Update on expected date for increase to Immigration Health Surcharge

What matters

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Earlier in the year, we reported on the government’s announcement of increases to visa and nationality fees. These increases to application fees came into force on 4 October 2023, other than the substantial increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) which was expected to come ‘later in the autumn’.

There is now further information available on the planned increase, as a result of a draft version of The Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023 being laid before parliament last week.

As a reminder, the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a an additional charge payable when applying to live in the UK for a period of more than 6 months, and enables the person to access NHS healthcare in the UK during their time here.  It is payable in full at the time of submission of the visa application. The upcoming change to the law will see the IHS increase substantially by around 66%. The IHS is currently charged at a rate of £624 per year and will be increasing to £1,035 per year. For children, the rate will increase from £470 to £776 per year.

The government’s position is that this planned increase will ensure that the surcharge covers the full healthcare costs of those who pay it. However, the government has faced criticism against their reasoning. Doctors in Unite described the rise as “immoral and divisive” explaining:

“Just like other workers, migrants contribute to NHS funding through general taxation. Doubling the NHS surcharge to over £1200 per year is an unjust additional penalty. Migrants are effectively ‘taxed twice’ to access the same service.”[1]

It is certain that the increase will place further significant strain on those who need to fund immigration applications for themselves and their families, or for employers who may cover or subsidise these fees for their sponsored employees. 

In contrast to the visa application fee increases we saw in October 2023, this order must be approved by both Houses of Parliament before the increase will happen. The draft order states that the date of commencement will be the later of 16 January 2024 or the twenty first day after the day on which the order is made. So, we can be sure that the increase will not come into force any earlier than 16 January 2024, but we could also see the increase coming in later than this if approval by parliament is delayed. 

Those who will be impacted by the IHS increase need to think ahead and plan accordingly. Applicants will likely need to save additional funds than they expected to need for their next application, or may now be forced to consider whether they can qualify for a fee waiver to ensure they can submit their applications to continue living in the UK. 

Employers may need to re-consider their recruitment plans and spending budgets to ensure they continue to be able to sponsor workers and ensure they have access to the most talented workers in their industry.  Many employers currently opt to implement Clawback Agreements when sponsoring new hires, as this allows the business to claim back any costs paid to the personal benefit of the employee, and it is likely more employers will look to rely on such agreements as a way to manage this increase.

Where possible, any upcoming applications to apply for leave to enter or remain in the UK should be made as soon as possible to avoid paying these higher fees, if the applicant’s current immigration status and route to settlement will allow for this. If you are uncertain as to whether you or your employee can proceed with an application before 16 January 2024, then it is recommended that you should seek specialist legal advice before proceeding. 

 

Resources

  1. Increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge to fund public sector pay is immoral and divisive – Doctors in Unite

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.

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