The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is set to be increased by a substantial 66% set to take effect from February 6th, 2024. In this article we aim to clarify the intricacies of the IHS, and detail the reasons behind this rise in cost.
What is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS Fee)
The Immigration Health Surcharge, commonly referred to as IHS, was instituted on April 6, 2015, as a mandatory contribution from migrants to support the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). It is an upfront cost, paid alongside most visa applications, granting individuals full access to the NHS during their UK stay. Notably, there’s no opt-out option for IHS, even for those who don’t intend to use NHS services or prefer private healthcare. The IHS is applicable for visas lasting six months or more and covers the entire duration of the visa.
When Do You Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge
The Immigration Health Surcharge is a key component of most online visa applications. As applicants fill out the application, they are redirected to the IHS payment page, where the fee is calculated based on the visa type and its duration. It’s important to note that this fee might be rounded up and is subject to the Home Office Exchange Rate Policy, typically 4% above the Oanda live bid rates. Successful payment of the IHS redirects applicants back to the application form and is confirmed via an email that includes the IHS reference number.
When is the IHS Increasing?
The IHS increase is now scheduled for February 6th, 2024. The initial date was planned for January 16th, 2024. The change was finalised following the approval of the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023 by a delegated legislation committee of the House of Commons on January 16th, 2024. To avoid the higher fees, we advise our applicants to submit their applications before the new effective date, as this would subject them to the current IHS fee rate.
Why is the Immigration Health Surcharge Increasing
The decision to increase the IHS aligns with the 2019 manifesto commitment, as cited in the equality impact assessment. This assessment states that the increase is intended to “ensure that the Health Charge reflects the full cost to the NHS of treating Health Charge payers.” This move aims to fully cover the NHS services for those who pay the Health Charges, a significant shift from the Government’s earlier justification of using the increase to fund public sector pay rises.
What is the IHS Increasing to and Who is Affected?
The IHS fees are set to rise by 66% from the current rate of £624 for most visa types, or £470 for students, their dependents, and applicants on the Youth Mobility Scheme, as well as children under 18 at the time of their application. These fees are set to rise from their current rates to £1,035 and £776 respectfully per year. This increase follows a previous increase in application fees on October 4th, 2023.
Who is Not Affected by the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) Increase
Certain categories of applicants will not be effected by the IHS fee increase. These notably include Health and Care workers, visitors, applicants under the EU Settlement Scheme, Fiancé visa applicants under Appendix FM, and asylum seekers. Furthermore, individuals applying for indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship are exempt from the IHS fee.
Moreover, there is a fee waiver application available to those who demonstrate a credible inability to afford the IHS. To be considered eligible for this waiver, you must be able to provide evidence that you are currently destitute, or that the act of paying the IHS fee would cause you to become destitute.
What Happens if I Do Not Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge
If you do not pay the IHS fee there may be significant consequences. As stated in paragraph 34(4) of the Immigration Rules, an unpaid IHS results in an invalid application, leading to non-processing. If applying from within the UK, expect rejection within 10 working days; from outside the UK, within 7 working days.
Can I Get the Immigration Health Surcharge Refunded?
Refunds for the IHS are possible under certain circumstances. If you decide to withdraw your application or if it is refused, you are eligible to apply for an IHS refund. For a complete guide on how to properly conduct a IHS refund application, including eligibility criteria and procedural steps, visit our detailed guide on IHS refunds.
The upcoming 66% increase in the IHS fee, effective from February 6th, 2024, is a significant change in the area of UK immigration law. In this article we aim to have highlighted the key aspects of the IHS, including its purpose, the rationality behind the increase, affected categories, and the process surrounding how its paid.