Immigration Health Surcharge Refund for Health and Care Workers

The Government has recently announced that they will refund the Immigration Health Surcharge to eligible individuals who work in Health and Care.

What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?

Most migrants need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge when they make an application for a UK visa. It is currently £624 per year for most adults, so it is quite a hefty sum when you are paying for a visa that lasts a few years. The government introduced it in 2015 to ‘ensure temporary migrants make a fair contribution to the comprehensive range of NHS services available to them during their stay’.

Why are some people eligible for a refund?

During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 the media realised that a lot of front line health care workers were not only risking their health and lives working for the NHS, they were also having to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, as they were here on visas. In reaction to media pressure, the Government promised on the 21st of May 2020 that they would ‘exempt health and care workers from the IHS “as soon as possible.”’ It was later announced that this would be backdated to 31 March 2020.

Although the changes in law, with the introduction of new health and care visa, did mean that some healthcare staff were exempt or eligible for reimbursement, it left out a lot of health and care workers, notably those working in care homes.

This latest announcement is the Government’s response to pressure from MPs and the public for all healthcare staff to be exempt and eligible for reimbursement if they have already paid.

Who will be eligible?

The Government has produced a guide to assist people in assessing if they are eligible for a reimbursement or not. To summarise, you will be eligible if you meet the following criteria:

  • Have paid for an Immigration Health Surcharge.
  • Have a job in health and social care.
  • Have worked in your job for at least 6 months.
  • Work an average of 16 hours per week or more.
  • Were still working after the 31st of March and continued working for at least 6 months

For example: someone who works for a care home that is regulated by the Care Quality Commission and paid for the Immigration Health Surcharge in late 2019, but was still working in March 2020 and continued to work until September 2020 would be able to apply for a refund.

There is a comprehensive list here in Annex A, which states that if you are employed or engaged by one of the bodies and undertaking certain types of work then you will qualify for the reimbursement.

Dependents of those who are eligible can also apply for a reimbursement at the same time.

Who is not eligible?

This reimbursement is not intended for those on Tier 2 Health and Care visas, who should have automatically been issued with a refund. This refund should have been sent to the card with which they paid. Some doctors and nurses fell into this category, but not all, which caused the outcry for it to apply to all health care workers.

It also does not cover family members who are not applying as dependants e.g. a British national nurse whose husband and non-British children apply for Spouse/Dependant settlement visas would not be covered, unless the Migrant Spouse is also working in the health sector.

Dependants may be eligible for a reimbursement in their own right, for instance if they work in a health or social care setting for an average of at least 16 hours per week. If they are the dependant of a person who is in the UK on a work or study visa but who does not work in health or social care, they would only be able to claim a reimbursement for themselves and any further dependants (such as children). Immigration health surcharge: guidance for reimbursement 2020

Finally exclusion clause is that those who were unemployed or had unpaid leave for more than 28 days during the last six months will not be eligible.

How is the application for reimbursement made?

Applications for a reimbursement can be made for each six-month period, starting from the 31st of March 2020. The Government state that ‘you’ll need to apply every 6 months to claim a refund for additional periods of time’. It is not made clear whether you can apply for 2 periods at the same time, but in theory you should be able to apply for the whole year after the 31st of March 2021. 

The application is completed online and you will need to provide:

  • 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 6 months you’re claiming for – as either a scan or a photo

If the application is successful then the refund should be received on to the card with which it was paid within 6 weeks.

In conclusion

This is welcome news for those who felt left out of the initial Immigration Health Surcharge refund and could add up to a substantial saving, especially if dependants are involved. It seems that the applications themselves should be fairly straight forward, although it does need repeating every six months (and also falls short of covering family members of British NHS workers). This may make it a little more time consuming, but one would assume it there to deter abuse of the system. 

The biggest winners from this law change will be care workers, who are often on low wages and would not normally qualify for a Tier 2 visa, thus not benefitting from the new healthcare visa.

 If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for a refund or would like assistance with making the application, we recommend that you contact your UK Immigration Lawyer to assist you.

Please feel free to share and comment to raise awareness of these changes. Also, if you have been affected by any of these immigration rule changes and need a quick chat with a UK Immigration Solicitor, do not hesitate to contact Tito Mbariti for a free one-off, no-obligation general immigration advice consultation via either phone, WeChat, Facetime or Skype. 

You may contact us by filling in our Quick Enquiry form any time you need professional support or have any questions. Alternatively, you can call us during office hours on 07544669131 / 0116 3800 744