Have You Factored The Immigration Health Surcharge And How Much It Will Cost You For Your UK Visa?

Mahesh Maiya
02/16/2024

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Immigration Health Surcharge Overview

The Immigration Health Surcharge, commonly abbreviated to “IHS”, was introduced in 2015 and is a fee that you must pay as a part of your visa application. When you pay Immigration Health Surcharge, you can make use of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. The amount of IHS payable depends upon the visa and immigration route you are applying for. The income generated from the Immigration Health Surcharge goes directly to general UK government funds and is then distributed to devolved health administrations.

As an employer or an applicant, it is important that you understand the costs involved and this blog talks about it in detail. 

History of “IHS” Immigration Health Surcharge

The Immigration Act 2014 section 38 is the source of law (primary legislation) that gives the government the legal authority to levy a immigration health surcharge. The surcharge is then enforced through an “order” or “statutory instrument” (secondary legislation). The ‘Immigration (Health Charge) Order 2015’, was the first statutory instrument made to enforce the IHS. The order directs:

  • when the IHS is to be paid 
  • who needs to pay
  • how much should be paid
  • exemptions (including transitional arrangements)
  • and consequences of non-payment.

Initially, the Health Surcharge was set at £200 for qualifying applications made on or after 06 April 2015, with the exception of students and student dependants, who had to pay £150 per year.

Over time, the government has made amendments to the original order – at one point, doubling the surcharge across the board.

In 2020, the Immigration Health Surcharge was increased to £624 per year for most applicants, with minor applicants charged at £470 per year. Students, student dependants and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme applicants continue to benefit from a reduced charge (£470 per year).

Who pays the Immigration Health Surcharge

The IHS fee falls on the prospective employee to pay, unless the employer wishes the bear the costs themselves. The fees is paid in order to start using the NHS benefits. The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) pays for access to NHS healthcare services but does not cover individual treatment costs such as prescriptions, dental treatment and sight tests.

You usually need to pay the healthcare surcharge if you’re applying for a visa or immigration application:

  • for more than 6 months, if you’re applying outside the UK
  • for any length of time, if you’re applying inside the UK
  • You do not need to pay if you’re applying for a visitor visa or to remain in the UK permanently.

There are multiple categories who meet the criteria for exemptions from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge which includes the below:

  • you’re applying for indefinite leave to enter or remain
  • you’re a health and care worker who is eligible for a Health and Care Worker visa (or you’re their dependant)
  • you’re applying to the EU Settlement Scheme
  • you’re a diplomat or a member of a visiting armed forces and not subject to immigration control
  • you’re a dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces
  • you’re the dependant of a member of another country’s armed forces who is exempt from immigration control
  • you’re applying for a visa for the Isle of Man or Channel Islands
  • you’re a British Overseas Territory citizen resident in the Falkland Islands
  • you’re an asylum seeker or applying for humanitarian protection (or you’re their dependant)
  • you’re a domestic worker who has been identified as a victim of slavery or human trafficking
  • you’re applying for discretionary leave to remain in the UK as someone who has been identified as a victim of slavery or human trafficking (or you’re their dependant)
  • the Home Office’s domestic violence concession applies to you (or you’re their dependant)
  • being made to leave the UK would be against your rights under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (or you’re their dependant)
  • you’re an S2 Healthcare Visitor
  • you’re eligible for a Frontier Worker permit and have an S1 certificate

How much Immigration Health Surcharge to pay

The usual surcharge is £624 per year based on the amount of leave granted on the visa. If your visa is for more than a year, you’ll have to pay:

  • the yearly cost plus half the yearly cost, if it’s for 18 months or less
  • the cost of 2 full years, if it’s for more than 18 months but less than 2 years

The fee would be reduced to £470 per year for visa and immigration applicants who are under the age of 18 at time of application.

Refunds on Immigration Health Surcharge

You may qualify for a refund if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You have paid twice (IHS paid for a previous application covering the same period of time)
  • Your visa application got refused
  • You have withdrawn your visa application

Your IHS refund will normally be put on hold if you seek an administrative review on your visa application.

You may get a partial IHS refund if your visa application is successful, but either of the following happens:

  • You got less time on your visa than you had asked for
  • Dependents on your visa application have been refused. 

You will automatically receive the IHS refund to the card with which you made the payment. Generally, you get your IHS refund within 6 weeks of a decision on your visa application.

You cannot claim a refund if:

  • Your visa application is approved, but you do not come to the UK
  • You decide to leave the UK before your visa expires, for example, to make a fresh application
  • You have been deported from the UK before your visa expires
  • You are applying for indefinite leave to remain (you cannot claim back IHS paid for your most recent visa application)

If you work in the health and care sector, then you and your dependents may be eligible to get a refund under certain criteria if this was paid.

How can we assist

Our team has extensive expertise in all matters relating to sponsor licence and subsequent visa processing. We can ensure all aspects are checked to ensure you don’t end up paying more than you need to. Our experience in this sector has allowed us to create various retainer packages for business who would like assistance with their ongoing sponsor duties and need expert advice regularly. This can be a very cost-effective way to manage your obligations as a sponsor instead of investing towards in-house expertise and visa processing. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you manage your licence, assist with skilled worker visa application and adhere to your duties in the most cost-effective way. 

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