An investigation on Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS)

About #smalldata

This is the first of many posts I am planning to write under the theme #smalldata. The rule is simple – any data logging, number crunching, and/or analysis which can be done effectively with a pen and a paper qualifies. It is intentionally made vague so extraordinary examples (e.g. mining Bitcoin with pencil and paper) may appear without breaking the general principle.

I write these posts to escape from the “big data” world, which takes up at least a third of my normal day. I find the process, while being much slower than the big machines we rely on, quite enjoyable.

Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) – The Background

The UK Government introduced the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS), which came into effect on 6th April 2015. By introducing IHS, the Government expects “those coming to live in the UK make an appropriate financial contribution to the cost of their healthcare”.

The surcharge applies to all non-European nationals (with some exceptions) who seek to stay in UK for more than six months – to study, to work, or to join a family member – and is payable when they make their visa/immigration application, refundable if one’s application is not successful for any reason.

IHS costs £150/year for those who are applying for student or Youth Mobility (aka working holiday) visas, and £200/year otherwise. Visa applicants will have to pay for the entire duration of their intended visa duration upfront – say if one is applying for a five-year work visa, they will have to pay £200 x 5 = £1,000 while submitting their visa application. The fee is on top of the usual visa application fee of comparable amount.

UK Visas and Immigration, part of Home Office, is responsible in collecting the IHS “as part of the immigration application process”. The government also stated that “the money generated by the health surcharge will go directly to funding the NHS”.

This poses an interesting question: How much money is involved in IHS? In order words, how much did Home Office charge all successful visa applicants? It is not a straightforward question as the Government has not published any numbers related to IHS at the time of writing this section of the blog post.

Possible Route 1 – Estimate The Figure

One way is to estimate the figure with existing published data. We won’t be able to calculate the exact figure by obtaining the period of intended stay and fee level (determined by visa type) for each and every successful visa applicant – not only it leads to data protection issues, but the resultant calculation would be too large to fit on a piece of paper.

What we can do is to construct bounds based on published figures. The Office of National Statistics publishes immigration statistics every three months, which gives the number of visas granted in a given period. We can also, from a number of webpages on GOV.UK website, obtain the possible length of time one is permitted to stay and IHS fee class for each type of visa.

With the published figures, you can then multiply:

  • The number of successful visa applicants in each category,
  • the number of years they will stay, and
  • the amount they have to pay per year of stay

to get the IHS receipt for each visa category. You then sum up all the receipts to arrive at the final figure.

It involves some estimation here and there, but doable on a paper if you are satisfied with which order of magnitude the number falls in. Though there is a much easier way to get an exact figure…

Possible Route 2 – Ask The People Who Collect The Money…

Sure they know how much went through them! To save your time and effort in finding Home Office’s email address, I have sent a FOI request and asked them to provide the following figures:

  1. Total net amount of IHS collected in 2015/16 tax year (6 Apr 2015 – 5 Apr 2016),
  2. the above, but for each visa category, and
  3. total administration/running cost for setting up IHS in 2015/16 tax year.

According to the reply by UK Visas & Immigration, they’ve collected £169.112m via IHS in 2015/16 tax year, which £145.192m were retained and £23.920m goes to the consolidated fund (the government’s bank account in the Bank of England, which only the parliament can authorise its use). They’ve spent £6.4m to set up and run this scheme. As a comparison, the NHS budget in 2015/16 is “around £116.4b” (shown here).

Request no. 2 was refused on the ground that this requires “a manual trawl through applications to identify those within each category that have been subject to the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS)” and being exempt under the FOI Act due to excessive cost associated to it.

A brief concluding remark…

Once again, the purpose of this post is to present numbers related to the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS). I will leave questions such as whether the charge is worth the price tag or justified, whether the extra revenue can plug the hole in current NHS spending, and whether one can use such numbers to further their agenda to the reader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *