What is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)?
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) was introduced by the Government in 2015 in a bid to raise money for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The NHS, which was established in 1948, encompasses most healthcare services – from general doctors’ appointments to urgent A&E services and surgeries. The key principle of the service is that it remains free at the point of need: irrespective of your income or status, you will be treated equally and your healthcare needs will be with dignity.
The NHS therefore remains free to all based on clinical need. However, those who work in the UK contribute towards it through National Insurance contributions and other taxes. It is only fair then, according to the Home Office, that non-British nationals who migrate to the UK contribute to the NHS upfront to cover each year of residency.
After five years, visa holders can switch onto a permanent status such as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), in which case they will no longer need to pay the IHS. Some Spouse Visa holders can switch onto Indefinite Leave to Remain after only three years.
Who needs to pay the NHS surcharge?
The NHS fee applies to all overseas nationals in the UK who do not have permanent status. If you are coming to the UK for more than 6 months, you will be expected to pay this fee upfront with your visa application.
The only real exception is those who are applying for a Visitor Visa. Migrant staff who are coming to work in the NHS receive a marginal discount from paying the charge, too.
However, you will need to pay even if you have private medical insurance.
The cost is estimated to cover all GP appointments, A&E services, hospital treatments, and any other medical treatments that may be needed during your time in the UK.
The cost of the NHS fee
Year on year, the fee has incrementally risen. What was once a £200 per year extra cost is now an average of £624 per year. There are no discounts for families (e.g. for more than one child) either.
However, the cost does differ from applicant to applicant:
- It is £470 per year for a young person under the Youth Mobility Scheme (£940 in total for a 2-year visa)
- It is £470 per year for all children (under the age of 18)
- It is £624 per year for all other visa applicants
Since most people migrate to the UK under a 5 years visa, for example the Skilled Worker Visa, applicants can expect to pay £3,120 in addition to all their admin and registration fees.
The NHS fee for Spouse Visa applicants
UK Spouse Visa applicants are not exempt from the NHS fee. And since the initial Spouse Visa lasts 30 months, applicants will need to pay £1,560 to satisfy the fee.
In most cases, those seeking a Partner Visa will be expected to pay:
- £1,523 for the Spouse Visa itself
- £1,560 for the IHS
- £19.20 for registration of biometric information
These fees do not include the cost to sit the mandatory English language test or any lawyer fees.
Applicants need to repay all of these fees once the permission expires if they wish to renew their Spouse Visa again.
If you leave the country before your visa permission expires, you may be able to apply for a partial refund.
When should you pay the fee?
If you’re sending your Spouse Visa application online, you will need to pay the NHS fee as part of your application. If you’re invited to an appointment instead, you will need to pay it then.
If you’re sending your visa application by post, you should pay the NHS surcharge online and before you send it. This is because you will need an IHS reference number to include in your application form.
Either way, you will need to pay the IHS fee before you travel to the UK. It is considered a mandatory requirement of your UK Visa application.
If you don’t pay the health surcharge
If you don’t pay the NHS fee alongside your Spouse Visa application, you may be refused a visa. UKVI will usually contact you if you have submitted your application without the fee and will grant you no more than 10 working days to rectify the mistake.
Accessing the NHS
You can start using the NHS in the UK once you have paid the healthcare surcharge and your visa application has been granted.
You will be able to register with your local GP and attend appointments right away. You may need to provide evidence of your visa status in order to do so.
However, you will still need to pay for some services including prescriptions, eye examinations and dental care.
How can Manchester Immigration Lawyers help?
Navigating the Spouse Visa rules and ensuring you have submitted the correct paperwork before entering the UK can be an overwhelming task. The fees can quickly spiral out of control if you happen to make any mistakes in your application, too.
That’s why our clients choose us to help them with their visa applications. Manchester immigration lawyers can assist visa applicants with all their visa queries. We even offer an untimed advice session with one of our experts. But for full peace of mind, we highly recommend booking a comprehensive application appointment. Here, your immigration lawyer will fill your application for you to the highest standard. We will even provide a Letter of Recommendation which highlights the merits of your character and strengthens your case.
Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.
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