In a year marked by significant changes to immigration policies and fees in the UK, the government’s announcement of increased visa and nationality fees earlier in 2023 generated significant attention. However, one substantial change was yet to come: an increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This article explores the details of these changes and their potential impact on individuals and employers alike, shedding light on the latest developments.
Understanding the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is an additional fee that applicants must pay when seeking to reside in the UK for more than six months. This surcharge enables individuals to access National Health Service (NHS) healthcare during their stay. Previously, the IHS was set at £624 per year for adults and £470 per year for children and student applicants.
The IHS Increase
The government’s decision to substantially increase the IHS, with a planned rise of approximately 66%, has been met with controversy. Starting from 16 January 2024, the IHS will escalate to £1,035 per year for adults and £776 per year for children and student applicants. This will significantly impact the cost of living in the UK for those who need to fund immigration applications for themselves and their families.
Criticism and Controversy
The government’s rationale for the IHS increase is to ensure that it covers the full healthcare costs of those who pay it. However, this move has drawn criticism from various quarters. Doctors in Unite, for instance, have described the rise as “immoral and divisive,” arguing that migrants contribute to NHS funding through general taxation, effectively facing a double tax to access the same services.
The Legislative Process
In contrast to the visa application fee increases that took effect in October 2023, the IHS hike requires approval by both Houses of Parliament before implementation. The draft order specifies that the change will occur no earlier than 16 January 2024, though it could be delayed if parliamentary approval is not secured.
Individuals and employers impacted by the IHS increase need to plan strategically. Applicants may have to save additional funds to meet the higher costs, while employers may need to reassess their recruitment strategies and budgets to ensure they can continue sponsoring workers.
Many employers utilise Clawback Agreements to recover costs paid for the benefit of employees. This practice may become more widespread as employers seek to manage the financial impact of the IHS increase.
Early Application Submission
To avoid paying the increased fees, applicants should consider submitting their applications as soon as possible, provided their current immigration status allows for this. If there is uncertainty about the timeline of an application, seeking specialist legal advice is advisable.
Applicability to Visa Categories
The IHS is mandatory for most UK immigration applications that involve individuals seeking permission to enter or remain in the UK for over six months. This includes visa categories such as Skilled Worker, Global Talent, and Student Visas.
The UK’s decision to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge has sparked significant debate. While the government argues that this move is necessary to cover healthcare costs, critics believe it is an unjust additional burden on migrants. As the IHS increase approaches in January 2024, individuals and employers must carefully plan their finances and strategies to navigate these changes effectively. Staying informed and seeking expert guidance will be essential in managing the impact of these rising costs.
Why Instruct Our Specialist Immigration Solicitors?
At DJF Solicitors, our team of specialist immigration lawyers will always act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meeting, we will be able to advise you in respect of your prospects of submitting a visa application before your application even reaches the Home Office UK Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation and submission of a spouse visa application and are able to advise you in respect of your prospects and to ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.
Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation to discuss your visa application.