Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

Unions and Migrant Groups Call Out Tory Plan to Fund Public Sector Pay Rise With Sky-High Migrant Fees

The cost of getting British citizenship will rise from £1,330 to at least £1,596.

Photo: Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

Unions representing doctors and teachers have united with migrant organisations to call on the government to reverse plans to increase visa and NHS fees in order to fund public sector pay rises.

Around sixty organisations representing millions of people have branded the Immigration Health Surcharge “unaffordable” and “a blatant attempt to sow division” within the labour movement and communities. It says the government should instead meet pay demands using progressive taxation.

Around half the cost of the recent 5-7% public sector pay rises will be met by a hike of up to 20 per cent in visa fees, and a two-thirds rise in the immigration health surcharge migrants have to pay to use the NHS annually – from £624 to £1,035.

The cost of work and visit visas will rise by 15% – increasing the cost of a skilled worker visa from £625 to £719. And the price of getting British citizenship will go up by at least 20% – increasing from £1,330 to at least £1,596. 

“No worker should be pushed into poverty, unsustainable debt or homelessness simply because of the papers they hold,” the joint statement signed by the British Medical Association, teachers union NASUWT and migrant groups says.

Don’t miss a story

The unions and migrant organisations say Rishi Sunak is attempting to “pit worker against worker”. 

The joint statement reiterates that public sector workers deserve pay rises but urged the government to abandon the current plan and instead meet pay demands using progressive taxation “which ensures those with the broadest shoulders contribute more to our vital public services”.  

Unions and migrant groups say the NHS surcharge is “discriminatory”. A migrant family of four currently has to pay around £50,000 over 10 years for the right to stay, which is set to increase to around £68,000. 

The migrant organisations and charities who signed include the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Migrants Organise, Medact, the Runnymede Trust, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Doctors of the World and Praxis. 

Prof Philip Banfield, Chair of Council at BMA, said: “The proposed increase in the charges on migrant health workers to pay for the government’s already-compromised pay deal is frankly shameful.

He added that the NHS should be funded from general taxation – not charges that “unfairly target individual groups”. 

Claiming to use the surcharge to fund an “inadequate” pay offer is “especially insulting,” he said. 

The Conservatives are Not Telling the Truth About their Opposition to London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone

Sadiq Khan has faced relentless flak for the Ultra Low Emissions Zone. But it wasn’t his idea.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary at the National Education Union, which represents hundreds of thousands of teachers in England and Wales, said: “Whilst we have been assured that the extra £900 million for the teachers’ pay award isn’t funded via the higher migrant fees, we do stand in complete solidarity with sister unions in their strong objections to the government seeking to sow divisions with this policy.

“The government should fund all our public services properly and proper funding should be viewed as an investment in our country.”

And Aliya Yule, a healthcare organiser at Migrants Organise, said: “The NHS is indebted to migrants, and it was founded on the principle that everyone should be able to access healthcare, regardless of ability to pay or where you are from. The Immigration Health Surcharge undermines these principles, and it is important that the labour and migrant justice movements stand together in the face of this government’s attacks.”

A second joint statement against the use of “racist charges” in the immigration system was signed by nearly 3000 individuals, including Members of Parliament and the House of Lords, as well as trade union members – saying that increasing healthcare charges for migrants would further undermine the foundations the NHS was built on. 

They called the move “a clear attempt to make migrant communities pay the price for decades of Government underfunding of our public services, and declining pay”. 

Rishi Sunak told a recent press conference: “What we have done are two things to find this money. The first is we’re 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, which is the levy that they pay to access the NHS. So all of those fees are going to go up and that will raise over £1 billion… I’m not shying away from that, because that’s the right thing to do.”

The unions and migrant organisations’ statement on the public sector pay rise is signed by the following organisations

  1. British Medical Association
  2. The GMB
  3. NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union
  4. The National Education Union (NEU)
  5. Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
  6. UCU – University and College Union
  7. Society of Radiologists
  8. Social Workers Union
  9. Fire Brigades Union (FBU)
  10. ASLEF
  11. BFAWU
  12. Asylum Matters
  13. Bradford Rape Crisis
  14. CARAG
  15. CARIS Haringey
  16. Caritas Shrewsbury
  17. Doctors of the World
  18. Duhra Solicitors
  19. English for Action (EFA) London
  20. Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees
  21. Fresh Grassroots Rainbow Community
  22. Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
  23. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU)
  24. Haringey Welcome
  25. Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
  26. Kent Refugee Help
  27. Kiran Support services
  28. Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)
  29. Leeds Anti-Raids Action
  30. Maternity Action
  31. Maternity Stream, City of Sanctuary UK
  32. Medact
  33. Migrant Voice
  34. Migrants Organise
  35. Migrants’ Rights Network
  36. Music Action International
  37. Pan-African Workers Association (PAWA)
  38. Paul Hamlyn Foundation
  39. POMOC (Polish Migrants Organise for Change)
  40. Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS)
  41. Praxis
  42. Project 17
  43. Public Interest Law Centre
  44. RAMA (Refugee, Asylum seeker & Migrant Action)
  45. Refugee and Migrants Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL)
  46. Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Action (RAMA)
  47. Reunite Families UK
  48. Right to Remain
  49. Runnymede Trust
  50. Seraphus
  51. South London Refugee Association
  52. The Unity Project
  53. The Voice of Domestic Workers
  54. United impact
  55. We Belong
  56. Welsh Refugee Council
  57. Women’s Budget Group
  58. Yorkshire Migrants Solidarity Movement
  59. the3million

Do you have a story that needs highlighting? Get in touch by emailing

Written by

This article was filed under
, , , ,