Indians studying in the United Kingdom will now have to pay a fee to cover possible treatment under the country’s National Health Service. The payment, announced Friday, is part of a broader push to recoup some of the cost to the British taxpayer of migrant healthcare.
Indian and other migrants from outside the European Economic Area who stay in the U.K. for more than six months will have to pay £200 ($295) a year when they apply for a visa starting April 6. Students will have to pay £150. Those already in the U.K. from outside the EEA will also have to pay the new surcharge if they extend their stay.
India is the largest exporter of students to the U.K. after China and had 19,750 of its citizens enrolled there in higher education in the academic year 2013-14, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. But numbers have fallen sharply in recent years as visa rules have changed to make it more difficult for Indian students to work in the U.K. In 2009-10 for example, India had 38,500 students studying in U.K. universities, Hesa said.
The NHS is tax-funded and free at the point of use service. The government says that the new 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.”
International students cost the NHS around £430 million a year — over £700 a head — according to U.K. government figures. The surcharge for international students is 1% of the cost of studying in the U.K. for a three-year undergraduate course, the British government statement said.
“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,” British Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said in a statement on Friday.
Having paid the surcharge, those coming to live in the UK will have the same access to the NHS as a permanent resident of the U.K. The benefit will last the duration of their visa.
Here’s how the government says the new system will work, according to a statement from the British High Commission in Delhi on Friday.
1. The surcharge will come into effect on 6 April, 2015.
2. After completing the visa application form, paying the visa fee and booking a visa application center appointment on the Visa4UK website, applicants will be required to make their Health Surcharge payment if required. Applicants must pay the Health Surcharge prior to attending their visa application center appointment. UK Visas and Immigration will be unable to issue a visa to applicants required to pay the Health Surcharge if they have not paid. Further guidance will be published on thewww.GOV.uk website from 6 April 2015.
3. When an application is refused, rejected or withdrawn, the charge will be refunded.
4. The charge will be set at an annual rate. Affected migrants will pay, up front, an amount that covers the entire period of their permission to stay in the UK.
5. Dependents will generally pay the same amount as the main applicant.
6. Non-EEA nationals coming to the UK on a tourist visa will not pay the health surcharge as their treatment will be chargeable by the Department of Health. Additionally, the Department of Health is strengthening arrangements to ensure that those who are chargeable for NHS care are appropriately identified and charged for the healthcare they’ve received. The NHS shares debtor information with the Home Office and those who incur debts of £1,000 or more to the NHS will normally be refused permission to re-enter or remain in the UK.
7. Those coming to the UK on an intra-company transfer (ICT Tier 2 visa) will be exempt from the charges. In addition, nationals of Australia or New Zealand will not pay the surcharge due to reciprocal healthcare agreements. British Overseas Territories citizens resident in the Falklands Islands are also exempt, in line with our commitments to the Islands. However exempt groups will still need to log onto the surcharge website to confirm that they are exempt and receive a reference number prior to attending their appointment at the Visa Application Center. They will need this reference number to apply for they visa and UK Visas and Immigration will be unable to issue a visa to applicants who do not have it.
8. Certain vulnerable groups will be exempt from the surcharge and will continue to receive free NHS care. These include the following:
• Children in local authority care.
• Migrants making an application for asylum, humanitarian protection, or a claim that their removal from the United Kingdom would be contrary to article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
• A person applying for leave to remain relating to their identification as a victim of human trafficking.
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New U.K. Student Visa Charges for Indians: What to Know
Posted on March 26, 2015