New health surcharge for certain migrants
18 April 2015
New legislation that came into effect earlier this month has made it compulsory for certain migrants to pay a health surcharge when making their immigration applications, regardless of whether they use the NHS or not. This surcharge also applies to certain migrants already in the UK who wish to extend their stay.
As of 6 April, migrants coming to the UK for longer than six months from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) need to pay £200 for each year of their stay upfront when making their applications. A lower rate of £150 per year applies to students. Non-EEA nationals already in the UK who apply to extend their stay need to pay the same fees.
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said: "The health surcharge will play a vital role in ensuring Britain’s most cherished public service is provided on a basis that is fair to all who use it... Our health services will still be available to all those who need them, but now people coming from outside the EEA will make a fair contribution to the costs of healthcare incurred by temporary migrants living in the UK."
Whilst the cost of £150 or £200 per year is considered by the government to be competitive to the costs of medical insurance required in some competitor nations (e.g. the US), many non-EEA nationals who enter the UK actually already have their own private insurance - especially those under Tier 2 work permits, who are often insured by their employers. This means that such migrants will be paying extra for a public service that they simply will not need to use.
Other migrants have commented that they are not satisfied with the quality of the NHS and will always opt for private treatment or treatment abroad. This dissatisfaction with service quality is even evident amongst UK nationals, thousands of whom go abroad each year for medical tourism purposes.
Moreover, the extra costs for students could prevent some international students from undertaking studies in the UK, particularly as student visas come with strict restrictions about working alongside studying.
Non-EEA nationals who visit the UK on tourist visas will not pay the surcharge but will continue to be liable for paying the full costs of any NHS treatment. Some migrants have argued that this should be the case for all non-EEA migrants in the UK so that the costs of use are exactly recovered by the NHS.