The increase in Immigration Health Surcharge or IHS is well underway.
The United Kingdom (UK) Parliament has approved the Immigration (Health Charge) Amendment Order 2024 on 16 January 2024.
The raised IHS amount will take effect on 6 February 2024 following its approval and publication.
The annual surcharge will be increased from £624 to £1,035 for adults.
The fee for children under 18, students, and applicants for the Youth Mobility Scheme will also be raised from £470 to £776 per year.
The new fees will significantly increase the overall cost of securing a UK visa.
Migrants and their dependants must pay the health surcharge for each year of their stay.
The overall visa application cost will vary depending on the length of a person’s stay and how many dependants, if any, are included in the application.
Raising the Immigration Health Surcharge
The British government announced the 66 percent increase in the IHS in July 2023.
According to the Electronic Immigration Network, the increase was expected to take effect on 16 January 2024, per the original draft order last October 2023.
However, the House of Commons only debated the draft order on 10 January. This prevented it from taking effect on 16 January as intended.
The draft order specified that the increase would be in effect either on 16 January 2024 or the twenty-first day after it was made, whichever came later.
Since the draft order was approved by the UK Parliament and enacted on 16 January 2024, the new effective date is 6 February 2024.
The IHS is determined by estimating the average healthcare usage of a typical payer. The amount is not based on the specific healthcare needs of each person.
The UK government explains that the updated rate for the IHS reflects higher healthcare expenses. It also aligns with revised expectations of how migrants use healthcare services.
Additionally, the adjustment is based on more recent and representative data.
What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?
The Immigration Health Surcharge, or IHS, is an additional fee some individuals pay when they apply for a UK visa.
Through the IHS, migrants are entitled to free hospital treatment from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) on the same basis as a British resident.
When the person arrives in the UK, they can access the country’s healthcare services, register with a doctor, and get prescriptions without extra medical insurance.
However, some individuals who have paid their IHS may still need to pay for certain services. These include prescriptions, dental treatment, eye tests, and assisted conception.
Migrants can access the NHS services from the date their visa is granted until it expires.
To access healthcare in the UK, individuals who paid the IHS must show proof of their right to stay in the country.
Migrants can do this by showing a biometric residence permit, if available.
They can also prove their immigration status online using a share code from their UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account.
Who needs to pay the IHS?
Individuals applying for a UK visa or immigration application must pay the healthcare surcharge, regardless of whether they have private insurance.
The IHS applies to applications made outside the UK for staying in the UK for more than six months. The same goes for applications made from inside the UK for visiting for any length of stay.
Some applications for limited leave to remain in the UK may also be exempt from the IHS payment. These individuals will be given an IHS reference number instead.
Those who may receive IHS reference numbers include applicants to the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS), diplomats or members of visiting armed forces and their dependants, and S2 Healthcare visitors.
It also applies to individuals with Health and Care Worker visas, Frontier worker permits, or S1 certificates, among others.
Those who apply for indefinite leave to remain but are given limited leave must still pay the healthcare surcharge.
Who does not need to pay the health surcharge?
Individuals applying for a Standard Visitor visa or to stay in the UK permanently do not need to pay the healthcare surcharge.
Those coming to the UK with the new Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) are also not required to pay the IHS.
The UK ETA is a digital travel permit that is mandatory for non-visa-nationals for short trips when coming to the UK.
It is advisable also to acquire travel health insurance when traveling to the UK, although it is not a requirement.
Unless non-residents use a free service at the NHS, they must pay for healthcare in the UK if needed.
Refunding the IHS
Migrants will receive a full refund of the IHS under select circumstances. These could be that they paid twice, their visa application was rejected, or they withdrew their application.
If an applicant’s visa is approved for stays in the UK for less time than requested or any dependents are refused, they get a partial refund.
No action is required; the refund will be automatically processed to the account or card used for payment.
Individuals are not eligible for a refund if they have an approved visa but do not come to the UK. They also forfeit their IHS fee if they leave or are instructed to leave before the visa expires.
Those applying for indefinite leave to remain are also not entitled to an IHS refund.