UK Visa Fees, Health Surcharge To Go Up Significantly: Rishi Sunak

The increase in the fees and health surcharge will go towards meeting the rise in the country's public sector wage, the UK Prime Minister said.

UK Visa Fees, Health Surcharge To Go Up Significantly: Rishi Sunak

The move will affect Indians as well. (File)


The fees and health surcharge paid towards the UK's state-funded National Health Service (NHS) by visa applicants from around the world, including Indians, are set to rise "significantly" to meet the country's public sector wage increase, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Thursday.

The British Indian leader, who was under pressure to accept the recommendation of an independent review of pay for teachers, police, junior doctors and other public sector workers, confirmed a hike between 5 and 7 per cent across the board.

However, he stressed that this would not be met with higher government borrowing for fear of further stoking high inflation and therefore the costs would need to be found elsewhere.

"If we're going to prioritise paying public sector workers more, that money has to come from somewhere else because I'm not prepared to put up people's taxes and I don't think it would be responsible or right to borrow more because that would just make inflation worse," Mr Sunak told reporters at a Downing Street press conference.

"So, what we have done are two things to find this money. The first is, we are going to increase the charges that we have for migrants who are coming to this country when they apply for visas and indeed something called the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which is the levy that they pay to access the NHS," he said.

"All of those fees are going to go up and that will raise over GBP 1 billion, so across the board visa application fees are going to go up significantly and similarly for the IHS," he added.

Mr Sunak reiterated this was "entirely right" as these fees have not been increased recently and the government believes it is appropriate given that the costs have risen since the last hike.

The second action to meet the country's higher wage bill is about asking government departments to "reprioritise".

He insisted this would not mean cuts to jobs and services but a re-focusing on different priorities.

The IHS, which applies to long-term migrants to the UK including a discounted rate for students, starts from around GBP 470 for a year and rises to thousands of pounds for multiple-year visa applications.
The full details of which categories of visas will face hikes and when the new higher rates come into force are expected to be laid out by the UK Home Office in the coming months.

The Sunak-led Conservative Party government has been under intense pressure with disputes over the public sector pay, leading to a series of strikes over the past year hitting schools and hospitals.

In fact, junior doctors in England began yet another five-day strike on Thursday after their demands for a 35 per cent pay hike were rejected.

In his wage announcement, Mr Sunak warned that his offer was "final" and further industrial action would not change that decision.

"There will be no more talks on pay. We will not negotiate again on this year's settlements and no amount of strikes will change our decision. Instead, the settlement we've reached today gives us a fair way to end the strikes. A fair deal for workers and a fair deal for the British taxpayer," he declared.

He welcomed teachers' unions expressing their backing, saying the government's offer will allow teachers and school leaders to call off their strike action and resume normal relations. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)