. They will be informed the payment is nil but receive a unique surcharge reference number. This number is needed for their immigration application to confirm their exemption from the surcharge.
Detail on the surcharge regulations is available online.
Customer guidance on the surcharge will be published on UK.GOV website on 6 April.