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It has been confirmed that the Immigration Health Surcharge (“IHS”) increase will apply to applications made on or after 6 February 2024. The Surcharge will increase from £624 per year to £1,035 per year, with the concessionary rate rising from £470 per year to £776 per year. This increase will bump up the cost of visa applications even more, following the visa fee increases introduced in October 2023.
The IHS is intended to contribute to the cost of NHS healthcare and is payable by most UK visa applicants applying from outside the UK for a visa valid for more than six months, and those applying within the UK (regardless of visa duration). This is not just applicable to employer-sponsored visas. Where payable, the IHS is paid as an advanced lump sum as part of the visa application and provides access to NHS care whilst in the UK. For example, a 3-year skilled worker visa application would attract an IHS of at least £3,105 upfront (an increase from £1,872), in addition to the other associated visa application costs.
Importantly, all visa applications subject to the IHS made on or after 6th February 2024 will be impacted by the rise. Work, study and family visa applications will typically include the IHS. There are some exemptions to the IHS. For example, those seeking visit visas or indefinite leave to remain are not required to pay the fee. Health and care workers who are eligible to apply for a Health and Care Worker visa are also exempt from paying the IHS.
1. Consider expediting applications
If you have staff imminently due to submit a visa application that will be subject to the IHS, you may wish to consider whether it is possible to circumvent this price hike and submit a visa application before that date. Depending upon whether you are meeting this staff cost, it could save the business £411 per year per applicant. The savings for those workers in the UK with dependents will be significantly higher.
There are a number of factors to take into account when you are considering whether an early application would be suitable for a sponsored worker. It is important to be aware of when applications can be submitted early and when they cannot. If you are considering whether an early application may be an option, you should seek legal advice to ensure that there will be no negative impacts on future immigration applications, and to check that it is a feasible option for the applicant.
2. Consider your policy on financial support
The IHS is a cost ultimately payable by the individual visa applicant. However, many employers choose to meet this cost for staff or are under pressure to do so in order to remain competitive in the recruitment market. It is worth considering what your policy on such costs is. Do you want to cover all visa associated costs (e.g. visa application fee, priority processing, translations, Ecctis etc) or just some? Will you meet costs for dependant applicants too? Do you provide that support consistently across all roles in the business and all visa categories? Are those costs being fully funded or just in part?
Finally, is that investment suitably protected? With the costs of visas steadily increasing, and it being easier for sponsored workers to move employer once in the UK, we are seeing increased requests for support on these issues and with the preparation of suitable and reasonable clawback arrangements. A clawback agreement can provide for recoupment of all or a portion of those costs incurred should the individual’s employment terminate within a specific period.
3. Make sure the IHS information inputted is correct if you are meeting that employee cost
The IHS payable is automatically calculated online (in 6-month blocks) when the visa applicant inputs specific information about their visa application. If that information is inputted incorrectly by the applicant, that can result in incorrectly high IHS being charged. Similarly, care should be taken with sponsored work visas to ensure role start dates are carefully considered alongside an individual’s proposed date of travel to the UK (if they are applying from overseas), to ensure you don’t pay a higher IHS than necessary in the circumstances. If your business is meeting this cost, you may wish to retain some oversight of the visa application process to ensure the IHS is correct in the circumstances.
Our expert business immigration team is on hand if you have any queries on these issues.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at January 2024. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our.
24 January 2024