The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
From 6th April 2015 as part of the Immigration Act 2014, all UK visa applicants planning to stay in the UK to work, study or join family for more than 6 months (non-visitor category) will have to pay the new mandatory National Health Service surcharge before entering the country. The surcharge will also apply to non-EEA nationals already in the UK who plan to extend their stay.
In April 2016, this charge was extended to include Australians and New Zealanders who spend more than 6 months in the UK.
It should be noted that applicants for a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa and their dependents are exempt from paying the health surcharge. They will be informed that the payment is nil. However, they still need to go through the process to receive an immigration health surcharge reference number that should be put on the cover of the immigration application.
Tourists and visitors to the UK for less than 6 months will not have to pay the surcharge but will be fully liable for any healthcare costs they incur whilst in the UK.
Paying the surcharge
Main applicants will pay £200 per year, dependents will pay a similar amount, and students will have to pay £150. The exact amount to pay depends on how much leave is granted and can be calculated online on the government website.
You will pay half of the yearly amount if the application includes part of a year that is less than 6 months. You will have to pay for a whole year if your application includes part of a year that is more than 6 months.
The surcharge must be paid in full before submitting the application, including the surcharge for any dependents. It is usually paid online but appointments can be booked at a premium service centre (UK only). If the surcharge is not paid, or the wrong amount is paid, then the visa application will not be granted or the application delayed.
- Register to use the service
- Answer several questions to see if you have to pay the surcharge or not
- Make payment online if not exempt
- Receive an email with your IHS number which should be written on the front cover of your visa application. You need this number even if you are exempt
- Finish the application form and pay the visa application fee
The healthcare provided
The surcharge is set at a competitive rate and is generally cheaper than taking out private medical insurance. Basic medical insurance does not normally cover the full range of treatments provided by the NHS, including pre-existing and chronic medical conditions and treatment during pregnancy.
In the case of a medical emergency it is the NHS which will be providing treatment.
Healthcare surcharge payers will be able to access the NHS under the same terms as a permanent resident. In other words, they will receive NHS care generally free of charge but may be charged for services that a permanent resident would also pay for- dental treatment, eye tests, prescriptions.