How Can I Claim a Refund on my Immigration Healthcare Surcharge as a Health and Care Worker in the UK?
If you are a foreign national currently working in the healthcare or social care sectors, you will likely know that there is often a difference in the way that different professions are treated, including when it comes to immigration. This difference is apparent between those who are qualified doctors, nurses, health professionals or adult social care professionals who are eligible for the Health and Care visa, and those who work in the same sector but have a visa for a more generic purpose. This is because those with Health and Care visas do not need to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS), whereas healthcare workers with other visa types must pay the IHS. Bearing in mind that the IHS must be a) be paid upfront, b) paid for every year of the visa, and c) paid by the main visa holder and each family member joining them in the UK, this can add up to a very large sum. In this article, we will outline the new immigration health surcharge reimbursement scheme for NHS and care workers in the UK, including how it works, who can apply, and how to apply.
What is the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge?
The IHS is a fee levied on visa applicants to cover the cost of any healthcare they may need while in the UK. The fee is paid at the time of applying for a visa for each family member included in the application. The IHS is only payable by anyone planning to be in the UK for more than six months if applying outside the UK, or for any length of time if applying inside the UK. It is not paid by visitors to the UK, or migrants who have indefinite leave to remain. Visa holders from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein do not currently pay the IHS, but will if they come to the UK on or after 1st January 2021. It is important to note that even if you have private medical insurance, you will still be expected to pay the IHS.
New IHS Reimbursement Scheme Announced for Health and Care Workers in the UK
On 1st October 2020, the Government announced a new initiative to reimburse health and care workers who have already paid the IHS. The announcement [PM1] states, “The Government’s Tier 2 health and care visa, launched in August, exempted eligible staff from paying the IHS. The new reimbursement scheme goes further to ensure that staff not covered by the visa, but who have worked in the NHS or care sector since 31st March, are able to claim reimbursement for themselves and their dependants, even if they paid the surcharge before this date”. This announcement confirmed that rather than opening up the exemption to all health and care staff, those who are working for the NHS or in the care sector and are not eligible for a Health and Care visa will still need to pay the IHS but can later have it reimbursed by the Government in six monthly instalments. For example, non-EEA migrants on the Youth Mobility scheme working as a care worker will be able to request a bi-annual rebate.
Can I Claim Under the Reimbursement Scheme?
Not all health and care workers can claim for reimbursement of the IHS, but most should be. To be eligible, you will need to meet the following criteria:
- Not be on Tier 2 (General) visa (Tier 2 visa holders need to follow a different refund process by sending an email to IHSrefunds@homeoffice.gov.uk.
- Have been working in health and social care continuously for at least six months commencing on or after 31st March 2020
- Have worked at least 16 hours per week (on average) over the full six months prior to the claim for reimbursement.
- Have paid the IHS as part of your visa application
- Dependants will also be eligible for reimbursement if they have already paid their IHS
- The IHS you are claiming for must be linked to a current visa (i.e. not a visa which has already expired).
The new scheme is only for claimants in the UK on visas that give them a generic right to work, including:
- a dependant of a UK national or another migrant
- a person on a Tier 4 student visa who can undertake up to 20 hours of work a week during term time
- a person on the Tier 5 youth mobility scheme
Most crucially, when working out if you can apply, you will need to check that your role is eligible under the reimbursement scheme. In general, you should be eligible if you work in the following type of role:
- direct patient care, for example as a health care assistant or social care worker
- administrative or leadership, for example as a manager in a care home, or a hospital receptionist
- facilities management, for example as a cleaner, caterer or courier in a hospital
This is fully explained in Annex A of the Home Office’s guidance. This outlines all of the potential employers, role types, and standards to which you need to be working to make a claim for IHS. It is, therefore, essential that you check whether your role aligns with these requirements.
On calculating the number of hours worked over the six month period, the official guidance clarifies, “The calculation of hours can include periods of statutory leave from ongoing employment (including contracted hours during jury service, maternity leave, and sickness leave). It may also include eligible work for one or more employers and can include up to 4 weeks (28 days) unpaid leave with justification, such as changing employers or personal circumstances. Applicants may be asked to explain any unpaid leave or breaks of service as part of their application”.
How Will the IHS be Reimbursed?
The rebates can be backdated to 31st March 2020 at the earliest. Health and care workers wishing to apply for a reimbursement of the IHS can do so every six months in arrears, so this means anyone working in a health and care role since 31st March 2020 and who has paid the IHS, can now bring a claim for the IHS to cover the period between 1st April 2020 and 30th September 2020. The maximum amount which will be reimbursed each time is £200.
How can I Make a Claim for Reimbursement of IHS?
The process is completed online, and you will need to provide the following details:
- your IHS number (this is a 12-digit number)
- your National Insurance number
- your email address
- the name of your employer
- copies of your payslips for the last six months - you can upload them as either a scan or a photo
- if you’re applying for your dependants, you’ll also need their IHS number, National Insurance number and email address.
Successful applications are typically refunded within six weeks of submission.