The Home Office has announced the introduction of a so-called Health Surcharge, effective April 6, 2015. This surcharge will apply, with some exceptions, to non-EEA nationals who will come to the UK to work, study or join family members for a limited period, but for more than 6 months. Foreign nationals already in the UK will be subject to the health surcharge when they apply to extend their stay.
Payment of the surcharge gives free access to healthcare services through the National Health Service (NHS), although additional payment might be needed for certain services that a permanent resident would also pay for (e.g. dental treatment, prescription charges).
According to the Home Office the type of health service provided by the NHS is comparable with that covered by private medical insurance in the UK. However, private insurance in certain circumstances may provide for preferential treatment, such as shorter waiting lists and sometimes higher levels of service. It should therefore be specifically noted that anyone choosing to be covered by private health insurance is not exempt from paying the surcharge.
Payment of the Surcharge
The surcharge is set at 200 GBP per year for employees and their accompanying family members, and at 150 GBP per year for students. It will need to be pre-paid for the whole duration of leave the applicant is applying for (e.g. the period of Certificate of Sponsorship), and needs to be paid before the visa application is filed. The Home Office will be launching a special website where applicants can first calculate the applicable amount and are then issued with a surcharge reference number, which is needed to make the payment and will need to be confirmed in the actual leave application.
If the leave application is rejected the payment will automatically be refunded. However, no refund will be provided in case leave has been approved and the applicant decides not to travel to the UK or to depart from the country before the end of the granted period of leave.
Exemptions from the Health Surcharge
There are two types of exemptions from the requirement to pay the Health Surcharge: Australian and New Zealand nationals are exempt from paying the surcharge, because they are entitled to some treatment on the NHS free of charge based on reciprocal healthcare agreements. In addition, applicants applying under Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) and their accompanying family members will also be exempt from paying the Health Surcharge, while continuing to have free access to the NHS.
Note that people exempt from paying the surcharge will still need to go to the Surcharge website to obtain a surcharge reference number, even though the surcharge amount will be zero.
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