On 27 October 2020, the Immigration Health Surcharge ("IHS") is set to rise from £400 to £624 per year a UK visa is valid for applicants who are 18 years of age or over and to £470 per year for visa applicants who are under 18 or who are applying for student visas under Tier 4, dependants of Tier 4 students visas, or Tier 5 Youth Mobility visas.
The IHS was introduced on 6 April 2015 as a fee payable as part of most UK visa applications. Prior to the charge being introduced, those in the UK with valid visas (other than visitor visas) could gain access to free medical care on the National Health Service immediately upon arrival in the UK. The charge was designed to ensure the NHS remains sustainable and receives a direct contribution to the cost of healthcare from people coming to live in the UK from outside of the EU on a temporary basis. The funds generated by the surcharge are received by the Home Office and then, minus an amount the Home Office retains to cover its costs, are distributed between devolved health administrations.
Since its introduction, the IHS has generated over £900 million and the Government estimates that the imminent increase in the fee will raise an additional £150 million in 2020-2021, and an additional £355 million over the course of the following two years.
Although there are some exemptions, the fee is levied against most temporary leave to enter or remain visa applications where the duration of the visa will be in excess of six months if the application is being made from outside of the UK or for any duration if the application is being made in the UK. If the duration of the visa is not for a full year, then the fee is rounded up to the nearest six months.
The following are exempt from paying the surcharge:
- Applicants applying from outside of the UK for a visitor visa or a short term visa which will be valid for less than six months
- Applicants for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK
- Tier 2 (General) Health and Care Visa applicants and their dependants
- EEA nationals and their family members applying for leave under the EU Settlement Scheme
- Diplomats or a members of a visiting armed forces not subject to immigration control
- Dependants of a member of the UK’s armed forces
- Dependants of a member of another country’s armed forces who is exempt from immigration control
- Isle of Man or Channel Islands visa applicants
- British Overseas Territory citizens resident in the Falkland Islands
- Asylum seekers and applicants for humanitarian protection, and their dependants
- Domestic workers who have been identified as victims of slavery or human trafficking
- Applicants for discretionary leave to remain in the UK as someone who has been identified as a victim of slavery or human trafficking, and their dependants
- Applicants applying for leave to remain as the victim of domestic abuse and their dependants
- Applicants applying under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and their dependants
Although the IHS currently does not apply to EEA nationals who are in the UK under Free Movement rights or the EU Settlement Scheme, it will apply to EEA nationals moving to the UK on or after 1 January 2021, at the end of the Brexit transitional period.
The charge is paid at the point of submitting the online visa application form and is automatically calculated by the payment system. However, the Home Office's online IHS calculator tool can assist to calculate the sum which will be due ahead of submitting the online application form. The IHS is a mandatory charge and those with private medical insurance are not able to opt out of the payment. In the event the charge is not paid, the visa application will be deemed invalid by the Home Office. Upon payment of the charge, an IHS number is generated and this number may be required by the visa holder when seeking medical treatment on the NHS along with their Biometric Residence Permit. Although treatment on the NHS is generally free of charge, there are some services, such a dental treatment and prescriptions, which will require payment. Further details can be found here.