Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) Reimbursement Guidance
We receive several queries each month from visa applicants regarding whether they will receive a refund of the immigration health surcharge. They may have already applied, are about to apply, are concerned they may be refused, or wish to withdraw their visa application. This is a very reasonable question given that the IHS is £624 per person per year (£470 for students and children), and this must be paid upfront when applying for a visa. In this article, we will explain how UKVI deal with refunds of the immigration healthcare surcharge.
What Is The Immigration Health Surcharge?
The immigration health surcharge (IHS) enables immigrants in the UK to gain access to healthcare through the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS is free for British citizens and people settled in the UK, but not for immigrants who are living, studying, or working in the UK. The only exception being overseas healthcare workers who do not need to pay the charge. The charge is paid when applying for a visa, and, as such, new visa applications will not be fully processed until the IHS is paid. Once in the UK, visa holders can use the full range of the NHS’s services, including mental health, GP (primary care doctors), and specialist hospital services (i.e. treatment and surgery). Not everyone needs to pay the IHS, however.
Who Has To Pay The IHS?
Non-UK nationals applying for a visa from outside of the UK for more than six months or inside the UK for any duration need to pay the IHS. You will still need to pay the IHS if you have private medical insurance (this is a question we regularly receive). You will not need to pay the IHS if any of the following apply:
- You are applying for indefinite leave to remain or enter
- You are a healthcare professional or their dependant spouse/child
- You are eligible for settlement under the EU Settlement Scheme
- You are a diplomat or a member of visiting armed forces and not subject to immigration control
- You are a dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces
- You are the dependant of a member of another country’s armed forces who is exempt from immigration control
- You are applying for a visa for the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
- You are an asylum seeker or applying for humanitarian protection or their dependant
- You are a domestic worker who has been identified as a victim of slavery or human trafficking
There is a range of other exceptions which apply, which are available on the Home Office website.
Will I Get A Reimbursement Of The IHS?
You may receive a reimbursement if you have paid the IHS but only in certain situations. Firstly, if you have paid twice (or more times), your application is refused by UKVI, or you decide to withdraw your application before a decision is made, you will receive a full refund automatically six weeks after your decision letter (or the date your application withdrawal was received).
UKVI will also grant partial refunds if you receive less time on your visa than you requested/expected or if one or more of your dependants is refused. Again, the IHS will be refunded automatically, and you will not need to initiate the reimbursement process.
UKVI state that they will not issue a refund if any of the following apply:
- your visa application is successful, but you do not come to the UK
- you leave the UK before your visa ends, for example, to make a new application
- you are told to leave the UK before your visa expires
- you are applying for indefinite leave to remain
Will I Receive An IHS Reimbursement If I Am An EU National?
EU nationals living in the UK will have their healthcare costs covered by their home country. You will, however, need an S1 Certificate. The official guidance states, “If your UK visa starts on or after 1st January 2021 and you’ve registered an S1 document issued to you by an EU member state, you may be eligible for a full or partial refund of your immigration health surcharge payment”. An S1 Certificate entitles you and any of your dependants to receive healthcare in another EU country and the UK on the same basis as a resident of that country. The Certificate needs to be registered to the NHS Business Services Authority. If you have already paid the IHS and now have an S1 Certificate, you will be able to apply for a full or partial refund. It is also possible for EU nationals to receive an IHS refund if they:
- are a full-time student in UK higher education
- have a visa which started on or after 1st January 2021
- have a European Healthcare Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in an EU country
- do not work
Full details of how to apply for a refund in this situation are available online.
Will I Receive An IHS Reimbursement If I Am A Healthcare Worker In The UK?
If you have a Tier 2 (general) visa and you are in an eligible healthcare role, you will receive an automatic IHS refund for any IHS paid on or after 31st March 2020. The guidance from UKVI also states, “If you paid the IHS before 31st March 2020, you’ll get a partial refund. You’ll be refunded for any periods of 6 months that your IHS payment covered after this date”. If you are a healthcare professional on a different type of visa, you may be eligible for a refund, but you will need to submit a reimbursement request to UKVI. Details of how to apply and the information you will need to provide are available online.
If you are unsure whether you are eligible for a refund, you are concerned that you have not received a refund, or the amount you have received is too low, speak to UKVI as soon as possible. If you still do not receive a satisfactory answer, speak to an immigration lawyer who will be able to look into the matter for you and recover the money on your behalf.