Budget announcement of immigrant health surcharge increase to £624
11 March 2020
In Wednesday’s budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a big increase in the immigration health surcharge – up from £400 to £624 – more than triple the £200 when it was introduced in 2015.
He added that children would pay a lower charge.
The healthcare surcharge is payable when applying for or extending a visa.
Rishi Sunak announced a fiscal stimulus totaling £30 billion to fight the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19, including welfare and business support, sick-pay changes and local assistance.
This would include a welcome £7 billion for businesses and families and £5 billion for the National Health Service (NHS).
£2 billion sick-pay rebates for up to 2 million small businesses with fewer than 250 employees will also be welcome news to many employers.
However, the hike in the immigrant health surcharge is not. It just adds to the costs of one of the most expensive visa and sponsorship regimes of any country in the world.
The immigration health surcharge also adds an extra cost to deter the medical, technical and nursing staff the NHS needs to keep attracting from around the world – especially if the Coronavirus starts to overwhelm current health service capacity and the government intends to build the 40 new hospitals that the Chancellor promised.
At £1,220 per person, or £900 for those on the shortage occupation list, visa fees are among the highest in the world.
The rise in the immigration health surcharge and the way Rishi Sunak framed it during his budget speech as a charge to stop people abusing the system, smacks of dog-whistle politics, perpetuating the myth of the ‘health tourist.’
The British Medical Association estimates actual health tourism – people seeking medical care who aren’t entitled to it – costs the NHS 0.3 per cent of the health budget.
The measure may sadly prove to be another discouragement to those who would come to the UK to work in the NHS and contribute to taxes here, while perpetuating the populist fallacy of immigrants taking advantage of the system.