Rise in UK Immigration Healthcare Surcharge January 2024

Following our earlier articles on the application fee and IHS rises, and the new application fees that came into effect in October 2023, the government have recently announced that the IHS fees will rise no earlier than the 16th of January 2024.

What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?

The Immigration Health Surcharge is an amount paid by most migrants coming to the UK on Temporary Visas, except for Visitor Visas, if applying for asylum or under the EU Settlement Scheme. The government states that the money raised by the IHS charges is ringfenced for healthcare spending.

Why is it increasing?

The government have said that the increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge will help to fund a pay rise for doctors. They have also stated that this rise will ensure that the IHS fees cover the full healthcare costs of those who pay it, and highlighted that the IHS has been frozen for the last three years.

How much is it increasing?

The IHS fees are rising by 66%; the main rate will increase from £624 to £1035, and the discounted rate for students and under-18s will increase from £470 to £776. The IHS is not a flat rate per visa application but is the amount charged per year. So for a Spouse visa that lasts two and a half years, the total Immigration Health Surcharge will be £2,587.50)

How much will visa applications cost from 2024?

The total cost of making a UK Visa application has risen massively in recent years. On the 4th of October 2023, work and visit visa fees went up by 15%, family visas, settlement and citizenship by 20%, and student visas by 35%.

With the Immigration Health Surcharge rise in January 2024, the total cost of a UK Spouse Visa application, for example, will rise from £2,608 (application fee of £1,048 plus IHS total of £1,560) to £3,635.50 (application fee of £1,048 plus IHS total of £2587.50( £1035 x 2.5)). Those visa applications in which the application fee is also rising will see an even larger increase.

Can I apply early to beat the IHS increase?

If you are able to apply for a visa now, you will save yourself money by making the application before the increases come in. Unfortunately, however, the earliest you can apply for most visa extensions, if you are already in the UK, is 28 days before your current visa expires or you qualify for the visa. 

What can migrants do if they can’t afford the fees?

This rise in fees will make it harder for many migrants, especially families, who are already struggling with the rising cost of living. Many of the jobs that are undertaken by migrants are not particularly well paid and this latest increase will make renewing their visas even harder.

The government has created a fee waiver option for those who are struggling with application or IHS fees, however, in practice this can be difficult to apply for and adds to the completion of the visa process as you have to prove you are destitute or at risk of destitution. Application for a fee waiver may also increase your settlement qualifying period.

Will this be beneficial?

The government are keen to stress that the increases in fees and the health surcharge reduce the reliance of the border and migration system on taxpayer funding. They do admit however that there is a balance to be struck between ensuring that the immigration system is properly funded and economic growth factors, as tourists and migrant workers may be deterred if costs are too high. During the pandemic, the IHS fees were removed for a limited period and refunded to Health and Care workers, following media pressure. However, the immigration costs for migrant families are much higher than in other countries and this further increase may increase the numbers that decide to go elsewhere.

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