Extortionate NHS UK visa health surcharge under review

Sanwar Ali comment:

The Immigration Health Surcharge is very high and for many people is unaffordable.  Migrants on Tier 2 visas sponsored by Sponsor Licence employers are paying twice.  They are taxed in the UK to fund the NHS and are also being charged the Immigration Health Surcharge.   This does seem to be very unfair.

UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has seemingly bowed to pressure to review extortionate fees foreign doctors and nurses are forced to pay to access NHS healthcare. Since it was introduced in April 2015, the controversial immigration health charge has been heavily criticised and described as an ‘additional tax’ on migrant NHS workers.

Priti Patel’s announcement comes ahead of Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s expected return to Downing Street on 27 April, and as the coronavirus death toll in the UK exceeded 20,000, becoming the fifth country to pass this number after the US, Italy, Spain and France.

The immigration health surcharge was set to be increased in October 2020 from £400 to £625 per year. This increase was included in the UK Budget announcement made by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, on 11 March.

Immigration health surcharge increase ‘perverse’

Critics described the immigration health surcharge increase as ‘perverse’, serving as a deterrent to foreign healthcare professionals, which the UK has been desperate to attract in recent years.

Reports suggested that the increase would subject nurses to fees amounting to thousands of pounds a year in UK visa costs and the surcharge in order for them, along with their families, to access NHS healthcare services and remain in the UK.

Commenting on the immigration health surcharge review, Priti Patel said: “Many changes have already been made concerning the UK immigration status and UK visa status of NHS workers, with a free extension for those whose visas were already coming up for expiry.”

“We have a range of measures that are, like most things in government, under review, and we are looking at everything including visas, surcharge … We are looking at everything we can do to continue to support everyone on the frontline in the NHS,” Patel added.

The Home Office announced that free, one-year UK visas extensions would be granted to NHS workers, and their families, automatically at the end of March. However, Workpermit.com recently reported that the offer of free, one-year visa extensions may only apply to NHS workers who hold a Tier 2 work visa.

Immigration Health Surcharge should be scrapped

The Royal College of Nursing has urged the Home Office to scrap the immigration health surcharge, while many immigrant advocates have called for foreign NHS staff to be ‘treated better,’ amid their invaluable contribution in the frontline battle against coronavirus.

General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, said: “The current crisis only serves to highlight the unfairness of charging overseas nurses working in the UK for healthcare services.”

An official statement from the Home Office said: “We are immensely grateful for the work NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics are doing to tackle coronavirus, and this is why we applied a one-year visa extension to all those whose visas are due to expire before 1 October 2020 – this is completely free of charge and includes an exemption from the immigration health surcharge.

“We will continue to look at whether we can provide further assistance during the fight against this virus.”

Coronavirus in the UK

As of 26 April, 152,840 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed, with the death toll at 20,372. However, 26 April saw a dramatic drop in the daily death toll, with 413 fatalities confirmed, the lowest recorded this month.

Latest coronavirus updates, visa and immigration restrictions

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To apply for a UK visa extension amid the coronavirus pandemic, see this recent Workpermit.com news report.

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