Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Did anyone think that Boris Johnson and UK visas and Immigration would find some underhand way of still charging the immigration health surcharge to some health care workers? Apparently if you change jobs in the next six months you will need to pay £400 a year in advance for the duration of the visa. Actually it could be much more than that. From 1 October 2020 it increases to £624 per year. The UK visa system has some of the highest visa related fees in the World.
Perhaps continue to give the UK Government some bad publicity and they will change their mind! Boris Johnson seems to be terrified of bad publicity. The Government has changed their mind a number of times following pressure from the public.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been branded ‘cynical’ after seemingly breaking a promise to scrap the controversial UK immigration health surcharge for health care workers. According to a report published by The Independent, Johnson plans to make foreign NHS workers and care staff pay the charge if they change jobs within the next six months.
In May, Johnson agreed to scrap the controversial surcharge for foreign NHS staff working on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19. However, it seems Johnson will now exploit a loophole to continue levying the fee, sparking fury among healthcare chiefs.
The loophole is likely to hit lower paid NHS staff hardest, such as cleaners, porters and carers, particularly those on zero-hours contracts.
No mention of continuing immigration health surcharge for some health care workers
When announcing the decision to scrap the immigration health surcharge back in May, Johnson did not mention the loophole. Government ministers have added to the controversy by saying that the six-month stipulation ‘is needed to give health and care staff an incentive to continue working.’
Unison, the public services union, warned that low-paid NHS and social care workers face missing out on reimbursements because of the loophole.
Christina McAnea, Unsion’s general secretary, told The Independent: “This applies especially to those on zero-hour contracts or who move jobs. Ministers say they’ll get their surcharge fees back, but only after six months. This is no way to treat those who’ve been at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus from the off.”
The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Donna Kinnair, said: Not many of the health and social care staff who will have to pay this grossly unfair charge up front will see it as an ‘incentive’ to stay.”
“The more detail we hear about these proposals, the more alarming it is that government policy doesn’t reflect the massive workforce shortage facing the social care sector,” Kinnair added.
Broken promise to health care workers
Labour’s shadow UK immigration minister, Holly Lynch, also blasted the loophole saying: “It’s clear that it’s a million miles from the spirit of what the Prime Minister promised. This is a cynical broken promise. The government must honour its commitment to dedicated care workers who have put their lives on the line during this crisis.”
The immigration health surcharge is set to increase in October, rising from £400 to £624. For a family of four with a main Tier 2 visa holder on a five-year work permit, costs can escalate to as much as £8,000 as the health surcharge applies to each member of the family.
Health and care visa exemption
In July, the Home Office announced a new Tier 2 health and care visa, which officially launched on 4 August 2020. Health and care visa holders will be made exempt from the immigration health surcharge.
The Home Office said that there will be ‘six-month reimbursements’ for other staff. This sparked a backlash, with health chiefs saying: ‘Fees will have to be paid and reclaimed.’ The Home Office has so far given no indication of how this will work.
The Department of Health and Social Care is now reportedly saying that staff ‘must have worked in the sector for an appropriate period of time’ in order to receive a health surcharge refund.
Health minister Edward Argar said: “This reimbursement will be paid in arrears of six-month increments. This ensures we only reimburse those workers and their families who have worked in the sector for an appropriate period of time. This will also provide an incentive to continue working in the health and care sector.”
Mr Argar stated that thousands of foreign nationals working as care workers, cleaners, porters or healthcare assistants ‘should not expect automatic exemption.’
Further details have been promised prior to the reimbursement scheme’s scheduled launch on 1 October 2020.
Applications for refunds to continue after Brexit
According to The Independent report, applications for refunds will likely continue after tougher UK immigration rules are introduced from 1 January 2021.
The government claims that the rules are ‘more generous’ than Johnson’s initial pledge because refunds can be claimed by anyone affected as far back as March and not mid-May.
In July, officials said that refunds were already being issued to healthcare professionals on Tier 2 visas who have paid the surcharge since 31 March 2020.
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