Immigration Health Surcharge Refund Applications Now Open for Healthcare Workers
Anyone who is familiar with the Home Office’s immigration healthcare surcharge will know how expensive it can be, especially for large families coming to the UK for several years. The good news is that healthcare workers who have paid the surcharge are now eligible for a refund. In this article, we discuss the immigration health surcharge refund programme for foreign healthcare workers in the UK.
Immigration Health Surcharge Refund For Healthcare Workers Announced
Back in October 2020, the Home Office announced the opening of a new immigration health surcharge (IHS) refund scheme for healthcare workers in the UK. This followed the decision of the Home Office to exempt healthcare workers from paying the IHS. Matt Hancock, Minister for Health and Social Care, stated, “We can now deliver on our promise as the reimbursement scheme will benefit those who have given so much this year to protect us all from COVID-19. This will encourage overseas health and care workers to continue to come and work in the UK and help those already living here to provide first-class care and support for patients”.
At the same time, Rebecca Smith, managing director of NHS Employers, endorsed the initiative stating, “The government’s decision in May to exempt health and social care staff from the fee and reimburse those who have paid it after 31st March this year demonstrated some recognition of the incredible contribution overseas staff makes to the NHS. Now more than ever, we must show our gratitude for all our staff, including those from overseas, who have worked with dedication, fortitude, and selflessness to care for our communities in one of the most challenging periods in our history”.
How Does The IHS Refund Scheme Work?
The details of the scheme state that overseas medical professionals in the UK on Tier 2 (General) visa will automatically receive a refund of their IHS. Others who are on a different type of visa may be able to apply for a refund as this will not be automatically processed.
Getting An Automatic Refund If You Have A Tier 2 (General) Visa
For Tier 2 (general) visa holders, the refund will be automatically issued back to the original card used to make the payment, but only for those in the following healthcare roles:
- biological scientist
- dental practitioner
- medical radiographer
- ophthalmic optician
- physical scientist
- social worker
- speech and language therapist
- therapy professional
The guidance states that those eligible for this automatic refund will receive the full amount of IHS they paid on or after 31st March 2020. IHS payments covering periods of six months will be refunded from this date. Those who paid their IHS before this may receive a partial refund.
It is not just the main applicant who receives a refund; any dependants who applied will also be eligible to have their IHS returned.
Getting A Refund If You Do Not Have A Tier 2 (General) Visa
The Home Office guidance states that refunds are available for those who do not hold a Tier 2 (general visa) but are working in the UK as a medical professional or work in another role in a healthcare setting such as a hospital, GP practice, care home, or community healthcare facility.
They also impose some additional eligibility requirements which must be met to make an application for a refund. Applicants must a) be working for an eligible company or organisation, for example, the NHS or the Care Quality Commission (CQC) (a full list of these is available on the Home Office website), and b) have worked in their role for at least six months, for an average of at least 16 hours a week. The guidance also confirms that this six-month period can include maternity, statutory sick leave, or other forms of paid leave. It also explains that healthcare workers will not be eligible if they “were unemployed or had unpaid leave for more than 28 days during the last six months”.
If you are eligible, you can only claim a refund for one six-month period at a time, starting on or after 31st March 2020. As an example, if you paid the IHS on 31st December 2019, you could request a refund for the amount paid between 31st March and 30th September 2020, but not for the period between 31st December 2019 and 30th March 2020.
And again, like the Tier 2 refund, your dependants will also be eligible for a refund.
To apply, you will need to complete the online application form. You will also need your
- IHS number (this is a 12-digit number)
- National Insurance number
- email address
- employer’s name
- payslips for the six months you’re claiming for - you can upload them as either a scan or a photo
If your application is successful, you can expect to receive your refund within six weeks on the card you originally used to pay the IHS.
If You Have Not Received Your IHS Refund
If you have not received your IHS refund, the Home Office advises applicants to email the Health and care worker immigration health surcharge refunds team at: IHSrefunds@homeoffice.gov.uk. You should include your name, sponsor’s name, Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) number, IHS number, and the date you paid the HIS.
For many overseas nationals working in the healthcare sector in the UK, an IHS refund may equate to several thousands of pounds, and in the case of large families, tens of thousands. If you are unsure how to apply, whether you have received the correct amount, or why you have not received a refund, speak to the Home Office’s refund team or an immigration Solicitor who will be happy to help you.