UK Budget proposes plans to combat financial crisis due to COVID-19

UK Budget proposes plans to combat financial crisis due to COVID-19

The UK Budget has proposed financial plans to help combat the financial crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday 11th of March 2020, Rishi Sunak announced the UK Budget which contained a decision to increase the International Health Surcharge (IHS). 

The document proposed to:

‘To ensure that new arrivals to the UK contribute to the funding of the NHS, the Immigration Health Surcharge will be increased to £624. The government will also introduce a new discounted rate of £470 for children in recognition of the increased financial impact on family groups.’

The Immigration Health Surcharge Amendment Order 2020 states an increase from the original fee of £250 to £400 to £624 as formerly introduced by the Immigration Health Surcharge Order 2015. This law reform in the National Health Surcharge for visa applicants in the United Kingdom will commence from the 27th of October 2020.

‘The Secretary of State makes the following Order in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 38(1) and (3) and 74(8) of the Immigration Act 2014(1).

In accordance with section 38(4) of that Act, in specifying the amount of the charge under section 38(3)(b) of the Act, the Secretary of State has (among other matters) had regard to the range of health services which are likely to be available free of charge to persons who have been given immigration permission.’

In December 2019 the introduction of the Coronavirus pandemic heavily impacted the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, therefore one could view the increase in fees as a measure to compensate the National Health Service after the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, it increases the financial burden on immigrants who already have to pay thousands for their application. Overall, it has toughened immigration control in a climate of financial loss to all those suffering from the impact of COVID-19. 

Although there are several exceptions to this legislation, such as those on visitor visas or indefinite leave to remain, asylum seekers, victims of domestic abuse, diplomats and others it undeniably is a controversial piece of legislation.  The exceptions for those applying for the New Health Care visa is a generous immunity in addition to the reduced fees for Tier 4 General Student Visas, Tier 5 Mobility visas or applicants who are under the age of 18 at the date of the visa application.

I believe the IHS fees increase implementation has arrived amid a global pandemic which has already greatly affected migrants who do not have recourse to public funds which in turn targets the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, this is unfair and unjust.

By Rudaba Shah

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