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When applying for a UK visa that is granted for longer than six months, you have to pay what is called the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This must be paid upfront for the entire duration of your visa. The UK government will be increasing the IHS in January 2024. This, along with the already raised visa fees will significantly increase the cost of immigrating to the UK.
How does the surcharge system work?
The IHS allows you access to the National Health Service (NHS) while you’re living in the UK. You won’t have to pay to see a doctor or visit a hospital. However, there may be additional charges for certain consultations and hospital visits. This will depend on your individual circumstances and medical needs.
Increase to the IHS fee
On 13 July 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that there would be an increase to the IHS fees. For most visas, the fee will increase from £624 to £1,035 per person per year – a massive 66% increase. The fee for children under 18, students, their dependants and Youth Mobility Scheme applicants will increase from £470 to £776 per year.
For example, this means that when the fee increase comes into effect, the IHS fee for a spouse visa will go from £1,872 to a whopping £3,105, while the IHS fee for a four-year Student visa will increase from £1,880 to £3,104.
The increase will come into force on 16 January 2024.
In addition to the IHS fee increase, on 4 October 2023, the UK government increased all headline fees by 15%, family visa, settlement and citizenship fees by 20%, and Student visa fees by 35%.
If you are on the fence about immigrating to the UK, now would be the best time to get those applications in.
The most popular UK visas for South Africans
UK Ancestry visa
The UK Ancestry visa allows Commonwealth citizens over the age of 17 with a UK-born grandparent to live, work and study in the UK for up to five years. After five years of continuous residence, you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which is UK permanent residency. This allows you to live and work in the country without any time restrictions. Once you have held ILR for at least 12 months, you may be eligible to apply for British citizenship.
UK spouse/partner visa
You can apply for for a spouse visa if you are married to a UK citizen or someone with settled status. Unmarried partners can also apply as long as you can show that you’ve been living with the UK citizen or settled person and have been in a genuine relationship for at least two years.
The spouse visa is initially granted for 33 months, with the possibility of extending it for another two and a half years. This visa leads to eventual permanent residency. After you have spent five continuous years in the UK on this visa, you will be able to apply for ILR and eventually British citizenship if you meet all the other requirements.
UK Student visa
The UK Student visa allows international students to further their studies at one of the UK’s world-class institutions. Graduating from a UK university can make you very attractive to both UK and other international employers.
The UK Student visa allows you to live and study in the UK for the duration of your course at an educational institution that is licensed to accept international students. It does not lead directly to settlement, but it can pave the way in the long term through the Graduate visa.
Skilled Worker visa
The Skilled Worker visa is for individuals who have had a job offer from a qualified UK employer. This is a points-based visa and you will need to score 70 points based on factors such as your job offer, skill level and English language knowledge. Some of the requirements are “tradable”. For example, applicants for certain jobs don’t need to meet the salary threshold if they have a higher level of education or if the job is in a shortage occupation.
This visa category allows you to live and work in the UK for up to five years, with the possibility of extending the visa and eventually applying for citizenship.
Sable International’s immigration advisers to discuss your next steps. They stay up to date with all UK immigration laws and have in-depth knowledge of the visa process.
You can get in touch with them at [email protected] or give them a call on +27 (0) 21 657 2180