Immigration health surcharge to take effect April 6

20 Mar 15

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? The Home Office will introduce a mandatory health surcharge to most non-EEA work and study visa applicants and their family members entering the U.K. or extending their stay for more than six months.

What does the change mean? An additional government fee of £200 per year for each foreign worker and each family member (and £150 for students) will be added as part of the visa application process. Foreign nationals subject to the fee will be able to access and pay for use of the National Health Service. Certain visa categories and nationalities with reciprocal health care arrangements are exempt, including all Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transferees) and Australian and New Zealand nationals.

  • Implementation timeframe: The health surcharge will be applied to visa and extension applications for which payment is made on or after April 6.
  • Visas/permits affected: Tier 1, Work visas under Tier 2 (General) sponsorship, Tier 4 (student), Tier 5.
  • Who is affected: Almost all Non-EEA nationals applying to work or study in the U.K. for longer than six months.
  • Impact on processing times: While the new surcharge will not lengthen processing times, applicants must pay the surcharge before their visa or extension applications will be processed, and any error in the payment will slow down processing.
  • Business impact: The government surcharge will significantly increase the costs for employers sponsoring employees under the Tier 2 (General) route in the U.K., as well as for foreign nationals themselves, particularly in the context of general fee hikes taking place in April.
  • Next steps: Companies sponsoring non-EEA foreign nationals should budget for the new levies and note that the full amount for the entire period of stay must be paid upfront at the application stage. There are special instructions for paying the surcharge online. Applicants whose visa applications are rejected will be automatically refunded the surcharge payment. If a foreign national who is subject to the surcharge decides to leave the U.K. before expiration of the visa, no portion of the surcharge will be refunded.

Background: The Home Office is introducing the surcharge to make sure that temporary foreign workers are contributing to the National Health Service. The surcharge, which is paid directly to the NHS, gives foreign workers and students in the U.K. the same access to health care as permanent residents. This means they will generally receive free health care, but may be charged for some services, such as dental treatment and prescriptions.

The surcharge is £200 per year for non-EEA workers and £150 per year for non-EEA students. The surcharge for dependent family members matches that of the principal applicant. Several categories of foreign nationals are exempt, including non-EEA Tier 2 intra-company transferees and their family members, as well as visitors or others staying in the U.K. for less than six months. EEA nationals living in the U.K. and citizens of Australia and New Zealand are also exempt from paying the surcharge. Foreigners who are exempt from the levies must still go through the surcharge website to complete their visa applications. Instructions will be available April 6 on the U.K. government’s website.

BAL Analysis: The U.K. expects to collect £1.7 billion over the next decade to offset costs of running the healthcare system. Applicants should plan for the levies and also be sure that the health surcharge is paid at the time of their application. They should also note that the full amount for the entire length of stay is due upfront.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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