Refund of Visa Application Fee and IHS Surcharge: UK visa
Applying for a visa can be an expensive business, especially where it includes several family members coming to the UK for a long stay. In the majority of cases, there is an application fee, an immigration health charge, and a biometric fee to pay, and this can easily exceed £10,000 when applying for a five-year visa for several people. We are often asked whether it is possible to secure a refund and in which circumstances the Home Office will grant a reimbursement of any fees paid, as for many, the amount paid can represent a sizeable sum of their savings, and receiving a refund is essential. In this article, we will explain the Home Office’s policy on providing refunds to visa applicants, including the application fee and the immigration health surcharge.
Is It Possible To Receive A Refund Of A Visa Application Fee?
If you decide to cancel/withdraw a visa application before a decision has been made, the Home Office advises that they will refund the immigration health surcharge (IHS) you have paid, and they may refund the application fee depending on which stage it has reached.
They will not issue a refund in the following situations:
- If your visa application is unsuccessful
- If you are granted leave, for example, you get a visa or indefinite leave to remain
- If you have a visa and do not use it to travel to the UK
- If you leave the UK before your visa expires (you will also not get a refund of the immigration health surcharge in this situation)
The deadline for receiving a refund if you cancel your visa application depends, in part, on how you were advised to prove your identity when you applied (i.e. by attending a biometric appointment at a UKVCAS office or by using the mobile app).
The refund guidance states that for those who were requested to make an appointment, “You can cancel your application online, and your fee will be refunded if you have not yet given your fingerprints and photo”.
If you were told to use the mobile app, you will also receive a refund of the application fee as long as you have not yet uploaded your documents.
If you have given your fingerprints and photo or uploaded your documents, then the Home Office will not normally give a refund. They may, however, if you can argue you should be treated as an exception; this is possible, for example, if the reason for your cancellation is due to COVID-19. They advise those who are cancelling their visa application due to COVID-19 and have given their identity details to send an email to the coronavirus immigration help centre at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. You will need to use the subject line ‘POST BIOMETRIC REFUND REQUEST’ and provide the following information:
- your full name
- your nationality
- your date of birth
- any UKVI reference numbers you have been given
Upon receipt of your email, the Home Office will let you know if your fee will be refunded or not.
Is It Possible To Receive A Refund Of The Immigration Health Surcharge?
Yes, the Home Office will issue a full refund to a visa applicant who has paid the IHS if:
- They paid the surcharge more than once
- The visa application is refused
- The visa application is withdrawn before a decision is made.
They will also provide a partial refund if you receive less time on your visa than was requested in your application. In addition, they will pay a partial refund if one person in your application (i.e. your spouse or a dependant child) is refused.
Unfortunately, UKVI will not refund the IHS if your visa application is processed and is successful, and then you decide not to come to the UK. Likewise, it will not be refunded if you leave the UK before your visa expires or if you are ordered to leave the country.
If you are eligible for a refund, you will not need to submit a request as it will be paid automatically within six weeks of the date of the decision (this may take longer if you are appealing a refusal or have requested an administrative review).
Claiming An IHS Refund For Healthcare Workers
Under a separate reimbursement scheme, healthcare workers in the UK are eligible for a refund if they have paid the IHS. These are being issued to healthcare professionals in respect of any IHS paid on or after 31st March 2020.
If you are in one of the following listed healthcare occupations and you have a Tier 2 (general visa), your IHS will be automatically refunded:
- biological scientist
- dental practitioner
- medical radiographer
- ophthalmic optician
- physical scientist
- social worker
- speech and language therapist
- therapy professional
Those not on a Tier 2 (general) visa but are working as a medical professional or in another role in a healthcare setting such as a hospital, GP practice, care home, or community healthcare facility can request a refund of the IHS they have paid. They must be working for a company or organisation affiliated with the NHS or the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and have worked in that role for at least six months, working an average of at least 16 hours a week. Applicants need to complete and submit the online application form, including their:
- IHS number (this is a 12-digit number)
- National Insurance number
- email address
- employer’s name
- payslips for the six months
If successful, a refund will be given within six months.
There is no doubt that the costs payable as a visa applicant can be considerable, often running to several thousands of pounds. Losing such large sums of money is simply not an option for most people. In many cases, the money will be borrowed in the form of a loan from friends or family or from savings. If you are in any way concerned about your eligibility for a refund of your application fee or the immigration health surcharge, or if your refund is delayed, refused, or less than it should be, speak to an immigration solicitor as soon as possible who can fight for the return of your hard-earned money on your behalf.