November’s Employment Law Digest – Immigration Health Surcharge to increase from January 2024
16th November, 2023
The IHS was in introduced in 2015 and applies to most individuals who make applications to enter or remain in the UK with a visa. There are only a limited number of exemptions to the charge.
Exemptions include individuals making applications for visas that are for less than six months, visitor visa applications, indefinite leave to enter or remain applications or sponsored workers eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa. If applicable, the IHS must be paid irrespective of whether individual applicants have private medical insurance.
Migrants can only start using the National Health Service once the IHS has been paid and their visa immigration application has been granted. However, even once paid, individuals will still need to pay separately for prescriptions, dental treatments and eye tests (in the same way as UK nationals).
Increase in the IHS from 16 January 2023
When the IHS was first introduced, the cost was set at £200 per person per year. Since then there has been steep rise in the level of the charge with significant increases above the rate of inflation.
The current rate of the IHS for most applicants and their dependents is £624 per person per year of the visa. This means that someone applying for a 5 year visa has to pay an upfront fee of £624 x 5 = £3,120 at the point they apply for their visa. The same fee applies to any adult dependents. Applicants under the age of 18 at the date of application must pay a reduced fee of £470 per year of the visa.
The Government has recently announced that the cost of the IHS is set to increase significantly next year. This increase will take effect no earlier than on 16 January 2024.
The increased rates are:
- Students (and their dependents), Youth Mobility Scheme Applicants, and children under the age of 18 will see an increase from £470 to £776 per year
- Most other visa applications will see an increase from £624 to £1,035 per year.
This means that an individual applying for a 5 year visa with effect from mid-January 2024 will have to pay an upfront fee of £5,175; an eye watering increase of £2,055 or 66%. For a family with a number of dependents, the increases will be even more pronounced.
How can employers mitigate these costs for their employees?
It is well worth employers and employees revisiting immigration status issues immediately to see if applications can be submitted before the increase takes effect. This might apply for example if there are workers who require sponsorship imminently, or sponsored workers who require an extension of their current visas, or individuals looking to change their immigration status. Prioritising these applications now can help you avoid paying the increased costs next year.
This sharp increase in fees may also lead employees to seek reimbursement of some or all of these costs from their employers/prospective employers. Employers would be well advised to take advice on these costs and consider whether they want to implement any steps to try and recover these costs, for example if the employee does not take up employment or leaves shortly after starting work. It is particularly important that the relevant employment law requirements are met to ensure that any agreements to recover these sums are enforceable.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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