A recent surge of support from the UK public in favour of reducing the costly immigration health surcharge has pressured the UK government to review their fees.
The UK’s immigration health surcharge was set to be increased in October 2020 from £400 to £625 per year. This increase was included in the UK Budget announcement made by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, on 11 March.
“As things stand, UK immigrants are effectively required to pay twice: they are taxed in the UK to fund the National Health Service (NHS) and they are also forced to pay the immigration health surcharge before they even arrive in the region,” said Ryan Rennison, managing director of Move Up.
“A reduction in immigration health surcharge fees would dramatically reduce the financial pressure on families and individuals wanting to relocate to the UK, who also contribute to the economy almost immediately upon arrival,” added Rennison.
Commenting on the immigration health surcharge review in light of the COVID-19 global crisis, UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said that many changes have already been made regarding the UK immigration status and UK visa status of NHS workers, with a free extension for those whose visas were already coming up for expiry.
“We have a range of measures that are, like most things in government, under review, and we are looking at everything including visas, surcharge … We are looking at everything we can do to continue to support everyone on the frontline in the NHS,” Patel added.
An official statement from the Home Office said: “We are immensely grateful for the work NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics are doing to tackle coronavirus, and this is why we applied a one-year visa extension to all those whose visas are due to expire before 1 October 2020 – this is completely free of charge and includes an exemption from the immigration health surcharge.
“We are hoping the Home Secretary applies any immigration health surcharge reductions beyond just foreign NHS workers to include all UK immigrants. Move Up will continue to monitor the situation in order to advise our clients and the public of any immigration health surcharge reductions granted by the Home Office,” concluded Rennison.
30-Day Visa Relief
South Africans who were not able to complete their move to the United Kingdom (UK) due to the global COVID-19 crisis may renew their 30-day visa free of charge until the end of 2020, according to the UK government’s website on immigration during the COVID-19 crisis.
According to Move Up, once a settlement visa for work, study or joining family in the UK has been issued, the applicant is issued a special visa giving them just 30 days to enter the UK and collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) – a document issued by the Home Office which shows evidence of the holder’s immigration permissions.
A UK government online announcement said that those wanting to renew and revise the dates of their 30-day visas must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre by emailing CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk to log their request with their name, nationality, date of birth and their unique GWF application number. Furthermore, they will not be penalised for having failed to collect their BRP in the allotted time.
“This news will be a welcome relief for cash-strapped South Africans unexpectedly caught in SA during the quarantine period and who have dedicated the lion’s share of their resources to moving to the UK,” added Rennison.
Reopening of UK Visa Application Centres
According to Move Up, here are the services South Africans wanting to visit or relocate to the UK can expect to come back online, according to each level of lockdown:
The South African Home Affairs office will be offering essential services only. At present they can process new copies of birth certificates. Their operating hours are from 10am to 2 pm – Monday to Friday. First-time issue of passports and passport renewals are excluded at this time.
Visa representatives remain active during lockdown, assisting the public with preparing visa applications to be lodged when certain lockdown parameters are lifted.
Move Up speculates that SA Home Affairs will be able to handle passport renewals, while visa representative companies will return to their offices.
Move Up expects that the UK’s visa agency, Teleperformance, will reopen and be able to receive visa applications again, as well as return past applications and passports submitted. Teleperformance physically handles SA passports and supporting documents and interacts with the South African public on the British government’s behalf.
We are unable to predict the British government’s UK-based operations, or their availability, at this stage. Airlines will remain closed at this point.
International flights will be permitted again.
Visa applications submitted during Level 3 will not be granted new entry dates – applicants may have to reapply for new visas should their entry dates no longer be valid, with the exception of the 30-day UK visa.