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Visa fees, NHS surcharge to be hiked to meet wage bill: Rishi Sunak

Visa fees, NHS surcharge to be hiked to meet wage bill: Rishi Sunak

There is a significant increase in the offing for visa applicants, including for Indian students and other category visitors, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looks at ways of meeting the UK’s increased public sector wage bill without hiking taxes and government borrowing.

Confirming a pay hike between 5 and 7 per cent across the board for teachers, police and prison officers, junior doctors and other public sector workers following an independent recommendation, he also warned striking workers such as junior doctors that this offer was "final" and further industrial action would not change that decision.

"There will be no more talks on pay. We will not negotiate again on this year's settlements and no amount of strikes will change our decision. Instead, the settlement we’ve reached today gives us a fair way to end the strikes. A fair deal for workers and a fair deal for the British taxpayer," he warned.

On finding the money for the wage hike amid soaring inflation, Sunak said at a media conference in Downing Street: “If we’re going to prioritise paying public sector workers more, that money has to come from somewhere else because I’m not prepared to put up people’s taxes and I don’t think it would be responsible or right to borrow more because that would just make inflation worse.

“So, what we have done are two things to find this money. The first is, we are going to increase the charges that we have for migrants who are coming to this country when they apply for visas and indeed something called the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which is the levy that they pay to access the NHS.

“All of those fees are going to go up and that will raise over £1 billion, so across the board visa application fees are going to go up significantly and similarly for the Immigration Health Surcharge.”

The UK PM said it was right that visa fees should go up to meet higher costs as they have not been increased recently. The second action to meet the country’s higher wage bill will focus on government departments reprioritising their work.

The IHS, which goes towards the National Health Service (NHS) and applies to long-term migrants to the UK including a discounted rate for students, starts from around £470 for a year.

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The entire scope of the hikes and how they would impact Indian students and others on tight budgets amid a cost-of-living crisis in the UK remains to be seen.

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