Are You Eligible for a Refund of the Immigration Health Surcharge?
As many immigrants in the UK will attest to, the immigration health surcharge (IHS) can really add up, especially as it must be paid upfront for the expected duration of the visa and for each person who is applying. In fact, in most cases, the fee for the IHS is higher than the application cost. In this article, we will explain your rights to a refund of the immigration healthcare surcharge if your plans to live, study, or work in the UK fall through for any reason.
What Is The Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS)?
The IHS gives migrants to the UK who are subject to immigration control the right to access the National Health Service to receive healthcare. The fee is mandatory for most (but not all visas) and is paid upfront for the duration of the visa and for each family member. The amount payable depends on the age of the applicant and the type of visa. The IHS is only payable by those applying for a visa of more than six months from outside of the UK. If applying from within the UK, the IHS is paid no matter how long the visa is for. You will not need to pay the IHS if you are:
- applying for indefinite leave to remain or enter
- eligible for a Health and Care Worker visa (or you are their dependant)
- applying to the EU Settlement Scheme
- a diplomat or a member of a visiting armed forces and not subject to immigration control
- a dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces
- the dependant of a member of another country’s armed forces who is exempt from immigration control
- applying for a visa for the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
- a British Overseas Territory citizen resident in the Falkland Islands
- an asylum seeker or applying for humanitarian protection (or you’re their dependant)
- a domestic worker who has been identified as a victim of slavery or human trafficking
- applying for discretionary leave to remain in the UK as someone who has been identified as a victim of slavery or human trafficking (or you are their dependant)
- subject to the Home Office’s domestic violence concession
- being made to leave the UK would be against your rights under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (or you’re their dependant)
- an S2 Healthcare Visitor
- eligible for a Frontier Worker permit and have an S1 certificate
If you are not exempt from paying the IHS, it currently costs £470 per year for students, those on a Youth Mobility Scheme visa, or applicants who are under the age of 18. Otherwise, the fee is set to £624 per year for all other application types. So for a family of two adults and two children under 18, the cost for a five-year work visa would be £10,940 (£624 x 2 people x 5 years + £470 x 2 children x 5 years).
How Do Immigration Healthcare Surcharge Refunds Work?
There are three scenarios under which you can expect to receive a full refund of your IHS, if:
- You paid the IHS more than once in error
- Your visa application is refused by the Home Office
- You decide to withdraw your application
Partial refunds are available to migrants in two circumstances:
- Where the visa holder is granted less time on their visa by the Home Office than they applied for
- If a member of your family (i.e. your spouse/partner or dependant child) has their visa refused.
The guidance published by the Home Office states that refunds (whether full or in part) are made automatically to the card used to make the payment; as such, there is no need to apply for a refund.
The Home Office advises that it will not normally offer a refund in the following circumstances:
- your visa application is approved by the Home Office, but for some reason, you do not come to the UK as planned
- you decide to leave the UK before the expiry of your visa
- you are required to leave the UK by the Home Office before your visa expires
- you are applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
What If I Have Paid The IHS, But My Costs Should Be Covered By My Home EU Country?
Your healthcare costs should be covered by your EU home country if you have an S1 healthcare certificate. This should be registered with the UK’s Overseas Healthcare Services. If you have already paid the IHS in this situation, you will receive a full or partial refund. The guidance on refunds for EU nationals also states that you may be eligible for a refund if you have paid the IHS if you:
- 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.
Can I Get A Refund If I Work In Healthcare In The UK?
Yes, if you paid the IHS and you currently hold a Tier 2 (General) visa and are in a medical profession, you should get a refund automatically. Those working in a health or care role and who do not hold a Tier 2 (General) visa may need to apply for a refund as this is not automatic. More details on the refund amounts available to healthcare workers can be found online.
Refunds are typically processed and paid within six weeks of the visa decision being made. It is not uncommon for refunds not to be paid automatically or within the six-week timescale, however. If you are unsure if you are eligible for a refund, whether a refund you have received has been calculated correctly, or why you have not yet received a refund, speak to an immigration Solicitor in the UK who will be able to assist you. Given that the IHS can run to several thousands of pounds, receiving a timely and full refund of the amount owed is essential.