Students are currently charged a £150 surcharge per year, which will rise to £300. This applies to non-European students that are staying in the UK for a period of study or training more than six months long.
The levy allows students access to use the National Health Service facilities and care, which are free at the point of care to UK citizens.
“It is ludicrous to suggest that doubling the fee for… international students will combat the serious issues facing the health service”
Health minister James O’Shaughnessy said that the surcharge, which will also apply to non-students, will help raise funds for the NHS.
“Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers,” he said. “We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but it is only right that they make a fair contribution to its long term sustainability.”
He added that raising the surcharge for all migrants from outside the EU would provide an extra £220 million a year to support the NHS.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes voiced similar views.
“It is only right that people who come to the UK should contribute to the running of the NHS,” she said. “The surcharge offers access to health care services that are far more comprehensive and at a much lower cost than many other countries.
“The income generated goes directly to NHS services, helping to protect and sustain our world-class healthcare system for everyone who uses it.”
Yinbo Yu, National Union of Students International Students’ Officer has said that the change is “ludicrous”.
Yu added that the current funding and staffing crisis in the NHS should not be blamed on immigrants.
It is “unjustifiable and completely wrong to blame the NHS funding crisis on migrants,” he said in a statement posted on the NUS website.
“Since the Immigration Health Surcharge was brought into law in 2015 NUS and the International Students’ Campaign have been campaigning and lobbying to scrap it,” he said.
“It is only right that people who come to the UK should contribute to the running of the NHS”
He added that “it is ludicrous to suggest that doubling the fee for temporary migrants and international students will combat the serious issues facing the health service in this country.”
“It is a complete kick in the teeth to non-EEA students who already pay significantly higher tuition fees than home students to now have to pay an even higher counter-intuitive and ineffective surcharge to access NHS facilities.”
The government should scrap what he referred to as “anti-international student policies”, Yu said, “if [the government] truly want UK higher education to remain world class and accessible in a post-Brexit environment”.
The announcement comes several weeks after a HEPI report found that visiting students contributed £20bn to the British economy in 2015/16.
The report stated that non-EU students generated £17.5bn for the UK economy. That same cohort of international students generated £1.2bn in costs that were listed as ‘other’, which included healthcare.
The report used Department of Health analysis that found that the average annual cost of international students to the NHS per student was estimated at £729 – which reduced to £579 for non- EU students after the surcharge was calculated.