On 13 July 2023 the UK Government published details of proposals to significantly increase the costs of the Immigration Health Surcharge (an increase of almost 66% in some cases). At the same time, it announced considerable increases to visa application fees which are due to be implemented and may make it more expensive for employers to sponsor an employee to work in the UK depending on what costs they pick up.

These changes are outlined below in addition to some further changes to the immigration rules published on 17 July 2023.

What will the Immigration Health Surcharge increase to?

The Immigration Health Surcharge is paid as part of the visa application process in return for migrant workers being able to access the NHS. Some applications are exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge (such as for visas under six months if the applicant is applying from outside the UK).

The table below sets out the current costs and the increases announced by the UK Government:

Current costIncreased cost
  • £624 for each adult per year of the visa (which is paid upfront depending on the length of the visa)
  • £1,035 for each adult per year of the visa.
  • £470 per year for a child under 18 and there is a discounted amount payable for students or those who have a Youth Mobility visa.
  • £776 per year for a child under 18 and for students.

The increased costs mean that if a visa holder wants to apply for a five year visa (along with a partner and two children under the age of 18) the cost will increase to £18,110 for the family (up from £10,350) which is a very significant increase.

Employers are not obliged to pay the costs of the Immigration Health Surcharge - they can ask the employee to pay the costs. However, some employers do have a policy of picking up these costs in which case the impact of these increases may be significant.

Some visa applicants who can apply before the changes take effect, may wish to consider doing so. The exact timing of the cost increase is not yet known.

What other changes to visa application fees are likely?

The UK Government has also announced that work and visit visa application costs are likely to increase by 15%. In addition, the costs of Certificates of Sponsorship, leave to remain and study visas are likely to increase by at least 20%. The exact details of the new fees and the date on which they will take effect are yet to be published.

Further changes to the immigration rules

A number of additional immigration rule changes have been announced in a Statement of Changes published on 17 July 2023.

Changes to the Shortage Occupation List

The Shortage Occupation List offers lower salary requirements and lower visa application fees for jobs identified as being in shortage in the UK. Following recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), certain construction and fishing sector jobs are being added to the list from 7 August 2023. A review of the list has been undertaken so further changes to this list may be announced in due course.

Changes impacting International Students

There will be three key changes impacting international students which take effect from 17 July 2023:

  • The right for international students to bring dependants with them to the UK will be removed unless their course is a PhD, other doctoral qualification or a research based higher degree. This applies to those students whose course start date is from 1 January 2024 onwards.
  • International students will not be able to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed. Students on courses at degree level or above will be able to apply before course completion to switch to sponsored work routes, as long as their employment start date is not before their course completion. Those studying towards PhDs will be able to switch after 24 months’ study.
  • International students will also no longer be able to switch into becoming a dependant in (i) a work route (such as Skilled Worker, Senior or Specialist Worker, Graduate Trainee, Global Talent etc), (ii) in a Temporary Worker route or (iii) in the UK Ancestry route before their studies have been completed (if they are studying degree level or above). Those studying towards PhDs will be able to switch after 24 months' study.

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) changes

A number of changes are being made to the EUSS from 9 August 2023. It will close to (i) certain family members of a qualifying British citizen on their return to the UK who has exercised free movement rights in the EEA or Switzerland (known as Surinder Singh cases); and (ii) those applying as the primary carer of a British citizen (known as Zambrano cases).

There will be an additional change to implement the decision of the Court in the case of Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements v the Secretary of State for the Home Department in December 2022. This case found that the right to reside in the UK of someone who had been granted pre-settled status does not expire just because they have failed to make a second application to the EUSS (to upgrade their status to settled status). The Secretary of State will make arrangements for pre-settled status to be automatically extended in relevant cases.

Extension of the Ukraine Extension Scheme

A minor change has been made to the Ukraine Extension Scheme. This enables Ukrainian nationals who held permission to enter or stay in the UK on 18 March 2022 (or who held permission which expired on or after 1 January 2022) to continue their stay in the UK. The scheme will be extended to allow those who obtain permission to enter or stay in the UK between 18 March 2022 and 16 November 2023 to obtain 36 months permission to stay in the UK. The deadline for applying under the scheme is extended to 16 May 2024.

More information

For further detail on any of these changes please contact Elaine McIlroy or Erin McLafferty from Brodies Employment and Immigration team.