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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Announces Increase to Visa and NHS Fees to Fund Public Sector Pay Raise
Under pressure from an inflation rate that quickly outpaced wages, the UK announced it would increase pay for workers like doctors, teachers, police and military by raising fees associated with immigration and the National Healthcare Service.
In response to pressure following an independent review of pay for public sector workers, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced an increase in visa prices and the health surcharge paid by immigrants. The fees and health surcharge contribute to the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) and will be raised significantly to meet the public sector wage increase. This decision affects visa applicants from around the world.
The prime minister confirmed a rise of 5% to 7% in pay across various professions, such as teachers, police officers, and junior doctors, to align with the recommendations of the independent review. However, Sunak emphasized that additional funding would not result in increased government borrowing or higher taxes. To compensate for the pay rise, he stated that the burden would need to be shifted elsewhere.
Sunak explained that the increased revenue would come from two sources: higher charges for migrants applying for visas and an increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) paid to access the NHS. These measures are intended to generate the necessary funds to support the pay rise for public sector workers.
"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," Sunak told reporters at a Downing Street press conference.
These decisions come amidst a challenging economic landscape, with the U.K.'s inflation rate soaring to 8.7%, well above the Bank of England's 2% target. Despite the circumstances, Prime Minister Sunak emphasized that the government's offer is final, and there will be no further negotiations on pay this year. The government has faced significant challenges, including widespread walkouts across various sectors, which have been attributed to factors such as the Ukraine war, the implications of Brexit, and a growing cost-of-living crisis.