Associate Harry Yu delves into the impending increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) in January 2024, the potential impact and how to mitigate the effects.
Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
The IHS fee has been part of the UK immigration regime since 2015. It is a mandatory fee which is paid as part of a UK visa application for most visa routes (including work visas, spouse visas, student visas, etc.) where one is applying for leave of more than six months.
The rationale behind the fee is that applicants need to make “fair contributions to the comprehensive range of NHS services available to them during their stay”. Applicants cannot opt out of the IHS fee, even if they intend on using private medical services in the UK.
There are some routes where an IHS exemption is available. These include:
- those applying for Health and Care Worker visas;
- those applying under the EU settlement scheme;
- and members/family of the Armed Forces etc.
How much will IHS increase by on 16 January 2024?
Current fees (per year)
Fees on 16 January 2024 (per year)
Difference (per year)
Students / children / youth mobility visa applicants
To illustrate what this means in practice, a family of four (i.e. main applicant, their partner, and two dependent children), who are applying for a five-year Skilled Worker/Dependant visa for example, will need to pay an additional £7,170 on their IHS bill.
Impact of the IHS increase on businesses
For many businesses in the UK, this may have the following effect:
- the recruitment pool from abroad will shrink as prospective employees will find the visa fees prohibitively expensive; or
- the cost of foreign recruitment for the business will increase (i.e. if the business chooses to cover the prospective employees’ immigration fees including IHS).
How can you mitigate the effects of the IHS increase?
If you are a business sponsoring or looking to sponsor migrant employees:
- we recommend reviewing your recruitment plans and, where possible, to submit any visa applications for your workers prior to 16 January 2024 in order to benefit from the current lower IHS rate. This may include any extension visa applications where leave is due to expire imminently;
- if any of your workers will be joined by their partners and/or dependent children, then similarly, you should aim to submit their visa applications prior to 16 January 2024;
- if you are/will be paying for your employee’s visa fees (including IHS), you may wish to consider revising any prospective employment contracts to include a visa fees clawback clause should you wish to recover fees from a migrant worker in the event they leave their job during the period of sponsorship.