The United Kingdom’s decision to double the health surcharge has come as a shock to long-term visitors and expat students in the country. While there is a lot of buzz around the issue, let’s get to the basics first.
The move to double the surcharge comes in order to raise additional funds for the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), which provides the residents and expats with quality health services. The surcharge is paid by all visitors from outside the EU seeking to live in the UK for six months or more to work, study or join their family members. Individuals who pay this amount get access to comprehensive healthcare services in the same way as a UK resident. The healthcare facilities can be availed until the visa expires
The surcharge, introduced in April 2015, will rise from 200 pounds to 400 pounds per year, with the discounted rate for students increased from 150 pounds to 300 pounds. Let’s take a look at how this payment stands against the cost of treatment or medical services availed. On an average, the government spends approximately ￡470 to treat an expat. The income generated from the surcharge will go directly to the NHS where it will be utilized to protect and support the healthcare system.
The imminent hike in health surcharge is a challenge for several international students as most of them struggle to balance their educational and personal expenses. Paying double the amount of health surcharge along with the high cost of living is going to hit expats and international students quite hard.
The reason for the hike is the long-term sustainability of the NHS. The revised surcharge will come into effect at the end of 2018. According to the UK government, taking a high surcharge amount will help the NHS maintain the quality of healthcare services. With this move, the UK government will be able to push an extra 220 million pounds a year towards strengthening the NHS. Amidst all this buzz around the hike in the surcharge, one should remember that it is not related to emergency care. The NHS provides assistance to people in need, irrespective of their immigration status.
Another important thing to know is who are exempted from paying this surcharge. Any student who is applying for entry clearance for less than six months, and academic visitors planning to stay in the UK for up to 12 months or even over six months do not have to pay the surcharge. The amount has to be paid before you submit or send your visa or immigration application. Once the amount is paid, you will receive a health surcharge reference number along with an email and need to mention it on the cover of your visa application. It’s not going to be easy for those international academicians, migrants, and visitors after the plan is in effect and the UK government may have to face the repercussions of this move.