You usually need to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) if you are applying for a visa for more than 6 months from outside the UK, or making an immigration application for any length of time from within the UK. You do not need to pay if you are applying for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence).
On 6 February 2024, there will be a substantial rise in the IHS – from £624 per year for most applicants, up to £1,035. For children and students, the rise is from £470 per year to £776. Therefore, if an application is for leave to remain for 2.5 years (which is frequently the case), the surcharge for adults will be £2,587.50.
Even before these rises, it is often extremely expensive to make an immigration application. For example, the basic fee for a spouse entry clearance visa is £1,846 and the current IHS is £1,872. From 6 February 2024, the IHS for this application will be £3,105, meaning the total fee will be £4,951. This is before an applicant pays for any optional services, such as the priority or keep their passport while applying service.
Applicants who are in the position to submit their online application forms before the fee rise comes into place may be well advised to do so, and there is a helpful article on the wonderful Free Movement website. Of course, for some, the rise will come before they can make their next application and they will be forced to pay the higher fees.
Fee waivers (whole or partial) may be available for certain applications if the applicant cannot afford the fee. Fee waiver applications need to be well-evidenced and meet the guidance. No applicant can assume it will be easy to obtain a fee waiver.
These rises place an even greater financial burden on migrants and their British families in an immigration system which is already very expensive. They are unjust, but applicants will have no choice but to accept them.
If you would like advice on whether you can make an application prior to the increase, or if you could be eligible for a fee waiver, please contact us.