What is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)?
The IHS is a mandatory charge for most visa applicants and is usually paid alongside the application fee. It is charged annually based on the permission requested and essentially enables migrants to gain access to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, throughout length of their visa.
When is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) increasing?
The increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge was initially anticipated to come into force on 16th January 2024. However, due to delays in the legislative process, it has now been confirmed to take place from 6th February 2024, as approved by the House of Commons via the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023.
Why is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) increasing?
Since October 2020, the IHS has remained the same, however the Home Office has made their position regarding the recent 66% increase, very clear in the draft ‘Explanatory Memorandum’ (The Immigration Health Charge Amendment Order 2023), that ‘the increase to the health charge reflects the increased cost of healthcare provision and the extra pressures which migrant driven population growth is placing on the NHS’.
In effect, this increase has been enforced to fairly reflect the full cost to the NHS of treating those who pay the health charges.
Who is affected by this increase?
The change to the IHS will be significant for most applicants with the standard IHS fee increasing by a staggering 66% – there are very few applicants who are exempt from paying this. This fee is usually paid by most visa applicants, including their dependents, if the visa being applied for will be granted for more than 6 months.
However, if you fall into one of the following categories you are not required to pay the fee:
• You’re applying for indefinite leave to enter/remain (please note, if you apply for ILR but are only granted limited leave, you will still need to pay the IHS).
• You’re a health and care worker (or you’re their dependant).
• You’re applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.
• You’re a diplomat/ member of a visiting armed forces.
• You’re a dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces.
• You’re the dependant of a member of another country’s armed forces who is exempt from immigration control.
• You’re applying for a visa for the Isle of Man or Channel Islands.
• You’re a British Overseas Territory citizen resident in the Falkland Islands.
• You’re an asylum seeker or applying for humanitarian protection.
• You’re a domestic worker who has been identified as a victim of slavery or human trafficking.
• You’re a S2 Healthcare Visitor.
• You’re eligible for a Frontier Work Permit and have an S1 certificate.
When do I pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?
You will be required to pay the IHS once you have submitted your visa application online. You will automatically be redirected to pay the fee before paying the application fee for your application.
As part of this process, you will be expected to register to use the IHS service and answer some questions relating to your application, to help determine whether you need to pay the charge. Once payment has been made, you will typically receive an email with your unique IHS reference number.
How much is the Immigration Health Surcharge?
The Immigration Health Surcharge fee currently costs £624 per applicant per year. Additionally, there is a discounted rate of £470 for student visa holders, those on the Youth Mobility Scheme and children under the age of 18.
However, with the intended 66% increase for the IHS this year, applicants will see the main rate reach £1,035 per year and for the discounted rate, it will sit at £776 per year. Please note, that if you cannot afford to pay the IHS you may request a fee waiver, as long as you can credibly demonstrate that you cannot afford the fee.
What does this mean?
The delay in implementation of the IHS has provided some light relief in the rush to submit applications, which is great news. Nevertheless, it is worth still proceeding with any existing or new applications, ideally before the end of January 2024.
With this increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), this may result in fewer applications and/or employers being more selective when recruiting. However, it is likely that the overall number of skilled individuals entering or remaining in the UK who are applying for visas will not be hugely impacted.
Why do I need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?
By paying the Immigration Health Surcharge fee, it will enable you to access any healthcare services that are provided by the NHS. Please note, that this payment is not optional – you cannot opt out on the basis that you don’t believe you need health care during your leave. It is compulsory to pay the fee, even if you have private health insurance.
What happens if I do not pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?
According to paragraph 34(4) of the Immigration Rules, failure to pay the IHS will result in an invalid application and your application will not be processed. If you are applying from inside the UK, your application will be rejected within 10 working days, and if you are applying from outside the UK, your application will be rejected within 7 working days.
What if my application is refused – do I get a refund?
Please note, that in the event that your application is refused your IHS fee will be refunded to you. However, the refund is not immediate and may take up to 6 weeks to process. Additionally, if you decide to appeal or pursue administrative review on the back of a refusal, the refund of your IHS will not occur until after these proceedings are complete.
How can our team assist you?
For expert advice and guidance on the Immigration Health Surcharge, or to discuss how this will affect your application, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our friendly yet reliable team today.