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I have recently received an offer from a UK-based institution for a lecturer position. As a non-UK/EU citizen, securing a visa is a crucial step in this process. The initial duration of the position spans five years. The department chair has recommended that I apply for a UK Global Talent Visa, and upon reviewing the requirements, I've noticed that I will also be required to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of my visa application. Typically, this surcharge amounts to GBP 624 per year for each applicant (my wife and I.)

My understanding is that once I commence my employment at the university, a portion of my gross salary will automatically be allocated to cover health insurance. My concern revolves around the potential for double payment towards health insurance, both during the visa application process and throughout my employment.

I would greatly appreciate any assistance in clarifying this matter. Thank you in advance for your help!

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    This question may be better suited to expatriats.SE
    – avid
    Sep 4, 2023 at 21:07

2 Answers 2

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Congratulations on receiving the offer!

To work in the UK, you can apply for the Skilled Worker visa (aka Tier 2) or Global Talent visa (aka Tier 1). The skilled worker visa need to be sponsored by your employer (the Uni) and you can't move jobs without re-applying for visa with another sponsor. The global talent visa allows you to work for any employer and switch jobs without changing your visa status.

Global Talent visa is more convenient, but also more expensive to apply for. The Skilled Worker visa is more restrictive, but less expensive for the applicant. However, the sponsor (University) will pay certain costs for sponsoring your application.

It is unusual for the Department Chair to have a say in which visa you should apply for. Frankly, it's not their remit. You can ask the University HR if the Uni sponsors Tier 2 visa. If the Chair insists you should apply for Global Talent, you can ask if the Department will reimburse your application fees. If it does not, then you should choose the option which better suits your needs and budget. Also, check carefully the eligibility conditions for both visas, as they are not the same! To apply for Tier 2 visa, you need a job offer from the University (which you have). But for Tier 1 visa you need a portfolio of your professional achievements, which need to be evaluated. The bar for getting the Tier 1 visa is higher, and generally speaking, your Department Chair should not have suggested that you apply for the visa which has a higher risk of being refused (unless they pay for it).

The healthcare surcharge is compulsory for both Global Talent and Skilled Worker visa. It makes you eligible for NHS treatment in the UK. You can't avoid paying this charge.

From your gross salary, the University will deduct taxes and national insurance. Both are compulsory and unavoidable (unless in very special cases). As a migrant, you are double-billed for NHS, in a form of the extra healthcare surcharge on top of your normal tax and national insurance contributions. However, this has nothing to do with your employer --- it's a recent development by the UK Government (welcome to the UK!)

Many Universities in the UK have an optional programs, which allow employees to sacrifice part of their salary for private healthcare, dental plans, private pension scheme, and other benefits. They are usually good and cost-effective options, which are worth considering. You can often pay for them by sacrificing your salary before tax, effectively getting a ~20% off. However, such initiatives can't be made compulsory. These are purely optional and you should be able to opt-out at any time.

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  • I'm not sure we have the information to comment on whether the department chair 'should have' recommended one tier or the other. However, it would certainly be reasonable for OP to ask HR to explain the various visa options and their reason(s) for recommending one thing over another. One potentially-significant 'perk' of the T1 visa is that it can (depending on circumstances) offer a faster route to "indefinite leave to remain" and hence greater long-term stability.
    – avid
    Sep 4, 2023 at 21:05
  • @avid That's correct, thank you for adding this bit. With T1 visa, one become eligible for ILR after 3 years; with T2 visa it takes 5 years. So if you think you are eligible for T1 visa and ready to pay extra to apply for it, this might be your preferred option. Sep 4, 2023 at 21:14
  • Thank you for your detailed answer and for the additional info. I should then get in touch with HR directly to see how I should proceed. But I find this double-billing really a bad deal. I was wondering whether I should apply for a 1 year visa and get a residence permit for the remaining 4 years or should I rather apply for 5 years visa from the beginning. Any clarification is highly appreciated. Thank you!
    – Funk
    Sep 4, 2023 at 21:18
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    The (biometric) residence permit is just the form of the document (plastic card), as opposed to the paper visa in your passport. It is not a separate document. Please ask your HR to explain T1 and T2 visas for you or read the gov.uk website. Sep 4, 2023 at 21:22
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    Some notes: a) The NHS is primarily funded from general taxes with only a small fraction coming from national insurance contributions. b) National Insurance contributions mainly go towards various social insurances such as the state pension, maternity leave, and job seeker allowance. Stating that you pay for the NHS through the NI (while partially true) is a bit misleading.
    – TimRias
    Sep 5, 2023 at 11:25
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Although your departmental chair does not have the power to dictate which visa you must apply for, however, your deptal chair advice is spot on in this instance.

As a non-UK/EU citizen, ...

The UK Global Talent (academia or research) offers benefits and flexibility beyond the Skilled Worker visa route.

In your instance, since you've an academic job offer, the option is the Work in the UK as a researcher or academic leader (Global Talent visa).

  • you'll be eligible to change job within your university or to another employer without the need for a new sponsor
  • you might be eligible for settlement (ILR) in a short space of time - just three years - depending on your circumstances

The Skilled Worker visa does not allow you to change job without a new sponsor and the duration to ILR is minimum of 5 years.

PS: officially, Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 are now defunct. They've been replaced.

... double payment towards health insurance, both during the visa application process and throughout my employment.

You're correct that you'll make double payment towards health care considering thar your employer will deduct NI National Insurance) from source and you'll have paid IHS (immigration health surcharge) during your visa application. There's nothing much you can do about that. It's a UK government requirement!

However, if you're concerned about cost, you may want to reduce your upfront cost. You can apply for 3 years (or even 1 year) visa which will reduce your IHS surcharge in the first instance. When in the UK, you can then extend your visa at the appropriate time. Please note that it is common to apply for the 5 year duration because most will like to avoid uncertainties that comes with visa policy change.

As an add-on, this is not required/compulsory, you might want to consider taking a private health/medical insurance. This is however, over and above the NI and IHS surcharge. If you want to go this route, engage your employer to ensure this is deducted before tax.

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  • Thanks for your detailed answer. If i get a 5 year visa, do I still need to apply for a residence permit in the UK? If so, what is the point of applying for 5 years?! Why not 3 months just to get to the UK and then apply for a residence permit as it is the case for most EU countries?
    – Funk
    Sep 5, 2023 at 12:17
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    UK doesn't have a 'residence permit'. What it has is the ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain). As indicated, the Global Talent (academic/researcher) might grant to eligibility for ILR after 3 years in the UK. Others, like Skilled Worker would required you to have spent 5 yes. Sep 5, 2023 at 19:44

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