The government has now confirmed the details and date of introduction of the new “health surcharge”, set to be levied on nationals from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). Presently such migrants receive free NHS treatment in the same way as permanent residents, but that is all set to change.
From 6 April 2015, non EEA migrants intending to come to the UK for more than 6 months, or those who are presently in the UK and seeking to extend their existing visa arrangements, will be subject to the charge.
Initially the charge will be £200 per migrant (£150 for Tier 4 students) for each year of stay and will be payable at the outset. So, for example, a worker migrant proposing to come to the UK on a 5 year Tier 2 General Visa will have to pay an additional £1,000. A similar charge will be made in respect of any dependents that the migrant has with them.
The government’s stated intention of the surcharge is to raise a £1.7 billion contribution over the next ten years to offset the £2 billion cost per year to the NHS in providing services to overseas visitors and migrants.
The payment will be collected by the Home Office and passed to the health departments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Non EEA nationals who are visiting the UK on tourist visas will not be liable for the surcharge, but will remain liable for the full costs of their treatment. In addition, it is proposed that from April 2015 such visitors will incur a 50% uplift on the cost of treatment to cover the additional burden of administrative costs.
The government has been keen to stress that the surcharge is not a visa fee, and that the costs are significantly less than that of private medical insurance in any event.
In addition, there are several exceptions i.e. the charge will not apply to Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa migrants or nationals from Australia or New Zealand.
Whilst the government’s intention is clear, the result will obviously be a significant ‘front end’ cost to businesses in respect of funding the sponsorship of skilled migrants and their dependents, given such migrants usually relocate their entire immediate families.
It may also prove to be a further additional disincentive to non EEA student nationals to seek to study in the UK, with the announcement coming only a month after the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration warned that the UK is already falling behind the USA, Canada and Australia in attracting talent as a result of its inferior post study opportunities.
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