As announced by the UK Government on 13th July 2023, there will be a significant increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) and the UK visa application fees. The IHS will see a 66% surge, increasing from £624 to £1,035 per individual per year for the majority of main applicants. Similarly, the UK visa application fees will rise by a minimum of 15%.
The commencement of these increases has not been stated yet, although indications suggest that it might be as early as Autumn. It's a major increase that impacts individuals considering to apply for a UK visa.
The IHS was introduced in 2015 and is paid at the point of visa application. It permits migrants (who are not exempt from the IHS) to use the National Health Service (NHS). The fees have been raised progressively from £200 per person per year in 2015 to the present £624 for adults and £470 for children or students per year.
According to the new plan, the primary IHS rate will increase from £624 to £1,035 per adult per year, and the discounted rate will rise from £470 to £776 per child or student per year. These charges will be applied to those who are seeking to stay for over six months, including workers, families of migrants, and British citizens alike.
The reason behind this major increase in the IHS is purportedly to raise funds for public sector wage hikes. This move has been met with criticism from various corners, including charities, unions, politicians, and immigrant advocacy groups. They argue that it is "immoral," "divisive," and potentially detrimental to the UK economy.
Nevertheless, it's crucial to note that the IHS hike will not affect everyone, as not all are required to pay it. It depends on the specific immigration route an applicant chooses. Certain categories of applicants like those applying for a visitor visa, Health and Care Worker visa, EU Settlement Scheme, or British Citizenship, among others, are exempt from the IHS.
In addition to the IHS increase, UK visa application fees will also be raised. A 15% rise is expected for work and visit visas, and a minimum of 20% for student visas, certificates of sponsorship, settlement, citizenship, broader entry clearance, leave to remain, and priority visas. This will result in applicants needing to pay more whether they apply from within the UK or outside.
For example, a Skilled Worker Visa for more than three years currently priced at £1,235 could soon cost around £1,480, not including the increased IHS fee. The price for a UK Spouse Visa is also set to rise from £1,538 to at least £1,845, plus the revised IHS fee.
In light of these hikes, it's advisable to apply for a UK visa sooner than later. Consulting with an immigration lawyer can help ensure that your application is successful on the first attempt.
It's important to note that the government's decision to increase immigration fees to fund pay raises for public sector workers may not be legally sound. The Immigration Act 2014 outlines the factors to consider when setting immigration and nationality fees, and such funding isn't explicitly stated.
Also, there have been some simplifications announced, including the abolition of several minor fees and equaliSing the costs of student and priority service applications within and outside the UK.
As we anticipate these fee increases, it's evident that this will have significant implications for employers, universities, current and future migrants, and the families of migrants. The unpredictability of these increases could create challenges for migrant families and could potentially contribute to issues of illegality. It's clear that while these fee increases may be financially and politically beneficial for the government, they could prove quite burdensome for migrants and their families."