The SNP has welcomed the UK government’s U-turn on scrapping the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for NHS and care workers but said the Tories must go further by axing the scheme completely and reducing visa fees.
After repeated pressure from the SNP and others, the UK government took the decision on Thursday to scrap the NHS surcharge – a £400 per year fee paid upfront by migrants living in Britain to use the NHS on top of tax, national insurance and “sky-high” visa fees – for migrant NHS and care workers.
The fee is set to rise to £624 in October, meaning a family of 4 could require to pay £12,480 upfront for the surcharge alone.
The SNP’s Immigration spokesperson, Stuart McDonald MP (pictured), has said it is right that the unfairness for migrant healthcare workers involved in the UK’s coronavirus response is ended – but that the NHS fee is unjust for all.
The IHS and visa fees apply to all non-EU citizens but the Tories’ post-Brexit Immigration Bill, which passed its second reading on Monday, will mean that people from the EU will also have to pay them after 31st January 2021 – pricing the UK out of even more vital workers.
The SNP has consistently called for the IHS to be axed and immigration fees reduced and this week voted against the UK government’s draconian immigration bill.
SNP MPs Stuart McDonald and Joanna Cherry QC have also tabled an amendment to the Bill that, if passed, would mean no EEA or Swiss national could be charged the NHS fee when free movement ends on 31st January 2021.
Commenting, Stuart McDonald MP said:
“I welcome the U-turn by the UK government to scrap the NHS fee for NHS staff and care workers – this is absolutely the right thing to do for those people on the frontline caring for our loved ones.
“Now the whole unfair scheme should be scrapped and visa fees reduced.
“It is all well and good ditching the £400 surcharge for NHS staff and care workers but the point is that the whole principal of the scheme is unfair – like the rest of us, migrants already pay tax and national insurance for our public services.
“It is outrageous to demand they pay sometimes several thousands of pounds upfront.
“There are many lessons to be learned from this pandemic – one of them is the vital role played by all of our migrant workers in all walks of life, including right across our public services.
“I am urging the UK government to recognise the vital contribution of migrants to our country and to recognise that the health surcharge is a totally unjust double poll tax and should be scrapped.”