Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) Refund Guide
In a previous post, we looked at the process for obtaining refunds of immigration and nationality application fees.
On top of the application fee, the majority of migrants to the UK are also required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). The rules determining whether this is refundable, and the processes for obtaining a refund, are separate to the rules on refunding application fees. In this post, we will consider whether and how you may be able to obtain a refund of the IHS.
What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a payment that entitles you to access any healthcare services offered by the UK National Health Service (NHS). You will ordinarily be required to pay the IHS if you are outside the UK and are applying for limited leave to enter or remain for longer than 6 months, or if you are inside the UK and are applying for limited leave of any length. Only a few categories of applicants are exempted from paying the IHS: please see further information here.
The amount you have to pay is subject to change but currently as follows:
- £470 per year for a student or Youth Mobility Scheme visa, for example £940 for a 2-year visa
- £470 per year for visa and immigration applicants who are under the age of 18 at time of application
- £624 per year for all other visa and immigration applications, for example £3,120 for a 5-year visa
Who Is Eligible for an IHS Refund?
You are eligible for a full refund of the IHS if:
- You paid twice
- Your visa application is refused
- You withdraw your application at any time before a decision has been made
You will get a partial refund of the IHS if:
- You get less time on your visa than you asked for (for example, if you have paid £3,120 for a 5-year visa but are only granted 3 years, you will be refunded £1248, the cost of the two extra years)
- If any dependants on your visa application are refused
In addition, you may be eligible for a full or partial refund if:
- Your healthcare is paid for by an EU country or Switzerland
- You work in the health and care sectors
Further information on these situations is set out below.
You will not get a refund of the IHS if:
- Your visa application is successful (even if you do not come to the UK)
- You leave the UK before your visa ends
- You are told to leave the UK before your visa expires
- You are applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK
How Do I Get an IHS Refund?
Ordinarily, you should not have to do anything to get a refund of the Immigration Health Surcharge. It should automatically be repaid to the account or card you paid with.
If you think you are due a refund but have not heard anything within 6 weeks (or within the alternate timeframes set out below), you should contact UKVI.
How Long Does It Take To Get an IHS Refund?
You should receive a refund of the IHS within around 6 weeks of receiving a decision on your visa application.
However, it may take longer if you are appealing a visa refusal or if you have requested an administrative review. If that is the case, and you applied from inside the UK, you should receive a refund up to 6 weeks after your appeal or administrative review is dismissed. If you applied from outside the UK, you should still receive your refund within 6 weeks of your visa refusal.
What Happens if My Refusal Is Overturned After I Have Already Received an IHS Refund?
If, following an appeal or administrative review, your visa is granted, but you have already received an IHS refund, you will have to pay it back once again. You may be asked to pay a different amount to what you paid originally, for example if the length of your stay changes or if you are granted less time on your visa than you initially requested.
What if My Healthcare Is Paid for by an EU Country or Switzerland?
Following Brexit, and under the UK’s points-based system, immigrants from the EU and Switzerland who are coming to the UK for more than 6 months are required to pay the IHS just like nationals of non-EU countries.
However, in certain situations, EU and Swiss nationals are entitled to have their healthcare in the UK paid for by their home country. In this situation they will be able to claim a refund of the IHS. You may be eligible for such a refund if:
- You hold an ‘S1 certificate’
- You are a full-time student
An S1 certificate is issued to people who:
- Receive either a state pension or certain ‘exportable’ benefits from that country
- Work in an EU country or Switzerland (frontier worker)
- Are posted to work in the UK by an employer in an EU country or Switzerland
- Are an eligible family member or dependent of one of the above
If any of the above applies, you should be issued with an S1 certificate by your home country. If you are not sure whether you are eligible, you should contact your national health insurance authority.
You will need to register your S1 in the UK with the Overseas Healthcare Services team at the NHS Business Services Authority, contact details for which can be found here.
If you have registered your S1, and your visa starts on or after 01 January 2021, you can apply for a refund of your IHS payment by contacting the Overseas Healthcare Services team using the same contact details as above.
If you are a student, you may be eligible for an IHS refund if:
- You are a full-time student in UK higher education
- Your visa started on or after 1 January 2021
- You have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in an EU country or Switzerland
- You do not work or do not intend to work in the UK
To receive a full IHS reimbursement, you will need to make sure that your EHIC is valid for the entire duration of your visa. If it is not, you will only receive a partial refund in respect of the amount of time covered. Please note that you can only make such an application if you had at least 6 months left on your EHIC at the beginning of your visa.
To apply for an IHS refund as an EU or Swiss student, follow the link here.
Health and Care Workers
Workers who come to the UK on a Health and Care Worker visa are exempt from paying the IHS.
If however, you came to the UK on a different route but you work in the health and care sector, you may be eligible for an IHS refund.
If you hold a Tier 2 (General) visa and work in an ‘eligible job’ (which essentially are medical professional jobs, such as doctor, dentist, nurse or social worker), you and any dependants can claim a refund. If you applied after 31 March 2020, you will receive a full refund, and if you applied before that time you will receive a refund in respect of any time since then.
When you apply, you will need to provide UKVI with your IHS reference number(s) (for you and any dependants), the date of your payment, your Certificate of Sponsorship number and your employer’s name.
Contact our Immigration Barristers
The IHS can be costly for many applicants – in many cases it will be far higher than the cost of the application itself. A refund may be worth thousands of pounds.
For expert advice and assistance in relation to a UK visa application or immigration appeal, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.