The Home Office's headquarters in Lunar House, Croydon.

Manifesto pledges to ensure the health surcharge covers “the full cost of use”

The Conservative Party has pledged to raise the health surcharge for new migrants to £625 in its manifesto.

In a section of the manifesto entitled “Contributing to our country”, the Conservatives pledged: “We will require new arrivals to contribute to the funding of the NHS and will increase the health surcharge to ensure it covers the full cost of use.”

Migrants who require a visa currently pay an Immigration Health Surcharge in order to access the NHS. The surcharge was introduced under the 2014 Immigration Act and doubled in January 2019 to £300 per year for students and those on youth mobility visas. All other migrants now pay £400 per year.

Riddi Viswanathan, a former international student who now works in the UK, said the proposal to raise the surcharge was not “fair”.

“Migrants contribute immensely to the economy of Britain through taxes and international students through the exorbitant fees they pay to institutions,” she said.

The Conservatives propose to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge to £625 which they say is the average cost to the NHS incurred by work, study and family visa holders. Migrants from the EU will also be required to pay this surcharge after Brexit.

The British Medical Association (BMA) represents doctors in the UK and has criticised the move to raise the health surcharge amid fears it would worsen the staffing shortage in the NHS.

In a statement, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that raising the surcharge would undermine the Conservatives’ plan to increase NHS recruitment from abroad. He said their proposed NHS visa to encourage immigration by medical professionals was a “positive move” but added that it “did not go far enough”. Instead, he called for an end to visa fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge.

“At a time of an acute workforce shortage in the NHS, we need to welcome our doctors from overseas, not penalise them by making them pay to use the NHS they work in,” he said.

“The fact that this party wants to increase the health surcharge fee adds insult to injury.”

The Labour Party have pledged to scrap the 2014 Immigration Act, effectively doing away with the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Riddi welcomed the Labour Party’s pledge saying that the Immigration Health Surcharge not only increased the hostility of the immigration system, but made it look like the UK was “rinsing off the pockets of migrants.”