London, January 1: The United Kingdom is set to further raise the costs of visas for Indian and other non-European Union (EU) migrants. The hike will be caused due to an increase in immigration health surcharge (IHS) by upto 400 pounds. The IHS is levied on visa applicants to allow them to access the National Health Services (NHS) during their stay in the UK.
A Home Office spokesperson, while speaking to reporters, said the hike in IHS charge would come into effect from January 8, 2019. While general visa applicants may have to shell out between 200-400 pounds per year to access the NHS, those seeking student-visas will have to pay 150-300 pounds per year. Visa Application to UK Universities: Indian Students Excluded from 'Low Risk' Countries, Process to Get Tougher.
Apart from raising the IHS, Britain also plans a host of other measures to reduce the number of migrants' intake, and include them solely on the basis of merit.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said visas would be introduced for EU nationals arriving after Britain leaves the bloc and the new system would be based on skills, not nationality, putting EU and non-EU citizens on the same footing.
"It will be a system that will bring net migration down to more sustainable levels," he told BBC radio, although he said there was "no specific target" for the reduction.
He said he hoped the new measures would put more pressure on employers "to look at the domestic workforce first".
Javid did not commit to an annual salary threshold for EU immigrants - a highly contested proposal - but said it could be "30,000 pounds (USD 38,000) or thereabouts".
He said the threshold could be lowered to encourage foreign students to stay and work in the UK and for certain parts of the economy in which a labour shortage could be proven.
Many employers, including the National Health Service, have warned that 30,000 pounds is too high and will severely limit their ability to hire EU nationals such as nurses.
The immigration proposals are aimed at winning over Brexit hardliners who have resisted voting in favour of the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has struck with EU leaders.
But they will cause anger in parts of Britain, such as London, that have benefited from EU immigration. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the government's approach was "misguided" and "risks doing profound damage to growth, jobs and communities across London and the UK".
May has vowed to end free movement of people from Europe, saying that this was one of the main reasons that Britons voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum.
Immigration levels have already fallen since the Brexit referendum. Net migration to Britain was around 280,000 last year, a decrease from levels of more than 300,000 in 2014 and 2015.
(With PTI inputs)