Impact of UK visa & IHS fee hikes on international students

“A four-year course student will have to budget up to £3,100 for the IHS surcharge alone in the UK – a significant difference from the current £1,880”

The UK has always been a dream leading destination for many students in different parts of the world. Every year, thousands of international students apply to UK institutions, and besides securing admission, they also need to obtain a student visa.

Generally, anyone travelling to reside in the UK for an extended period must pay an immigration health surcharge, an upfront fee paid to access the National Health Service, the government-funded medical and healthcare services for residents in the UK. So, that’s an additional mandatory expense to cover. How much an international student will pay for visa application and IHS surcharge, depend on their study duration.

The UK government recently announced plans to increase the cost of visa applications and IHS surcharge.

This follows the decision to generate up to a billion pounds for public sector workers, as the government aims to increase their pay by 6 to 6.5%.

A statement from the UK chief secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, suggests this decision was made to balance the country’s economy. However, increasing visa and IHS fees means higher expenses for applicants of student visas, among other categories.

Reviewing the New Changes

Currently, IHS is £625 per year for most visa categories, but for international students, the fee is discounted at £470 for a UK study visa. The recent news suggests around a 66% increase in IHS annual surcharge. That means the regular IHS fee goes up from £625 to £1,035. International students will pay £776 each year.

Though the visa application fee hike is lower than IHS, it is significant at the proposed 20% increase. At the moment, students coming to the UK to study short-term pay £200, while those for long-term pay £363 for the visa application.

A 20% increase means short-term study visa applicants will now pay around £240, while long-term applicants will pay around £435.

Effects on international students

With the visa and IHS fee increases, coming to the UK will demand more financial planning from international students, as the overall cost throughout their studies will be much higher than before. For instance, a four-year course student will have to budget up to £3,100 for the IHS surcharge alone – a significant difference from the current £1,880.

The UK government has always expressed its desire to encourage overseas students to stay and work in the country after their studies. This necessitated the implementation of the two-year post-study graduate visa.

With the new hike, however, accessing this route will now be more expensive, especially since IHS and visa fee aren’t discounted for this category. IHS surcharge will increase to £1,035 per year for many visa categories, including the Graduate Visa.

With the fee changes, graduates who choose to remain will pay up to £2,070 as an IHS surcharge. Still, there’s the visa application fee to factor in. The cost is £715 at the moment and will be £822 with the projected prices.

Hence, an international student will pay around £2,890 to stay in the UK after graduating, compared to the current £1,963.

In addition, certain categories of foreign students are in the UK with their dependents (usually spouses and children), who are also required to pay visa application fees and the IHS surcharge for a student with three dependents in the UK. The total cost of the IHS surcharge for the family could be over £7,000.

Another aspect worth highlighting is the application for Indefinite Leave to Remain for those who might wish to stay permanently over the years. With the changes, the fee will jump by 20% from its current £2,404 to £2,880.

Concerns and consequences

Undoubtedly, the hike poses a financial challenge to many international students. One probable effect is that fewer students will be willing to bring their dependent family members into the country so as to cut costs. However, staying away from loved ones for an extended period can cause emotional problems, which could affect students’ performance.

It could also reduce the number of prospects seeking the study in the UK. Since the country began opening its doors to international students, UK schools have boasted high cultural and academic diversity.

Conclusion: coping with the recent increases

For international students who still choose UK institutions, there are ways to minimize the pressing effects of the visa application and IHS fee increases. The most important factor is planning. Students should consider every potential expense besides the visa fee and IHS surcharge. That includes tuition fees, accommodation, transport, and feeding, among others.

Long-term study visa holders should consider working to gain financial support. Such students can work for 10 to 20 hours per week in term time and full-time on holidays. Finally, applying for scholarships and grants may also help.

About the author: Olusegun Akinfenwa is from Immigration Advice Service