It has today been announced that the NHS health surcharge will come into effect on 6 April 2015. The government’s stated aim in introducing the surcharge is to ensure that temporary non-EEA migrants to the UK contribute to the NHS.
The health surcharge will only be payable by non-EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK to work, study or join family for a period of more than 6 months or by non-EEA nationals currently in the UK who wish to extend their leave.
The surcharge has been set at £200 per migrant per year (£150 per migrant per year for students) and will enable migrants to access free healthcare services under the NHS. It is an upfront charge that will generally be payable by credit card at the time the immigration application is made.
This surcharge will significantly increase the visa application fees payable, especially where there are multiple dependants. For example, where a Tier 2 (General) migrant is applying for a 5 year visa to the UK together with his/her spouse and 2 children this currently costs £4,112 in visa application fees. From 6 April 2015 the health surcharge will add an additional £4,000 to this cost (i.e. total of £8,112).
There are certain exemptions from the health charge, including:
- Tier 2 (ICT) applicants;
- Australian and New Zealand nationals (as the UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements with these countries);
- Visitors (who will remain directly chargeable for hospital treatment as they are currently); and
- Other migrants where the grant of leave is for 6 months or less – e.g. a Tier 2 (General) migrant with a visa valid for 4 months.
It is not anticipated that the introduction of the health charge will affect the immigration application processing times. However, in view of the additional costs involved for the business, it may be worth migrants submitting their immigration applications before 6 April where possible.