EU Nationals Studying In England Have To Pay The Immigration Healthcare Surcharge Then Claim A Refund
Prior to 2021, the process of coming to the UK to study as an EU national could barely be more straightforward. As the UK was a fully paid-up member of the European Union (EU), its citizens could exercise their treaty rights to live, work, or study in the UK with no red tape to contend with. As such, there were no visas to apply and pay for, and no need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge (IHS), which prior to 2021 was paid by all migrants from outside of the EU. It seems now that EU students now not only have to pay for a study visa (assuming they don’t already have EU Settled Status), they also have to pay to access the NHS, even if they are entitled to free healthcare under the EHIC scheme. In this article, we will explain whether EU nationals studying in the UK will need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge (IHS) and whether they can apply for a refund.
If I Am An EU Citizen Studying In England, Will I Have To Pay The IHC?
The current guidance issued by the UK Home Office states that EU nationals studying in England on a course of study longer than six months will need to pay the immigration health surcharge as a part of their student visa application. The guidance states, “If you are coming to the UK for stays of more than six months, you may be required to pay an immigration health surcharge at the time of your visa application. The full amount will be paid upfront for the duration of your visa. In line with our longstanding commitments under the Common Travel Area, Irish citizens will not be subject to the immigration health surcharge”. As such, while EU nationals who do not already have EU Settled Status in the UK will need to pay the IHS, Irish nationals are not required to pay the charge.
How Much Is The IHC For Students?
For students, the IHC is £470 per year, so a three-year degree course would be £1,410. Students coming to the UK for more than six months, but less than a year, will still pay the full annual amount. The IHC is paid either at the same time as the study visa application or when requested to do so by the Home Office after applying.
Can I Claim A Refund For The IHC As An EU Student In The UK?
Yes, the immigration rules state, “You may be entitled to a full or partial refund of your immigration health surcharge payment if you’re a full-time student in higher education and have an EHIC issued by an EU country”. So this is the positive news, but as with all aspects of immigration law, the devil is in the detail. Firstly, EU students in the UK will not be able to apply for an IHC refund if they are working and studying; in other words, if they have a job to support themselves during their course. The second issue is that EU nationals will not be able to apply for a refund of the IHC they have paid until 1st January 2022, however, this will be backdated. Nevertheless, having to pay such a large amount with the promise of a refund in the future is likely to be of concern for some students.
It is important to note that even if you are going to claim a refund in the future, you are legally entitled to use the NHS using your EHIC card. On this, the Home Office rules say, “If you intend to apply for a refund of your immigration health surcharge payment, you should use your EU EHIC for medically necessary treatment during your studies”. If your course is for less than six months, you can use your EHIC card despite having not paid the IHC.
What Has Been The Reaction Of Education Leaders In The UK?
Understandably, senior representatives in the UK education sector are concerned that having to pay the IHC, even if it is refunded, will be a deterrent to EU students coming to the UK. This is the perspective of Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, the vice-president of the National Union of Students who makes the point that, “rather than charging them excessive fees as part of their visa applications, we should recognise the extraordinary ben part of their visa applications, we should recognise the extraordinary benefits that all international students bring to the UK and scrap the surcharge for all”.
The UK Government, however, takes a predictably contrary view, stating that removing the IHC for EU students would go beyond the UK/EU Brexit agreement; “Waiving the immigration health surcharge upfront for all EU students would go beyond what was negotiated with the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement”. The Government statement goes even further, making the point that not all EU students will be eligible for a refund. “Not all EU student visa holders will be eligible for a surcharge reimbursement – they must be on a full-time higher education course, hold a valid EU-issued European Health Insurance Card and not be employed or self-employed in the UK. EU students will only qualify for reimbursement once they are in the UK and can demonstrate that they meet these criteria”. Such statements may be perceived as doing little to reassure the UK education sector and EU students.
Requiring EU students to pay for the IHC and then request a refund at a later date gives off the wrong signals at the very time when we want to reopen our economy and encourage students from all around the world. International students coming to the UK offer a great deal to our economy and culture, and driving away candidates from across Europe will only diminish this. We can only hope that such rhetoric towards the EU will soften and reverse in the coming months and years when it is realised that a relationship of reciprocity with our nearest neighbours will always be to our collective advantage.