After new rules came into effect today, all UK visas with a validity of over six months now cost twice as much for non-EU migrants, following a decision by the British government to double the Immigration Health Surcharge.
The IHS, which is mandatory, was rolled out in 2015 and allows students and temporary workers to access the National Health Service (NHS) in the same way UK citizens do during their stay.
A Home Office spokesperson told Hindustan Times on Monday: “Migrants who make an application on or after January 8, 2019 will pay the new surcharge rate”.
While the surcharge for non-EU nationals currently stands at £200 a year, it has been raised to £400 a year — a move that has been described as “unfair and discriminatory” by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), according to another Hindustan Times report.
For discounted study visas under the Youth Mobility Scheme (Tier-5 visa), the same surcharge has been increased from £150 to £300.
According to Times of India, on average the cost for a general or family visa is nearly £92, while a long-term visa can cost somewhere in the region of £821.
While the Home Office previously outlined that the increase in costs will bring in much-needed funds to the NHS, BAPIO highlighted that the surcharge will prevent other non-EU doctors from coming to the UK at a time when NHS staff are already in severely short supply.
“This surcharge is unfair and discriminatory as it does not apply to EU nationals,” said BAPIO. “The NHS is funded through income tax and national insurance contributions.”
The visa changes come ahead of further post-Brexit plans which, according to The Independent, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said “will bring net migration down to more sustainable levels”.
With this move, the UK becomes the latest country in the West to clamp down on immigration. President Trump also sought stricter screening for US visas, according to The Economic Times, and Australia has also rehauled its immigration program according to The Guardian, cutting the duration on its temporary work visas by two years.