Opinion: It’s Time To Waive The UK’s Immigration Health Surcharge

Temporary residents from Canada, Australia and New Zealand are subject to paying high fees in the UK under the Immigration Health Surcharge. It’s time for the British government to offer preferential treatment for these citizens by waiving the fee under a CANZUK agreement.

It’s time that the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge was scrapped for CANZUK citizens
Written by James Skinner
 
James is the Founder & Chief Executive of CANZUK International in Toronto, Canada

                

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) was introduced in the UK in 2015, and was designed for those entering the UK for six months or longer to fund the cost of their healthcare.

The reasons for its introduction were simple. Studies had demonstrated that the National Health Service (NHS) was incurring costs of up to £200 million per year because of medical tourists using its “free-at-the-point-of-care” services.

With a surcharge applying to all those entering the UK for longer periods of time, such costs could be recovered and thereby save the tax payer footing the bill.

However, what has happened is hard-working Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, who have the right to live and work in the UK, are paying extortionate fees for healthcare when no such fees are applied to UK citizens in their home countries.


The policy could obtain some forgiveness if the fees were minimal; perhaps $100 or $200 per year. However, payments due are enough to deter those from CANZUK countries seeking employment in the UK, regardless of whether they actually use the NHS or not.

According to the UK government’s website, a Canadian, Australian or New Zealander entering the UK for six months or longer must pay £470 per year for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa (£940 for a 2-year visa), and £624 per year for other visas which they may qualify for. For example, if a Canadian resident qualifies for a 5-year visa, this would equal £3,120 (or CAD $5,292 at time of writing).

The UK’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world, and many will justify the surcharge on the grounds of the NHS’s quality. However, numerous exemptions to this fee apply. Those who are part of the UK’s Armed Forces, along with those applying for the EU Settlement Scheme, can waive the fee and reside in the UK without any payments due.

Because exemptions apply, it is time for the UK government to add residents of Canada, Australia and New Zealand to the list.

Not only can the British government encourage more hard-working and like-minded citizens from across the CANZUK countries into the UK, but a fee waiver will save residents of these countries thousands of dollars and demonstrate preferential treatment for our closest friends and allies in the Commonwealth.

With trade agreements already reached between the UK government and the governments of Australia and New Zealand (with Canada to shortly follow suit), a fee waiver for the IHS can be negotiated in the coming months to compliment these agreements and supplement free trade and freer movement of citizens between these countries.

As a gesture of goodwill and a compliment to the comprehensive trade agreements reached in previous months, it’s time for the British government to offer citizens of Canada, Australia and New Zealand a welcoming gift as they enter the United Kingdom and waive the Immigration Health Surcharge.

         
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