In the UK, immigrants contribute to the healthcare system through the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This fee is essential for accessing National Health Service (NHS) services. However, there are circumstances where individuals are entitled to an IHS refund or reimbursement. In this article we aim to clarify and explain these rules and guide you through the process.
The Purpose of IHS Fee
- Healthcare Access: The IHS allows visa applicants to use NHS services during their stay in the UK. It’s a mandatory fee for most applicants seeking leave to enter or remain in the UK for more than six months.
- Rates and Applicability: The surcharge varies, with current rates at £776 per year for students and under 18s, and £1035 for other visa categories as of January 16st 2024.
- Payment Structure: Applicants pay for the entire duration of their visa upfront. The amount reflects the length of the visa granted, with adjustments for periods less than a year.
Reasons for Eligibility of an IHS Refund or Reimbursement
- Visa Application Outcomes: If your visa application is unsuccessful or withdrawn, you’re entitled to a refund. This policy ensures fairness and addresses changes in visa status.
- Special Circumstances: Various scenarios, such as overpayments, visa duration discrepancies, and dependant visa issues, qualify for a refund or reimbursement. Each case is treated based on its unique circumstances to ensure that applicants are not unduly burdened financially.
Understanding the refund rules of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is crucial for anyone attempting to immigrate into the UK. These rules determine when and how an individual can claim back the surcharge paid, under different circumstances.
Automatic IHS Refunds
Automatic refunds are processed without the need for an application from the individual, under specific conditions:
- Visa Refusal or Withdrawal: If your visa application is refused or you withdraw it before a decision is made, the IHS paid is fully refundable. This rule acknowledges the change in circumstances, ensuring applicants aren’t financially penalised for unsuccessful applications.
- Duplicate Payments: In cases where the IHS has been paid more than once due to error or system glitch, the surplus amount is automatically refunded. This is to rectify overpayments and maintain financial fairness.
- Visa Duration Discrepancies: If you receive a visa for a shorter duration than you applied for, the IHS paid for the ungranted period is refunded. This partial refund compensates for the mismatch between the application and the actual visa granted.
- Dependant Visa Issues: If dependants included in your application are refused leave, the portion of the surcharge paid for them is refunded automatically.
In addition to automatic full refunds, certain situations may lead toa partial refund:
- Visa Granted for Less Time (Main Applicant): If you, as the main applicant, are granted leave for a shorter period than you applied for, a proportional part of the IHS is refundable. This is to align the payment with the actual duration of the visa granted.
- Dependants Refused to Leave: Similar to the main applicant if any dependants on the application are refused leave, the portion of the surcharge paid for them is subject to a partial refund.
IHS Refund & Reimbursement
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) reimbursement policies offer specific groups of individuals the opportunity to recover the costs under certain conditions. These groups primarily include EU citizens with particular healthcare coverage and health and care workers in the UK.
EU Healthcare Coverage
EU citizens, along with individuals from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, who move to the UK for work, study, or settlement, may be eligible for IHS reimbursement under certain circumstances:
- Eligibility Requirements:
- S1 Certificate Holders: If you have a UK visa starting on or after January 1, 2021, and your healthcare is paid for by an EU member state, you may qualify for a full or partial IHS refund. This eligibility is contingent upon having an S1 certificate registered with the NHS Business Services Authority.
- EHIC Holders: Full-time students in UK higher education, who do not work in the UK and hold a European Healthcare Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in an EU country, are also eligible for IHS refunds.
- Application Process and Timeframe:
- Refund Amount Calculation: The refund amount is determined based on the expiry date of the S1 certificate or EHIC.
Health and Care Workers
Health and care workers in the UK are provided specific concessions under the IHS scheme, acknowledging their contribution to the UK’s health and social care sectors.
- Automatic Exemption:
- Specific Visas: Workers under the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) and Tier 5 Medical Training Initiative are exempt from the IHS and can receive automatic refunds.
- Reimbursement Eligibility: Other visas and roles may qualify for reimbursement if they meet certain criteria, like working for eligible organisations and meeting the required work duration and intensity.
- Eligibility Criteria:
- Employment in Eligible Organisations: To qualify, you must work, or have worked, in health or social care for at least six months, averaging at least 16 hours per week.
- Role Types: Eligibility extends beyond frontline care and includes various support roles in health or social care settings.
- Application Process and Timeframe:
- Tier 2 Visa Holders: Medical professionals on a Tier 2 (General) visa are typically eligible for automatic refunds.
- Others: If not eligible for automatic refunds, applications can be made online, requiring details like your IHS number, National Insurance number, and employer information.
When dealing with Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) refunds and reimbursements, it’s essential to have comprehensive information about the process, including expected timelines and contact details for further inquiries. This section aims to provide such critical details to help applicants navigate the process with greater ease.
Processing Times for Refunds and Reimbursements
The time frame for processing IHS refunds and reimbursements can vary based on the specific reason for the refund and the complexity of the individual case. However, there are general guidelines:
- Standard Processing Time: Typically, a IHS refund is processed within 6 weeks of a decision on your visa application or from the date of a reimbursement application.
- Delays: Processing times can extend beyond the standard period in cases involving appeals or administrative reviews following a visa refusal.
Contact Details for Inquiries
For questions or concerns regarding IHS refunds or reimbursements, specific contact avenues are available:
- IHS Refunds Team Contact: For issues related to IHS refunds, individuals can reach out to the NHS Business Services Authority here.
- Queries Post-Application: If you have not received your IHS refund within the standard processing time, you should contact the IHS refunds team with details of your application.
Resources for Further Information
Staying informed and up to date is vital for anyone involved in the IHS refund process. Here are some resources that can be useful:
- Official UK Government Website: Comprehensive and current information about IHS refunds and reimbursements is available on the UK government’s official website.
- Legal and Immigration Advice Services: Consulting with our immigration lawyers at Primus Solicitors can provide personalised assistance and advice tailored to individual circumstances.
Understanding the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) refunds and reimbursements process can be challenging, but it is a key aspects for anyone involved in the UK immigration system.
Key Points Summary
- Automatic and Partial Refunds: IHS refunds are available under various circumstances, including visa refusals, overpayments, and discrepancies in visa duration. Both automatic full and partial refunds are applicable based on the specific situation.
- Reimbursement for Specific Groups: EU citizens with an S1 certificate or EHIC and health and care workers on certain visas are eligible for reimbursements, acknowledging their unique contributions and circumstances.
- Process and Timeframe: Refunds are typically processed within 6 weeks, with potential delays in complex cases. It’s important to keep track of your application and follow up if necessary.
Further Assistance and Guidance
If You or Someone you know is in need of further legal assistance in regard to HIS fees, especially as the new rates take effect as of January 16st 2024, Don’t Hesitate to Contact Our Immigration Experts at Primus Solicitors for Further Information.