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The government is set to recoup up to £1.7 billion over the next ten years to help pay for the cost of NHS treatment given to temporary migrants.
Legislation coming into effect on 6 April means that nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) coming to the UK for longer than six months will be required to pay a ‘health surcharge’ when they make their immigration application. It will also be paid by non-EEA nationals already in the UK who apply to extend their stay.
Migrants coming to work, study or join family members currently receive free NHS treatment in the same way as a permanent resident. The changes, part of the Immigration Act which became law last year, will ensure that migrants make a proper financial contribution to the cost of their NHS care. In England alone, use of the NHS by overseas visitors and migrants is estimated to cost up to £2 billion a year – with £950 million of this being spent on temporary, non-EEA workers and students.
The health surcharge will be £200 per year and £150 per year for students, payable upfront and for the total period of time for which migrants are given permission to stay in the UK. In setting the surcharge levels, the government has considered the wide range of free health services available to migrants alongside the valuable contribution they make and the need to ensure the UK remains attractive to the brightest and the best from around the world.
Immigration and Security Minister, James Brokenshire said:
The health surcharge will play a vital role in ensuring Britain’s most cherished public service is provided on a basis that is fair to all who use it. For generations, the British public have paid their taxes to help make the NHS what it is today – the surcharge will mean temporary migrants will also pay their way.
Our health services will still be available to all those who need them, but now people coming from outside the EEA will make a fair contribution to the costs of healthcare incurred by temporary migrants living in the UK.
And by keeping the surcharge at a competitive level, we are also recognising the contribution temporary migrants make to the wider economy.
The money collected by the Home Office will be passed to the health departments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The surcharge levels are lower than the cost of medical insurance required in some of our competitor nations and, for overseas students, the surcharge represents only 1% of the total cost of studying in the UK for a three year undergraduate course. Dependants will generally pay the same amount as the main applicant. Having paid the surcharge, migrants will have the same access to the NHS as a UK permanent resident while their stay in the UK is lawful.
Non-EEA nationals visiting the UK on a tourist visa will not pay the health surcharge, but will continue to be fully liable for the costs of any NHS treatment at the point they receive it.
Alongside the introduction of the health surcharge, the Department of Health is working on proposals that will mean from April non-EEA visitors who use the NHS will be charged 150% of the cost of their treatment. This means that for a £100 procedure, they could be billed £150. This reflects the additional cost burden the NHS carries when managing the administration for visitors to the UK.
Health Minister Lord Howe said:
We want international visitors to feel welcome to use the NHS, provided they pay for it — just as families in the UK do through their taxes, so we are making sure that overseas visitors and migrants pay for NHS healthcare and helping NHS staff to understand the charging system.
Applicants will need to pay the surcharge at the same time they make their immigration application to come to the UK, or to extend their stay, as part of a two stage online process.
The surcharge is one of the key reforms within the Immigration Act 2014. The Act is a landmark piece of legislation which builds on the government’s ongoing reforms to make sure the immigration system works in the national interest. The Act is focused on stopping illegal migrants using public services to which they are not entitled, reducing the pull factors which encourage people to come to the UK for the wrong reasons, and making it easier for the Home Office to remove people who should not be here. Further information on the surcharge is available here.