A recent government U-turn now means that foreign healthcare workers who have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge are now eligible for a refund. The IHS was in place to ensure foreign nationals contributed towards any care they received from the NHS. For many healthcare professionals currently seeking British citizenship, the IHS has been costly and represented a significant proportion of total income.

The decision by Boris Johnson to scrap the controversial UK Immigration Health Surcharge for care workers and NHS professionals was announced back in May. However, it has taken over four months for the government to put a refund scheme in place to reimburse migrant workers who had already paid the fee.

As a result of the changes, a new Tier 2 health and care visa was launched in August. This visa now exempts overseas staff from the Immigration Health Surcharge. Refunds are available to anybody who has:

Already paid the IHS fee prior to the launch of the Tier 2 health and care visa.
Currently holds a valid UK work visa.
Has worked continuously in health or social care for at least six months.

Why the UK has abolished IHS

UK health secretary Matt Hancock introduced the reimbursement scheme and new health and care UK work permit in an attempt to encourage overseas care workers to continue to come to the UK. It is estimated that the proportion of migrants working in the National Health Service is between 13 and 29 percent, highlighting the importance of foreign health workers in ensuring the NHS functions to a satisfactory level.

The reimbursement scheme is designed to benefit thousands of healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly throughout 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How the IHS refund scheme will work

Official government guidance states that each applicant will need to apply for IHS refunds every six months, provided they have worked at least 16 hours each week during that six-month duration. Reimbursements will be processed in arrears. However, the reimbursement will not apply to anybody who has paid IHS prior to 31 March, 2020.

Broken promises

In the wake of the reimbursement scheme having been activated on 1 October, UK shadow immigration minister Holly Lynch launched into a tirade against the current government, having accused them of a “broken promise” to refund eligible workers.

Lynch went on to say that it was “completely unacceptable” for the government to hit low-paid international care workers with fees which can amount to thousands per family. With the introduction of the reimbursement scheme finally off the starting block, it appears that families will be able to enjoy some respite – even if they don’t hold the new Tier 2 visa.

How to apply for a Tier 2 health and care UK visa

If you do not currently hold British citizenship but currently:

Have a job or job offer from the NHS
Work for an organisation providing services to the NHS
Provide adult social care

You could be eligible to apply for a Tier 2 health and care UK work permit. To apply, you must be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional.

How long does the application for a Tier 2 health and care visa take?

It is advisable to apply for a UK visa at least three months before you are due to start work in the UK. If you are currently in the process of applying for a UK work visa and require help with your paperwork, our document checking service can ensure that you get things right the first time around.

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us. A member of our friendly and experienced UK immigration law experts will be more than happy to help you with your application.

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