Most non-EEA nationals applying for temporary leave to remain in the UK must pay an 'Immigration Health Surcharge' (IHS) to the Home Office, in addition to the immigration application fee. The Government has a manifesto commitment to increase the charge and extend it to EEA nationals after the Brexit transition period. The charge, and the proposed increases, have generated some controversy, particularly against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. The are calls for the Government to abolish it, or at least in respect of healthcare workers.

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The IHS is intended to “ensure that migrants make a proper financial contribution to the cost of their NHS care.”

The charge has doubled since it was introduced in 2015. The current rate, in place since January 2019, is £400 per year (£300 for certain visa categories). It is scheduled to increase again in October 2020, to £624 per year (£470 for certain visa categories). It will also apply to EEA nationals moving to the UK after the Brexit transition period.

The charge – and proposed further increases – have generated some controversy, particularly against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some NHS workers whose visas are due for renewal before October 2020 have been (temporarily) exempted from paying the IHS, but there are calls for the Government to go further, such as by abolishing the charge for all NHS workers.

The Home Office was already developing plans for an ‘NHS visa’ prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Speaking during the daily coronavirus update on 25 April, the Home Secretary indicated that the IHS was one of a range of measures that the Home Office was keeping under review.

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