Visa and NHS charges set to rise amid concerns over immigration impact
The cost of most visa and British citizenship applications will increase by 15 to 20 per cent next week
Families are helped ashore by the RNLI after being rescued in the English Channel by the RNLI on August 16, 2023 in Dungeness, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
GOVERNMENT is set to increase visa fees and immigration health surcharges for migrants in a move aimed at generating additional revenue. However, a minister has expressed concerns that these increases may not effectively reduce record-high levels of immigration, reported The Times.
From October 4, the cost of most visa and British citizenship applications will surge by 15 to 20 per cent. Furthermore, the immigration health surcharge will experience a substantial 66 per cent increase, reaching £1,035 annually by 2024.
An analysis of these changes revealed that the Home Office stands to profit by nearly £3,000 per application.
The additional revenue generated from visa applications is intended to offset the growing expenses incurred due to an influx of migrants arriving in the UK via small boats, as well as the increasing backlog of asylum cases, which is currently at a record high.
While the immigration health surcharge increase was initially designed to fund higher salaries for NHS staff, ministers have stated that both the health surcharge and visa fee hikes are part of their strategy to reduce net migration, which reached a record 606,000 individuals last year.
Immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, asserted that the health surcharge increase, which migrants must pay annually to access the NHS, will contribute to the Home Office’s efforts to curb immigration.
According to the New Conservatives group, raising the immigration health surcharge to £2,700 per person per year, quadrupling its current rate, is one of several measures to return net migration to 2019 levels of about 226,000.
However, Universities minister, Robert Halfon has expressed skepticism about the potential impact of these fee increases on immigration levels.
He argued that government visa fees are globally competitive, and there is limited evidence to suggest that fee hikes have significantly affected demand in areas such as work, study, and tourism routes.
Critics have voiced concerns about the financial burden these changes will place on migrants and their families.
The Wellcome Sanger Institute, a genomics research organisation, has criticised the government’s decision to increase fees, stating that it is “deeply concerned” about the proposals.
The institute and its staff spent over £300,000 on immigration charges last year and anticipate that the changes will increase overall costs by at least 50 per cent.
“Even for those with a PhD working in a recognised ‘shortage occupation’, or endorsed as ‘global talent’, it already costs a family of four around £10,000 in visa costs to move to the UK for up to three years, and the immigration health surcharge must be paid upfront for all family members. This represents a double tax for these individuals who will already be paying for the NHS through their income tax,” Sarion Bowers, Sanger’s head of policy, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
In addition to visa fee hikes, the cost of naturalisation applications, which grant successful applicants British citizenship, will also rise from £1,250 to £1,500. The Home Office’s estimated processing cost per application is £505, resulting in a profit of £995 per application.
The government contends that the increases are necessary to ensure the sustainable funding of the UK’s migration and borders system.
Visa application fees generated £1.9 billion in revenue last year, while the total cost of the migration and borders system amounted to £4.8 billion during the same period, with £3 billion allocated to asylum costs, double the previous year’s expenditure.
A Home Office spokesperson emphasised that individuals who use the immigration system extensively should contribute to its operational costs, reducing the burden on UK taxpayers.