Employers should be aware that proposals to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) have been approved by Parliament. This increase is due to come into effect on 8 January 2019.
Plans to double the charge
The IHS is currently £200 per individual for each year of the length of a visa. This is to be increased to £400 per year per applicant. A lower rate of £150 per year currently applies to students and applicants under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa category. A reduced rate will continue to apply to these migrants and the charge for them will be doubled to £300 per year. Family members will continue to pay the IHS at the same rate as the main applicant.
The IHS was introduced in April 2015 to be paid by non-EEA migrants to contribute towards the cost of their accessing the NHS in the same way as UK residents. The IHS must be paid by all non-EEA nationals applying to come to live in the UK to work, study or join family members for more than six months. This charge is in addition to any taxes paid while resident in the UK or any private medical insurance that applicants may have. This is also regardless of whether the individuals ever use the NHS.
Doubling the charge will continue the trend for ever increasing fees now associated with an expensive UK immigration system. This change will significantly increase the overall cost of immigration applications. For example, IHS fees alone for a family of four applying for a three year Tier 2 visa will rise from £2,400 to £4,800. To avoid the increased fees, it is worth considering whether any upcoming applications can be brought forward, particularly where dependants are also applying with the main applicant. However, it is a very narrow window to prepare and submit applications before 8 January 2019. In addition, there may also be a surge of applications that will put further pressure on appointment availability at the newly rolled out UK VCAS application centres.
It is also worth noting that the Immigration White Paper indicated that, after the end of the Implementation Period (which is due to end on 31 December 2020), EEA nationals wishing to come to the UK will also have to pay the IHS. They are currently exempt from this fee.