Foreign workers especially health workers (like nurses) living in the UK who are from non-European Economic Area countries (EEA) are affected by a British health tax called the immigration health surcharge (IHS). Workers and their dependents are required to pay £200 each annually for the tax.
Figures show that one in eight NHS England staff are not British nationals, and people from a total of 201 foreign nationalities work for NHS England but the top 5 non-EEA nationalities are Indian, Filipino, Nigerian, Zimbabwean, Pakistani.
Ken (not his real name) from Kenya is one of the many migrant health workers who is affected by the health tax.
He wants his twin children (who remain in Kenya) to move to the UK with him but he is required have £2,185 in his account for three months before he can apply to bring his twins into the country – on top of the £400 he will need for their health tax.
Back in 2015, the health tax was introduced in order to discourage health tourism and to increase funding the NHS which has been struggling financially in recent years. In 2017, the yearly fee doubled from £200 to £400. Students have a discounted rate of £300 which used to be £150.
Last month at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) annual conference, union representatives unanimously voted to urge the UK government to waive the fee on work permits for nurses and their dependents.
“Nursing staff are increasingly caring for sicker patients with multiple long-term conditions,” says Janet Davies, general secretary of the RCN.
“This demands safe staffing levels and the right specialist skills. Yet as patients get sicker, the number of nurses continues to decline, due to years of cost-cutting and poor workforce planning.”
A Home Office spokesperson emphasized that the government was aware of the “contribution” made by international professionals “to the UK and to our health service”.
The spokesperson added the surcharge offered access to healthcare that was “far more comprehensive and at a much lower cost than many other countries”.