The Home Office on Friday officially introduced a new surcharge on student visa applicants from outside the EU to cover possible treatment on the National Health Service.
Beginning 6 April, foreign students, including those from South Asia, will have to pay £150 per year whilst other visitors intending to remain in Britain for more than six months will be required to pay £200.
The new surcharge will also apply to visa renewals by students already in the UK.
The fee is part of the government’s effort to recover some of the nearly £500 million per year spent on treating visitors on the NHS.
The main applicant and all dependents will each be required to pay the charge. Applicants will also be required to pay the full amount, up front, for the entire duration of their stay in the UK.
With the compulsory surcharge, international students will be able to access all NHS services.
However, the news is certain to cause more concern for potential students. The number of result in a further decline in the number of South Asian students to the UK. Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years as the government introduced increasingly stringent conditions on visa applicants from outside the EU.
Experts have accused the government of penalizing international students, particularly from South Asia and Africa, as it tries to offset the flow of migrants from Eastern Europe to meet net migration targets.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of Indian students in Britain has dropped to just below 20,000 from nearly 40,000 in 2009.
Data from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills suggests that international students contribute over £7.9 billion per year to the UK economy and education sector.