What is The Immigration Health Surcharge? We Explain it.
Most UK Visa applications are subjected to an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). A UK visa applicant is mandated to pay this fee and the other Home Office immigration fees. Nonetheless, unlike the other immigration levies which are paid to the Home Office department, this goes to the health docket of the UK so it is referred to as the NHS surcharge.
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Any adult UK Visa applicant is required to pay £624 per annum for the IHS. For children, students, and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa applicants, the yearly fee is currently £470.
This article discusses the Immigration Health Surcharge in depth and also explains the process behind getting an Immigration Health Surcharge refund.
Who should pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?
Most applicants and their dependents who intend to enter the UK for more than six months must pay this fee. For those planning to stay for a short while of up to six months, such as visitors and those coming here on 6-month fiancé(e) visas, there is, therefore, an exemption.
Also, the majority of the applicants under the limited leave to remain are required to pay the fee, such as those applying for a spouse visa.
However, those who apply for indefinite leave to remain are exempt.
Immigration Health Surcharge Exception –Who doesn’t have to pay for it?
Formerly, EU citizens and their dependents applying to enter the UK were exempt. Nonetheless, this has since changed for those coming to the UK from the 1st January 2021, when the Brexit rules kicked in following a transition period.
All in all, the other applicants who have been historically excused from paying are still the same as before Brexit. They include the following:
- Diplomats and armed forces who are not subject to UK immigration rules.
- All dependents of those serving in the UK’s defence forces
- Any domestic worker who has been rescued from domestic slavery or trafficking
- All British Overseas Territory citizens living in the Falkland Islands.
- All dependents of other country’s defence forces who are not subject to UK immigration rules.
- Any individual applying for an Isle of Man or Channel Islands’ Visa
- All asylum seekers and dependent relatives who are seeking humanitarian protection.
- Applicants for permission to remain under victim of domestic abuse provision
How much is it is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)?
At present, adult visa applicants are required to pay £624 per annum. This amount is as per the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2020.
An applicant can easily count the IHS required by multiplying the number of years by £624. However, it is common to have the period of stay not amounting to a full year. In such a case, the applicant should round off the months to the nearest year.
The online calculator provided on the government’s website can also be handy in making these computations. Those applying for a spouse visa will receive 2.5 years leave to remain, so the NHS surcharge will be £1560. This must be paid in addition to any visa fees.
For students and applicants under the youth mobility scheme, the fee is £470 per annum. Also, anyone under 18 at the time of application should pay a yearly fee of £470. This fee also applies to dependents who are under 18.
How do I pay?
The applicant should pay the IHS at the time of the online application. All the payments are made via a credit card or debit card. Therefore, the applicant must have access to funds on a credit or debit card for bank transfers since cheques are not acceptable. Also, cash payments are not acceptable either except for North Korean applicants.
If an application is refused, will the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) be refunded?
An Immigration Health Surcharge refund is possible if the application has become unsuccessful. If the application is not processed, an IHS refund to the card used to make the payment is made. On average, an IHS refund takes approximately six weeks, although, at times, it can be longer. The applicant should contact the home office if the IHS refund takes longer than six weeks.
All in all, an IHS refund will sometimes be put on hold. This is commonplace when there is a pending review or appeal.
What is the legal basis for the Immigration Health Surcharge?
IHS was first introduced in 2015 via the Immigration (Health Charge) Order 2015. This was aimed to implement the health charge requirement under the Immigration Act 2014. The initial adult charge per annum was £200. This figure was reviewed upwards to £400 in 2018. Further review was made in 2020 to bring the £624 fee that is currently in use.
If an applicant refuses to pay this fee, the application is rendered invalid. This is as per paragraph 34(4) of the Immigration Rules.
Why is the IHS paid?
All non-visitor immigrants to the UK are eligible for the National Health Service (NHS) services free of charge. The aim of the IHS is, therefore, to facilitate shouldering the health costs of the NHS. The projected contribution from the IHS levies is approximately £200 million per annum.
The health sector shares this revenue in all the countries that make up the United Kingdom.
The IHS cannot be fully considered as a hostile environment policy. Nonetheless, it is among the key programs introduced in 2014 to discourage immigration to the UK. There has been longstanding government interest to reduce the pull factors which attract people to the UK. Many measures such as IHS have since been instituted, and Brexit is also among them.
Do I have to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge if I apply for private health insurance?
An applicant is not exempt from paying the IHS even if they have private health insurance. The IHS is made to the NHS under the assumption that the applicant will use the NHS services. Therefore, an applicant cannot avoid paying IHS by taking private health insurance.
Nonetheless, the applicant does not necessarily have to use NHS after paying the IHS. Instead, they can choose to be treated at a private health facility at their own cost.
How can Gulbenkian Andonian help?
Securing immigration access to the UK can be a tough endeavour, especially for a new applicant. In addition to the IHS, there are other key requirements that the applicant needs to secure. It is highly advisable to ask immigration experts, especially when one does not fully understand the requirements.
Ask our Expert Legal Team
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Armen Andonian is the CEO of Solicitors Marketing, a London-based legal marketing agency. He is a legal content marketing expert who writes on UK individual immigration, business immigration, family law, finance, employment law and intellectual property. He has a passion for researching and communicating complex legal concepts and ideas in a clear and engaging manner and has developed a reputation as a highly skilled and versatile author on UK law-related issues. He has written for numerous publications, both online and offline, and his work has been featured in a variety of high-profile media outlets.