24 Oct 2016, 00 mins ago

On 6 April 2015, the Home Office introduced an Immigration Health Surcharge for non EEA Nationals. The Health Surcharge has to be paid by non EEA Nationals who apply to enter or extend their leave in the UK to work, study or join family for a period of more than 6 months. The surcharge is set at £200 per year and £150 per year for students, with dependants generally paying the same amount as the main applicant.

When the surcharge came into effect on 6 April 2015, it did not apply to visitors, EEA Nationals, Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Migrants (and their dependents), Australian and New Zealand citizens, or those coming to the UK for less than 6 months. 

However, on 4 February 2016, the Home Office announced that the Surcharge will apply to Australian and New Zealand nationals from 6 April 2016. From that date onwards, nationals from these countries, who are planning to enter the UK for more than six months or are applying from within the UK to extend their stay, will be required to pay £200 per annum surcharge as part of their application. 

However, those migrants aged between 18-30 who are applying to come to the UK under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) Scheme will pay a discounted rate of £150 per annum.The surcharge is not a visa fee. The Home Office collects the payment and it goes directly into the National Health Service (NHS) and gives migrants access to the NHS on the same terms as a permanent UK resident. This payment is mandatory and private healthcare insurance does not exempt the migrant from paying the surcharge. 

The surcharge is usually paid online at the same time as the immigration application is made. Local guidance is provided where other payment arrangements exist. The surcharge has to be paid in advance for the entire period of the visa (ie if the visa is for three years, then three years must be paid in advance) and can therefore amount to a significant sum, particularly for large families. 

The Home Office claims that the surcharge payment is designed to help ensure the NHS remains sustainable and receives a fair contribution to the cost of healthcare from temporary migrants.

It is curious that the Home Office has now extended the surcharge to Australian and New Zealand nationals. The rationale for not making them subject to the surcharge when it was introduced was that the UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements with both countries whereby visitors and temporary migrants from those countries are entitled to some treatment free of charge on the NHS. The Government therefore appears to be tearing up those agreements in a move that has been described by the New Zealand Prime Minister as “pretty cheap”. It would be unsurprising if this leads to healthcare charges being introduced for UK citizens by Australia and New Zealand.

For the time being, Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer migrants are still exempt from paying the Health Surcharge, but let’s see for how long.