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Immigration Health Surcharge To Increase on 27 October 2020

The Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2020 (SI 2020 No. 1086) will come into force as law on 27 October 2020 after being signed by Kevin Foster, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Future Borders and Immigration) on 01 October 2020. 

The Order implements a further increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (“IHS”) fee and provides an IHS exemption for certain Tier 2 (General) migrants, and their dependants, who work as qualified doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?

The Immigration Health Surcharge fee was introduced by the coalition government on 06 April 2015 and was initially set at £200 per annum.  In 2019 the IHS doubled to £400 for most visa applications. The aim was for temporary migrants to make a fair and appropriate financial contribution to the NHS as well as to prevent medical tourism and unfair use of health services in the UK. 

Upon payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge and being granted leave, a migrant is entitled to use the full primary and secondary services of the NHS. The IHS funds are ring fenced for the NHS  and distributed to devolved health administrations. The Home Office announced that the IHS fees have raised approximately £1.5billion since it was introduced.

How much is the Immigration Health Surcharge?

In accordance with the Conservative Party’s manifesto the current Order increases the Immigration Health Surcharge fee by over 50% and presents a further financial burden on prospective migrants coming to the UK.

The standard rate of the IHS fee will increase from £400 to £624 per annum. 

The discounted rate of the IHS fee will increase from £300 to £470 per annum. This applies to Students, Dependants of Students, Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Temporary Migrants and applicants under the age of 18.

By way of example, the Immigration Health Surcharge fee for entry clearance as a spouse of a British citizen/settled person  will increase from £1,200 to £1,560 for the 30 month relevant period. The IHS fee for a Tier 5 entry clearance application for two years of leave will increase from £600 to £940. The Home Office website provides an IHS fee calculator

In accordance with the transitional provision of the Order, applicants will continue to pay the current lower IHS fee on any application made before 27 October 2020.

Do I have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?

You will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge if you are making any entry clearance application from outside of the UK which grants leave for longer than 6 months. This excludes Visitor Visas.

You will need to pay the IHS for any application for further leave to remain made within the UK. This excludes applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

EEA Nationals do not need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge fee and it is not required in making applications for pre-settled and settled status under Appendix EU. From 01 January 2021 the IHS will apply to EEA nationals making entry clearance applications to remain in the UK for periods longer than 6 months (subject to ongoing negotiations with the EU).

You are required to pay the IHS fee even if you hold private medical insurance and do not intend to use the NHS. The IHS fee also applies to dependants on any application with a discounted rate for children. This can present a significant financial obstacle to migrants applying with their  family members.

Am I exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge fee?

The Home Office sets out the full list of exemptions here including visitors, diplomats and others not subject to immigration controls,  application for leave in the Isle  of Man and Channel Islands, dependants of a member of the UK’s or other country’s armed forces, asylum seekers and those applying for humanitarian protection, victims of trafficking or modern slavery, and if you are a non-EEA family member of a European national with EU Treaty rights among others.

On 21 May 2020 the Prime Minister announced that health and care workers would be exempt from paying the IHS in light of the NHS role in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic and the vital contribution that overseas staff, around 12% of the overall healthcare workforce, make to the NHS. This followed years of lobbying from organisations such as the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Physicians and Unison about the unfair burden of the IHS on overseas NHS workers. 

This exemption extends to any dependant of an eligible healthcare worker and has retrospective effect to 31 March 2020. Applicants to the Tier 2 (General) Health and Care Visa introduced on 04 August 2020 will be automatically exempt. This will be discussed in detail in a further blog post.

When do I pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?

When making an online application you will be redirected to an Immigration Health Surcharge payment page. The fee payable will be calculated in accordance with the visa for which you are applying. After payment of the IHS you will be directed back to the online form to pay the application fee. You will be provided an IHS reference number by email. If applying by post, you will need to pay the surcharge online before you send your application. You will need to provide the IHS number on your application form.

Full payment of the IHS is required upfront for the whole period. This is in addition to the Home Office application fees. This total sum can present great financial difficulty to some applicants, particularly those with a number of dependants or on low incomes, which is exacerbated by the upcoming fee increase.

Failure to pay the charge will result in an invalid application under paragraph 34(4) of the Immigration Rules.

Will I get a refund for the Immigration Health Surcharge?

You will be entitled to a refund if you pay the Immigration Health Surcharge twice  in the online process, if your visa application is refused or you withdraw your visa application.

You will be entitled to a partial refund if you are granted a shorter period of leave than you applied for or if any of your dependants are refused.

These refunds are automatic and are paid into the account or card used to make the payment. However, this can take up to 6 weeks of getting a decision on your visa application. You can contact Contact UK Visas and Immigration if this is not processed within this timeframe. Refunds may take longer if you appeal or request an administrative review after a visa is refused.

Conversely, further IHS payments may be due if you are granted a different length of stay than you requested. If  an application for Indefinite Leave to remain is unsuccessful but a further period of limited leave is granted instead, an IHS fee will apply.

You will not be entitled to a refund if your application is successful but you do not come to the UK, if you leave the UK before your visa ends, if you switch to another category before your current leave expires or if you are told to leave the UK before your visa expires.

Reimbursement of IHS fee for health care and social care workers

If you are in the UK on a Health and Care visa Tier 2 you will be entitled to a full refund of the IHS to cover the period from 31 March 2020. If you paid the IHS after 31 March 2020 you should automatically receive this refund. If not you can claim reimbursement by contacting the Home Office by email to claim.

You will also be eligible to claim reimbursement of the IHS if you are not on a Tier 2 (General) visa but can demonstrate that you have worked for an average of at least 16 hours a week, for at least 6 months since 31 March 2020 , in an  eligible health or care role as set out in Annex A of the Guidance. You will need to apply online every 6 months and will receive up to a maximum of £200 refund for the 6 months’ worth of IHS you have paid. This process is administered by the NHS Business Services Authority who will validate applications for UK Visas and Immigration to process repayments.

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