Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Crackdown on Kiwi OE

Clampdown on traveller's rights in Britain.
From April 6 those planning to spend more than six months in the UK will pay up to $434 per annum surcharge.
From April 6 those planning to spend more than six months in the UK will pay up to $434 per annum surcharge.

A new health and dental care surcharge for New Zealanders living in the United Kingdom will put some Kiwis off doing their OE, the director of a meet-up site for Kiwis living in London believes.

Kiwis will still get free doctors' visits and emergency treatment, but from April 6 those planning to spend more than six months in the UK, or applying from within the UK to extend their stay, will pay up to $434 per annum surcharge for other health and dental care.

Kiwis in London director Clint Heine believed most Kiwis planning to move to the UK would see the new costs as part and parcel of their visa.

But for some, the costs could be a deterrent from moving across the equator.

"If you're planning to move to the UK for two years, or five years, you're going to have to have a reasonable amount saved," he said.

"But every little thing does add up and it would have to be another thing people planning to move here have to factor in."

Mr Heine, who has lived in the UK for 12 years, believed British policies had increasingly moved away from being pro-Commonwealth.

"[Healthcare] will be another thing that's become harder for Kiwis," he said.

"It's still cheap and good quality; dentistry especially is a generous system, but it's meant to be a reciprocal agreement.

"It does seem like we're losing out."

From April 6 those planning to spend more than six months in the UK will pay up to $434 per annum surcharge.
From April 6 those planning to spend more than six months in the UK will pay up to $434 per annum surcharge.

Kiwis aged 18-30 applying for a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa -- which has a maximum term of two years -- will pay $328.

Brits still stand to be able to use free care in New Zealand, an entitlement bound by the Health Benefits Act 1982.

Prime Minister John Key has labelled the UK policy change "another chipping away of New Zealanders' rights."

"I would have thought charging Kiwis ?150 if they're over there for a bit longer as a surcharge, over and above the National Health System, is pretty cheap and not really in keeping with the history of the two countries," Mr Key said.

About 200,000 Kiwis are living in the UK. Numbers of those staying long-term have fallen from about 18,000 in 2000 to 8500 in 2014, mostly as a result of previous changes that have restricted job opportunities.

Last month, the Government said it would continue to lobby UK ministers over a strict immigration policy that might threaten the OE dreams of many Kiwis.

Stricter visa rules mean that from April 6, non-European Union migrants working in the UK will be kicked out after five years if they earn less than $76,000 a year.

Since 2010, Kiwis wanting a skilled migrant visa have also had to secure a sponsoring employer first.

And there's even more bad news, with Kiwis hoping to snap up a job in the UK set to be hit with a new immigration skills levy that would see all firms employing skilled, non-EU migrants slapped with a $2173 a year charge.

A review of the wider health agreement between the UK and New Zealand would start soon, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said.

"These negotiations have not yet started, so it is too soon to speculate on the potential impact," the spokeswoman said.

- NZME.

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