Students from outside the European Economic Area (the EU and some associated European states) are to be charged £150 a year to gain access to the NHS across the UK. Non-student temporary migrants will be charged £200 annually, on top of existing visa charges.
The health surcharge’s scheme will be implemented next year, as part of the Coalition Government’s Immigration Act 2014. The NHS fee is meant to contribute to the fight against “health tourism”.
The Immigration Act was given Royal Assent in May, and it was recently announced that the health surcharge is expected to be implemented in April 2015.
On top of the health surcharge, new immigrant regulations will require landowners to scrutinise foreign tenants more closely, making renting a flat more complicated for non-EEA students.
The Scottish Government has previously commented on the Immigration Act’s health surcharge, stating: “The Home Office has constantly argued that the health surcharge is for immigration rather than health purposes, despite the Scottish Government’s protestations in 2013 and at the beginning of 2014 that it impinges on Scottish health competency.”
Marco Biagi, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and deputy convener of the Equal Opportunities Committee, has previously brought up the issue in the Scottish Parliament.
He told The Student: “This UK Government is pursuing a dangerous strategy of hanging a ‘No Vacancies’ sign on Britain’s door.
“It’s bad for the universities that depend on international staff and students, it’s bad for spouses increasingly unable to move to the UK to live with their partner, and it’s bad for relations between the different ethnicities and nationalities who already live here.
“The health levy is the latest way of signalling to people who want to come here that they should consider themselves unwelcome.
“And, by charging for the NHS as part of the visa and immigration process, the UK Government has swerved what is supposed to be a constitutional truth – that it is the right of the Scottish Parliament to decide how Scotland’s NHS is governed.”
Conservative MP Mike Harper, currently UK Minister for Disabled People, was Immigration Minister while the Immigration Bill was being constructed, before his resignation in February.
He stated: “The government is building a fairer immigration system which addresses the concerns of hardworking people.
“The Immigration Bill will tighten immigration law, strengthen our enforcement and clamp down on those from overseas who try to abuse our public services.
“We have been clear that the UK has a national health service, not an international health service. These proposals will ensure that migrants here temporarily make a fair contribution to the cost of health series in the UK.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) warned: “These changes will impact on international students more than any others as they make up 75 per cent of of those subject to visa controls.
“Of those subject to visa controls they are already the most heavily regulated, monitored and pay the most into the UK economy for the duration of their stay.
“We believe that the introduction of healthcare charges is discriminatory, counter-intuitive and impractical.
“We think this gives a message that international students are not welcome in the UK and will mean more students will choose to study elsewhere.”
International students already studying in the UK will not be charged next year’s £150 health surcharge.