Skip to content

Overseas students to be charged for healthcare

Overseas students will face even higher visa fees if proposals in the Government’s Immigration Bill go ahead.

The new fees will come in the form of a ‘migrant levy’ designed to cover part of the cost of providing healthcare services to migrants from outside the EU. Temporary migrants, including students, are currently entitled to NHS services on the same terms as UK citizens.

The Immigration Bill is mainly focused on making it harder for irregular migrants to remain in the UK. Proposals will allow immigration officials to deport migrants more quickly and reduce access to appeals. This includes a controversial ‘deport-first, appeal-later’ policy for some migrant groups. The Bill also introduces immigration status checks when opening bank accounts, applying for driving licences and renting property.

According to Home Secretary Theresa May the idea is to “create a really hostile environment for illegal migrants”. The Government has recently come under fire for related controversial measures, including billboards and text messages telling irregular immigrants to ‘go home’.

The detail of the new healthcare charges will be specified in secondary legislation, but could be between £200 and £500 per annum. The fees will be charged when a migrant applies to enter or remain in the country. Only migrants with indefinite leave to remain and other specific groups, such as asylum seekers, will be exempt.

The Government argues that the proposals will ensure everyone makes a fair contribution to services. However, there are no precise estimates of the existing costs and contributions of migrants. Those who come to the UK for the purpose of receiving NHS care are a key target group for the Government. This is despite all short term visitors from outside the EU – including health tourists – already being subject to charges for NHS care. ‘Health tourists’ have been variably estimated to cost the NHS between £10m and £200m per year – no more than 0.2% of the NHS budget.

Related proposals being considered apart from the Immigration Bill include extending charging at the point of care for migrants already in the UK. Several health professional associations have challenged the moves, fearing that people will avoid accessing services because they are unable to pay.

The Government expects the Immigration Bill will become law in Spring 2014.

Simon Popay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *