On 13 October 2023, the UK Government announced a substantial 66% increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), set to take effect from 16 January 2024. In this post, we'll delve into the core aspects of the Immigration Health Surcharge, its purpose, and the reasons behind the upcoming increase. We'll explore who is affected by the Immigration Health Surcharge rise, and provide insights into the government's motives for this significant uplift to the IHS.
What Is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)?
The Immigration Health Surcharge, or IHS, was first introduced on 6 April 2015 to ensure migrants contribute to the cost of healthcare provided by the NHS.
The Immigration Health Surcharge is an upfront cost paid alongside the submission of (most) visa applications so that the individual is entitled to have full access to the National Health Service (NHS) whilst in the UK. There is no limit to how much one can access the NHS. Additionally, there is no option to opt out of the Immigration Health Surcharge even if you believe you will not use the NHS or would prefer to pay for private health care.
The Immigration Health Surcharge is normally applicable to individuals applying for permission to enter the UK for six months or more, or for individuals making visa applications from within the UK for any length of time (with the exception of applications for indefinite leave to remain or for applications to naturalise as a British citizen).
The IHS is charged per year and covers the duration of any visa application applied for.
To read more about what the Immigration Health Surcharge is, please see our previous post here.
When Do I Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?
The Immigration Health Surcharge is applicable when making the online visa application. When you are submitting the online visa application you will be redirected to the appropriate Immigration Health Surcharge payment page. The payable fee will be calculated in accordance with the visa for which you are applying for and will amount to the duration of that visa. Please note that this fee is sometimes rounded up and may therefore be higher than expected. Additionally, there is no control on the currency exchange rate used. As outlined in the Home Office Exchange Rate Policy, the exchange is normally 4% above the Oanda live bid rates. After the Immigration Health Surcharge is successfully paid you will be redirected back to the online form to pay the application fee. Additionally, you will be sent a confirmation email which includes the IHS reference number.
When Is the IHS Increasing?
The Immigration Health Surcharge will increase on the latter of 16 January 2024 or the twenty-first day after the day on which the The Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023 is approved by both Houses of Parliament.
Why Is the Immigration Health Surcharge Increasing?
The Immigration Health Surcharge has increased in line with the 2019 manifesto commitment as outlined in the the equality impact assessment, which states that:
"The increase continues to deliver the 2019 manifesto commitment to ensure that the Health Charge reflects the full cost to the NHS of treating Health Charge payers. The increases to the Health Charge will ensure that the full cost of providing NHS services for those who pay the Health Charges are covered."
Previously, the Government stated the increase was to be used to fund public sector pay increases. However, this has since been dropped after legality issues were raised, as explored in our previous post here.
What Is the IHS Increasing to and Who Is Affected by This Increase?
The details of the Immigration Health Surcharge increase have been confirmed in the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023. The Order needs to be approved by both Houses of Parliament and ratified.
The Immigration Health Surcharge is increasing for students, student dependants, those applying for entry clearance or leave to remain under the Youth Mobility Scheme, and applications made by children under the age of 18 from £470 a year to £776 a year.
For all other relevant immigration categories for entry clearance or leave to remain in respect of persons aged 18 years or over at the date of application the Immigration Health Surcharge is increasing from £624 a year to £1,035 a year. Therefore, the Immigration Health Surcharge is increasing from 16 January 2024 by 66%.
Please note, we have previously highlighted in a post that some application fees increased on 04 October 2023. This post can be found here.
Who Is Not Affected by the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) Increase?
There is no IHS for Health and Care workers, visitors, those applying under the EU Settlement Scheme, or for those applying for entry clearance as a Fiance under Appendix FM. Likewise, there is no Immigration Health Surcharge for those claiming asylum or applying for entry clearance or permission to stay under the Ukraine Scheme. Additionally, there is no requirement to pay the IHS for those applying for indefinite leave to remain or for British Citizenship.
A full list for those who are not affected by the Immigration Health Surcharge increase can be found in our previous post, here.
Additionally, people who cannot afford to pay the IHS can request a fee waiver if they have credibly demonstrated that they cannot afford the fee. For more guidance on eligibility please see our post below.
- Fee Waivers for UK Immigration Applications: Part 1
- Fee Waivers for UK Immigration Applications: Part 2
- Affordability Fee Waivers: Citizenship Registration for Under-18's
What Happens if I Do Not Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?
As stated under paragraph 34(4) of the Immigration Rules, a failure to pay the IHS will result in an invalid application and your application will not be processed. If applying from inside the UK, your application will be rejected within 10 working days, and if applying from outside the UK, your application will be rejected within 7 working days.
Can I Get the Immigration Health Surcharge Refunded?
If you withdraw your application or your application is refused you can apply for a refund of the Immigration Health Surcharge. To find out more on Immigration Health Surcharge refunds please see our guide here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.