7 February 2018
The immigration healthcare surcharge (IHS) was first introduced in April 2015 with the view to provide the NHS with more funds to assist them in the provision of medical services to those seeking to settle in the UK in addition to the British public who also use the NHS. This fee applies to the main applicant and any dependent children. It is also irrespective of whether the applicant or their sponsor in the UK holds individual private healthcare insurance or joint family private insurance. The fee is still a mandatory requirement as part of the visa application.
Prior to April 2015 applicants were not required to pay any fees to use the National Health Service in the UK. The initial fee for applicants submitting an entry clearance application from outside the UK was £600, which is £200 for each year of the visa duration. Those who were applying for further leave to remain from within the UK were required to pay £500. Only members of specific countries such as Australia and New Zealand were initially exempt from paying the IHS fee, but they were later added to the list and are now required to pay the mandatory NHS surcharge as part of their visa application. The NHS surcharge does not apply to fiancées of British Citizens and UK legal permanent residents as well as family members of EEA nationals living and working in the UK as qualified persons.
The UK government has announced plans to increase the mandatory NHS fee for applicants seeking to live in the UK for more than six months. The new proposed fee stands at £400 per year, as opposed to the current £200 per year per applicant. Those seeking to apply for a visa in other longer-term categories such as students and those on Tier 5 visas will expect to pay around £300 as opposed to the £150 previously required.
This change may be acceptable for a couple with no dependant children, but for a family of four, five or more seeking to reunite and finally enjoy their lives together in the UK, the new NHS fee will be between £2,000 to £5000. This is in addition to the UKVI immigration application fees which currently stand at £1,464 per applicant for entry clearance, the travel tickets to the UK, transportation to the visa application centre and fees to either expedite the visa application (currently £551 per applicant), or courier original supporting documents to the UKVI processing centre in Sheffield for example. We can only imagine the financial burden this will place on many families, those who may just meet the minimum income threshold through employment, self-employment, or who may apply with savings alone.
Unfortunately, the NHS and Home Office fees cannot be paid in instalments or once the applicant arrives in the UK and begins working so that they can contribute to the NHS fee. This is a mandatory fee which must be paid when submitting a UK partner or spouse visa application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Failure to make this payment means that either the application can be refused, or that one cannot proceed pass the printing of an appointment confirmation due to the automatic redirection to the NHS payment website.