Immigration Health Surcharge extends to Australian and New Zealand nationals

The Home Office has today (4 February 2016) announced that, as of 6 April 2016, the Immigration Health Surcharge will be extended to Australian and New Zealand nationals who spend more than six months in the UK, or who are applying from within the UK to extend their stay.

In April 2015 the UK Government introduced an Immigration Health Surcharge to all non-EEA nationals, which at the time exempted Australian and New Zealand nationals. The changes will now mean that Australian and New Zealand nationals will no longer benefit from such an exemption and will be required to pay a £200 per annum surcharge as part of their visa application, in line with all other non-European nationals coming to the UK. New Zealand and Australian individuals aged between 18 and 30 will however benefit from a discounted rate of £150 per annum surcharge if they are applying to come to the UK on the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa, which will align the cost with the amount paid by students.

The Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire stated that:

“We believe it is only fair that Australian and New Zealand nationals, who have previously benefited from a one year exemption from the immigration health surcharge, will now contribute to our health service in the same way as other non-EEA nationals”.

However, the move has been widely criticised by the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, who has indicated that the change is in his opinion “chipping away of New Zealanders’ rights in the UK”. Mr Key went on to state that New Zealand and the UK “have had this relationship based on the history of our country and New Zealand being a British colony” and that he thought “charging Kiwis £150 if they’re over there for a bit longer as a surcharge, over and above the national health system, is pretty cheap and not really in keeping with the history of the two countries.

Non-EEA nationals that pay the NHS surcharge receive NHS care generally free of charge but are charged for services that a settled individual in the UK would also pay for, such as dental treatment and prescription charges in England.

The surcharge does not apply to any non-EEA national coming to the UK for six months or less, or to those who apply for a visitor visa, who continue to be fully liable for the cost of any NHS treatment at the point they receive it.

Nevertheless, due to reciprocal healthcare agreements with both countries, residents of Australia, and citizens of New Zealand who visit the UK will not be charged for treatment that cannot wait until they return home.