UK Government Hikes Visa Fees and IHS

12 January 2024

“We are broke, but we are not broken and we demand the government does the right thing – pay our public sector workers fairly and make a u-turn on the visa fees exploitation’.” – Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) Action Group statement.

As the Home Office continues to publicly boast about reducing net migration, their proposed policy ‘solutions’ serve as little more than distractions from their failures to meet their own targets and human rights standards. Most recently, attempts to increase costs associated with visas have met widespread opposition, as multiple charities and organisations across the UK have spoken out about the threat to the livelihood, and mental and physical health of those crossing borders.  

Highly Skilled Worker and Student Visa applicants are required to pay an immigration health surcharge on an annual basis for them to access the NHS. In October 2023, however, the government announced that the fees for both Visas and the IHS would be increasing by 66%. This brings it from a yearly cost of £624 to £1,035 per person. This is due to come into effect at the end of this month. This is a 417% increase in the cost of accessing the NHS compared to 5 years ago. They have justified this by stating this will partially fund the 5-7% pay increase for public sector workers.  

On the 4th of October 2023, visa and work fees increased by 15%, family visa fees, settlement and citizenship fees by 20%, and student visa fees by 25%. According to a Royal Society report, the UK’s immigration costs are significantly higher when compared with countries like Canada, Germany, France, and the USA. Alongside the fee increases, the high skilled worker salary cap threshold is being increased to £38,700 – £700 more than the average salary in the UK – and overseas care workers are being barred from bringing family dependants. 

This is a bombardment of costs for migrants across the UK who are effectively being forced to pay twice to access NHS services- once for the IHS, and for a second time through the taxation of their wages, VAT, and national insurance contributions. According to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), a migrant family of four would be forced to pay around £50,000 over a ten-year period for the right to remain in the UK. The decision to increase these fees so drastically and quickly will have devastating impacts for families across the UK and will push those who have come to the UK into cycles of enforced destitution.  

Adam Paterson (Advocacy and Campaigns Officer) and Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead)

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