Apparently, what migrants are currently paying to the UK Government in order to have their entry clearance or leave to remain applications processed is simply not enough: they need to pay more and quickly.
On 11 October 2018, the Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Stokes had this to say regarding the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS):
“The IHS is currently set at £200 per annum for most temporary migrant categories, with a discounted rate of £150 per annum for students and the youth mobility category. These rates have not changed since the IHS was introduced. In February, the Government announced its intention to double the IHS. ….Today we have laid before Parliament in accordance with section 38 of the Immigration Act 2014, ‘The Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2018’. The Order, which is subject to the affirmative procedure, seeks to double the IHS to £400 per annum. Students, as well as those on the Youth Mobility Scheme, will continue to receive a discounted rate of £300……These changes do not affect permanent residents, who are not required to pay the IHS. Certain vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and modern slavery victims are exempt from paying the IHS. Short-term migrants (including those on visitor visas) and those without permission to be in the UK are generally charged for secondary care treatment by the NHS at the point of access”. https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-10-11/HCWS995/
There was no public consultation on these changes, however the Home Office had previously announced as far back as 5 February 2018 that it planned to double the level of the charge. The changes are expected to kick in sometime in December 2018.
So, what is the Immigration Health Charge?
The Immigration Health Charge is payable by non-EEA nationals who enter the UK for more than six months in a temporary capacity or who apply to extend their stay in the UK, subject to certain exemptions listed in Schedule 2 to the Principal Order.
Those who pay the immigration health charge can access NHS services free of charge (subject to those charges UK residents must pay, such as for prescriptions and dental treatment in England).
The charge is currently set at £200 per annum for most temporary migrant categories, with a discounted rate of £150 per annum for students and the youth mobility category. These rates have not changed since the charge was introduced.
The Immigration Health Charge was introduced on 6 April 2015 by the Principal Order. The Immigration (Health Charge) Order 2015 (“the Principal Order”) was made under section 38 of the Immigration Act 2014. It requires a person who applies for entry clearance to the United Kingdom, for a limited period, or for limited leave to remain in the United Kingdom, to pay an immigration health charge.
There are a number of exemptions from the requirement to pay the charge, which are set out in Schedule 2 to the Order.
The Principal Order was amended by the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2016, which amended the amount of the charge to £150 in respect of applications for entry clearance as a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme Applicant) and removed the exemption in Schedule 2 for nationals of Australia or New Zealand. It was further amended by the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2017 to remove the exemption from the charge available for Intra-Company Transfer applicants and their dependants, and to provide an explicit exemption from the surcharge for all victims of modern slavery (not just human trafficking).
Effect of the draft Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2018:
Amendment of Schedule 1 to the Principal Order will be as follows:
“ (a)in the entry “application for entry clearance or leave to remain as a student, in accordance with the immigration rules”, for “£150” substitute “£300”;
(b)in the entry “application for entry clearance or leave to remain as the dependant of a student, in accordance with the immigration rules”, for “£150” substitute “£300”;
(c)in the entry “application for entry clearance as a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Temporary Migrant in accordance with the immigration rules”, for “£150” substitute “£300”;
(d)in the entry “all other applications for entry clearance or leave to remain”, for “£200” substitute “£400”.
How badly will applicants be hit?
For Partners, such as foreign spouses living outside the UK applying for entry clearance in order to join their British partners in the UK, currently the amount of the charge payable per person is £600.00 on submission of the visa entry clearance application. This is in addition to the entry clearance application fee which for now stands at £1523.00.
With the expected increase to the surcharge, an applicant will need to pay up to £1200.00 towards the charge on application, totalling £2723. 00 with the entry clearance application fee included.
For those in the UK applying for leave to remain, for example under the 7year rule, the charge currently is £500.00 per applicant. The associated Home office application fee per applicant for now is £1033.00.
With the increase to the surcharge, an applicant will need to pay up to £1000.00 towards the charge, totalling £2033.00 with the Home Office fee included.
The new charge combined with the Home Office application fees, will see a family unit of two parents and two young dependant children applying under the 7year rule needing to source a total of £8132,00.
How is payment made?
Where an applicant applies for a visa online, they pay the surcharge as part of the application.
If they apply for a visa through a premium service centre, they pay the surcharge when they book an appointment.
Where the applicant applies for a visa by post, they must pay the surcharge online before they send their application. They need to include their IHS reference number on the application form.
In order to avoid invalidation and rejection of an application, if an applicant does not pay the charge when they should, they will receive notification and must pay the surcharge within:
10 working days if they inside the UK
7 working days if they outside the UK
Fee Waiver applications :
The best course of action to adopt in the face of such exorbitant fee rises is to take advantage of the Home Office Policy Guidance on fee waivers in conjunction with the new changes which are to be shortly effected.
The recent Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules: HC 1534, 11 October 2018 (web accessible), introduce other changes however relevantly for now, the changes also support the operation of a new application process in UKVI by amending the Rules on the requirements for a valid application.
The accompanying Explanatory memorandum HC 1534, 11 October 2018 (web accessible) states as follows:
7.8 Changes to the Immigration Rules are required in order to permit UKVI’s transformed application process. The ambition is that most applicants will apply online, with assisted digital support where necessary. A process will also remain for receiving applications on paper for routes where there is no online application form. The Rules changes set out the requirements for making a valid application under the new application process in relation to the applicant making an appointment to attend in person to enrol their biometrics and submitting the required documents in support of their application.
7.9 The changes will also protect the position of applicants seeking a fee waiver as part of an online application for leave to remain.
7.10 Where an application for leave to remain is made online, an applicant who wishes to apply for a fee waiver as part of that application will have to submit that fee waiver request before the application for leave, and this will be considered first. The applicant will be notified of a decision on the request for a fee waiver, and will have 10 working days from the date they receive this notification to submit an application for leave. If the application is made in time, i.e. within 10 working days, the date of application will be the date the fee waiver request was submitted. This is important because it protects an applicant’s continuing leave whilst they make their application for further leave. If the fee waiver request is granted, the applicant will be able to submit an application for leave without an accompanying application fee. If the fee waiver request is refused, the applicant may still submit an application accompanied by the relevant fee.
7.11 If an applicant does not submit an application for leave within 10 working days, their application will normally be rejected.
11 Guidance 11.1 Guidance relating to these Rules changes will be updated and placed on the GOV.UK website”.