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Effects of Recent UK Visa & IHS Fee Increases on International Students

Olusegun Akinfenwa

To meet public sector needs, the UK has announced substantial increases in visa and IHS fees. While the changes is potentially beneficial for public sector workers, it poses a considerable financial burden on international students. It’s a critical time for both current and prospective students, as these measures could cast a shadow over their academic and career aspirations in the UK.

International students who wish to study in the UK must first obtain a visa. As part of the application process, they must also pay an immigration health surcharge (IHS) to access the National Health Service (NHS), government-funded healthcare services for UK residents. These processes sometimes cost over a thousand pounds depending on course length. Recently, the UK government released a statement to increase the cost of visa applications and the IHS fee. According to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, this decision will help balance the country’s economic needs and the demands of the public sector workers.

Looking at the wider picture, the visa and IHS fees increase form part of the UK government’s plan to raise up to £1 billion to fund the 6 to 6.5% proposed pay raise of public sector workers. From that angle, it spells well for the UK economy. However, from a foreign student’s perspective, this fee increase will have significant effects.

Overview of the New Changes for Immigration health surcharge fee and student visas

For most visa categories, people coming into the UK pay £625 per year as the IHS fee. The fee is discounted for students at £470. Following the increase, visa applicants in most categories will pay £1,035 per year, while students will pay £776. That’s about a 66% increase, and the fee is non-refundable, as applicants pay ahead.

The increase in UK student visa processing fees is lesser than the IHS, but it is still significant. It’s unclear what the exact percentage will be, but reports suggest a 15% increase for work visas and 20% for others. Application for a short-term study visa costs £200; with a 20% increase, the new fee will be around £240. Similarly, the new price is projected at around £435 for a long-term study visa from the current £363.

Implications for International Students

International students in the UK will need to make significant financial adjustments to accommodate the new fee increases. Currently, an international student will pay £1,880 in total as IHS fees for four years in the UK. But with the new changes, that will require up to £3,100 in IHS fees alone. After studies, the cost is even higher at the post-study work application stage since they no longer pay the discounted rate.

As stated, the IHS fee will increase to £1,035 per year in most visa categories. That also includes the Graduate visa, which most international students will apply for after their studies. For two years, the IHS fee is £2,070, and the application for a Graduate visa, which currently costs £715, is expected to increase to around £822. In other words, students will pay up to £2,890 from £1,963.

In other words, international students will pay up to £2,890 from £1,963

Many international students in the UK bring dependent family members who also need to pay the IHS surcharge. For instance, a student with three dependents (a spouse and children) could pay over £7,000 in IHS fees. Furthermore, the UK government is also increasing the cost of applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). So, students who wish to stay permanently in the UK will have to factor that in. The current £2,404 application cost is expected to increase by 20% to around £2,884. Adding up all visa application and renewal fees from the university enrolment stage to ILR status could be up to £15,000.

Challenges and Wider Ramifications

Many international students could face financial difficulties following the increased visa and IHS fees. Some may have to apply without their family members in order to save costs, and this could pose emotional problems for spending an extended duration without their loved ones. The fee increase could also reduce the number of student visa applicants. In the long run, this can affect UK schools’ cultural and academic diversity. The employability of international graduates is also at risk. The higher cost of Graduate visas — and skilled worker’s visas, too — means employers will spend more sponsoring foreign workers. Another consequence is that more students may start leaving the UK after completing their studies, which means a loss of talent and skills for the country’s economy.

Conclusion: Navigating the New Changes on visa applications and IHS fees

International students in the UK can employ a few strategies to lessen the negative effects of the increased visa application and IHS fees. For prospective students who are yet to begin their visa application, adequate planning is of the essence. They should consider all costs that come with studying in the UK. Besides the visa processing fee, health surcharge, and tuition, others like travel costs, feeding, and accommodation are also paramount. For students staying in the UK on a long-term study visa, there’s the option of part-time employment. UK laws allow students to work for 10 to 20 hours each week when school is in session and full-time during holidays. Furthermore, students may also find scholarships and grants to help with their expenses.

Olusegun Akinfenwa writes for Immigration Advice Service.

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