Immigration Health Surcharge Increased By 66%

8 February 2024

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) was introduced in April 2015 with the stated aim of raising funds for the NHS from migrants. Initially, the surcharge annual rate was set at £200. Since it was introduced, the standard IHS rate has risen to £1035.

What is happening now? 

This week, an increase of 66%, to the previous Immigration Health Surcharge has taken the annual standard rate to £1,035 per year – a more than 500% increase over the original fee. The Home Office expects visa applicants to pay this fee, visa fees and dependents’ IHS upfront. Visa fees have also risen in tandem with the IHS with work and visitor visas up by 15%, family visas, settlement and citizenship by 20%, and student visas by 35%. A study carried out in 2021 found that the UK’s charging was significantly higher than comparable nations.  

Alongside this hike in visa fees and immigration health surcharge fees, from the 1st of January 2024, international students arriving in the UK are no longer able to bring their dependents, unless studying for a PhD. This is yet another attempt to disincentivise migrants from coming to the UK, for whom studying in the UK will result in the separation of families. 

What impact is this having? 

The cumulative effect of both visa fees and IHS fees rising during the current cost of living and UK-wide housing crises is migrant households and families with young children being forced into cycles of debt and destitution. This ever-increasing hardship is putting people at risk of financial and domestic exploitation.  

This is particularly rife in the social care sector. An increase in the number of internationally educated workers going into care-provider roles in the UK to fill glaring gaps in the labour market has been accompanied by a 606% increase in the number of modern slavery cases reported in 2022. This huge increase has been accompanied by widespread reports of migrant care workers having their passports withheld by their employers, suffering racist abuse, and being threatened with deportation across the UK the following year. 

These intersecting policy changes are placing an unmanageable financial burden on migrant workers and students, most of whom have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and do not have access to the welfare system and benefits system. At risk of being forced into exploitative relationships with employers and landlords, many people are unsure of their employment and housing rights and are being stretched beyond breaking point.  

Something that might bring some slight relief to migrant households with one or more members working in healthcare or social care is the ability to apply for a refund of their IHS payments. Nonetheless, for a universal and compassionate approach, we need to see a reversal of these payment hikes to break the cycles of destitution and exploitation currently perpetuated by our policy crisis.  


Adam Paterson (Advocacy and Campaigns Officer) 


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