IHS Refund for Healthcare Workers
The immigration health surcharge (IHS) was introduced in 2015 as a way of ensuring that immigrants coming to the UK pay towards their use of the National Health Service. According to the Home Office, the scheme has brought in over £1.5 billion since its inception. In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his intention to make healthcare workers coming to the UK exempt from the IHS. The exemption was be backdated to 31st March 2020, and the amount paid since would be refunded. The announcement stated, “Where an individual has entered the country on a different visa but goes on to meet the eligibility criteria for the exemption, they will be reimbursed any IHS they have already paid in respect of any 6-month period from 31st March where they were working in a relevant health or social care context”. In this article, we will explain how the immigration healthcare surcharge refund scheme for migrant healthcare workers in the UK works.
Who Is Eligible For A Refund Of The IHS?
The refund guidance published by the Home Office states anyone with a relevant visa (e.g. a Tier 2 general visa) who is working in the UK’s health and social care sector and has been doing so for six months continuously from or after 31st March 2020, and has paid the IHS may be eligible for a refund.
The refund is also available to the dependants of healthcare workers in the UK who have paid the IHS.
How Can I Claim My IHS Refund From The Home Office?
There are two different processes for refunding the IHS, depending on the type of visa you hold:
Medical professionals with Tier 2 (general) visas
Medical professionals holding a Tier 2 (general) visa will receive their refund automatically back to the card they used to pay. To receive a refund, you must be in one of the following roles:
- biological scientist
- dental practitioner
- medical radiographer
- ophthalmic optician
- physical scientist
- social worker
- speech and language therapist
- therapy professional
The guidance confirms that the automatic refund will cover the full amount of IHS paid since 31st March 2020. If you believe that you are eligible for a refund but you not yet received one, the Home Office advises that you should email IHSrefunds@homeoffice.gov.uk with your name, sponsor’s name, Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) number, IHS number, and the date you paid the IHS. They also advise not to send any bank details with your enquiry.
Healthcare workers in the UK who do not have a Tier 2 (general) visa or who do not have a role listed above
If you do not have a Tier 2 (general) visa or one of the roles listed above, you will still be able to apply for a refund/reimbursement of the IHS you have paid since 31st March 2020. Refunds are applied for and paid in six-month installments in arrears, covering the period from 31st March 2020 rather than a single lump sum. For this reason, if you are eligible, you will need to apply for reimbursements on a six-monthly basis.
To be eligible for a refund under this method, you must have been working in a health and care role for an average of at least 16 hours per week over the full six months. The guidance also states that applicants “must also work for an eligible company or organisation, for example, the NHS or the Care Quality Commission (CQC)”. ‘Annex A’ provides a full list of the healthcare entities that applicants must be employed or engaged by; these include:
- an NHS foundation trust in England
- an NHS trust in England
- Care Quality Commission
- Health Education England
- Health Research Authority
- Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority
- Human Tissue Authority
- Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
- NHS Blood and Transplant, NHS Business Services Authority
- NHS Digital (the Health and Social Care Information Centre)
- NHS England (the NHS Commissioning Board)
- NHS Improvement (Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority)
- NHS Resolution (the NHS Litigation Authority)
- Public Health England
- a local authority
- a clinical commissioning group
- a local Health Board in Wales
- Health Education & Improvement Wales
- Public Health Wales
- The Welsh Ambulance Service
- Velindre NHS Trust
- a Health Board or Special Health Board constituted under section 2 of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978
- Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service (established under section 10 of that Act)
- Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (known as the Care Inspectorate) established under section 44 of the Public Services (reform) (Scotland) Act 2010
- Scottish Social Services Council established under section 43 of the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001
- a Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland
- Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service
- Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency
- Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency
- Northern Ireland Practice and Education Committee
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council
- Patient and Client Council
- Regional Agency for Public Health and Social Well-Being (the Public Health Agency)
- Regional Business Services Organisation
- Regional Health and Social Care Board or Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.
Refunds of the IHS under this category are also payable for the main visa holder’s dependants (i.e. spouse and/or children).
To apply for a refund under this category, healthcare workers need to complete the online application form supplying the following details:
- IHS number
- National Insurance number
- email address
- employer name
- copies of payslips for the six months being claimed for
The Home Office advises that a refund will be processed within six weeks of receipt of the application if you are eligible.
The availability of refunds to overseas healthcare workers in the UK has been widely welcomed. The size of refunds in some cases can exceed £10,000 and make a considerable difference to the financial health of those of recipients. It is also positive to see that health and care workers who have given so much during the COVID-19 pandemic are being acknowledged for the importance of their role. If you have any problems in securing a refund from the Home Office, speak to an Immigration Lawyer who will be happy to assist you in regaining what is rightly yours.