On 14 May 2014, the Immigration Bill 2013-2014 received royal assent. Numerous changes, which affect migrants and non-migrants alike, have been and continue to be introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 (the 2014 Act). Recently, some of the changes have come to fruition, including the implementation of the NHS health surcharges and the requirement of lawful residence for anyone applying for a driving licence.
NHS health surcharges
The Act requires migrants who do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK and wish to stay in the UK for more than six months to make a financial contribution to the NHS, regardless of whether or not they will or already make National Insurance contributions. While this will not apply retrospectively, it will apply to migrants already in the UK in their future UK immigration applications.
On 14 July 2014, the Department of Health published an implementation plan which sets out a two-year timeline for the NHS to improve systems that recover the cost of healthcare for migrants and visitors who use the NHS.
According to the previous consultation, this 'health surcharge', which would be collected as part of the visa and immigration application process, would be £150 per year for students and £200 for other non-EEA migrants, such as Tier 2 Migrants. The implementation plan reiterates these amounts, although there will be limited exemptions, eg for those seeking asylum, refugees, and victims of human trafficking. Further, the health surcharge will be charged irrespective of planned or actual NHS use.
In addition to the health surcharges, there is also a plan to charge migrants for some healthcare services. These proposed services include aspects of primary care, such as dental, optical, and pharmaceutical services. Presently, however, initial GP and nurse consultations, as well as treatment for specified infectious diseases, will remain unchargeable.
Additionally, the Government is proposing to charge migrants for Accident & Emergency (A&E) services. However, the Government has stated that urgent care in A&E units will not be withheld where a person is unable to pay.
The Government’s proposed plan will be implemented in phases and the health surcharge may be imposed in visa applications from as early as autumn 2014.
Other provisions of the 2014 Act
As of 14 July 2014, the Immigration Act 2014 (Commencement No. 1, Transitory and Saving Provisions) Order 2014 brought or will bring into force certain provisions of the 2014 Act.
The provisions which came into force on 14 July 2014 are largely in relation to the granting and revocation of driving licences, including the new requirement of lawful residence for those applying for a driving licence, as well as to some of the banking provisions (eg the definition of 'bank' for the purposes of the 2014 Act).
Further, on 12 December 2014, the Immigration Act 2014 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2014 will bring into effect the provision on the prohibition on opening current accounts for disqualified persons. This provision prohibits a bank or building society from opening a current account for anyone in the UK who is without valid leave in the UK unless limited circumstances apply. The provision is mainly in relation to current accounts but it also envisages such circumstances as where a disqualified person wants to open a joint account or be added as a signatory or beneficiary.
Commencement dates for the remaining provisions, including changes to the appeal rights to the First-tier Tribunal, have not yet been announced.