Everything You Need to Know About The International Health Surcharge (IHS)

Are you confused about the IHS fee, whether you have to pay it and what exactly it is for? Let us help to enlighten you and explain as much as we can...

IHS Fee Increase - Wednesday 11th March, 2020

On Wednesday 11th March, 2020 Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered the UK Budget. In it he announced a decision to increase the International Health Surcharge (IHS).

The government will increase the IHS from:

  • £300 to £470 per year for a student or Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa, the new fee for the Tier 5 visa will be £940 for your 2-year Tier 5 visa
  • £400 to £624 per year for all other visa and immigration applications, for example £3,120 for a 5-year UK Ancestry visa

To view the source of the above information go to the budget policy paper here.

If you would like to engage our assistance then sign up to our guaranteed visa assistance here. Tier 5 Visas can be submitted up to 6 months before your intended visa start date and UK Ancestry Visa can be submitted up to 3 months before.Read more about these visas here.

What is the International Health Surcharge (IHS)?

It is a health surcharge that was introduced in April 2015 and it’s full name is the International Health Surcharge, abbreviated to IHS. Paying the surcharge will give you the same access to the UKs national health system (NHS) as a UK resident. You will still need to pay for some other services, such as dental treatment, prescriptions and opticians.

Why do I need to pay it?

The UK has a state healthcare system called the National Health Service (NHS) which is funded by general taxation and National Insurance contributions. It offers a wide range of free health care services including GPs, hospital treatments, family planning clinics and subsidised dentistry. Access to the NHS for all UK nationals and most residents is free, which means there is no charge to see a doctor or go to hospital. To help the NHS cope with the increased demand and pressure on its finances, which has reached crisis point, a health surcharge (the IHS) was introduced.

Who has to pay it?

You do not need to pay for the IHS fee if you are coming here as a tourist or if you are heading to live and work on the Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey as these islands are exempt from the IHS fee. But if you are coming here on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility, UK Ancestry or any other visa to work, study or join family for a period of more than 6 months (but not permanently), then you will have to pay the IHS Fee. So if you are asking ‘Do I have to pay IHS’ and are coming here on one of the aforementioned visas, the answer is yes!

When do I pay for the IHS?

You will pay the IHS as part of your visa application. It is generally paid online at the same time as you pay the entry clearance (visa application fee). You will have to pay this before you can book an appointment for your Biometrics.

How much does it cost?

You generally have to pay for each year your visa gives you in the UK. For example the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa gives you two years and the UK Ancestry gives you five, so whatever the yearly amount is, you multiply it by that number.

You will still have to pay the full amount of the time on your visa, even if you only come for a portion of that time. So make the most of your visa here!

  • The UK Ancestry visa - increases from £400 to £624. So if you are applying for a UK Ancestry Visa then the IHS fee will be £3,120 for this 5-year visa

Dependants will need to pay the same amount as you. But if they are joining you in the UK later than you then they will pay for the amount of time you have left on your visa.

To read more about the costs and to calculate how much you’ll have to pay head to the Government website.

My dependent IHS fee was a lot less than mine, is this correct?

Whether or not it is meant to happen this way, I do not know but it seems that the IHS fee for dependents is not calculated correctly. At the time of payment the amount is far less than what it should be. This has been happening for many years, there are a few abnormalities like this that have never been fixed. This one I am in two minds as to whether it is deliberate so they do not have to refund large amounts with declined applications!

If this has happened to you, then do not panic, if there is one thing that I have never seen in all my time assisting with visas, is for the UKVI to undercharge you and forget to chase you for the money! So rest assured, you will receive an e-mail asking you to pay the difference. Make sure you check the e-mail address is bonafide as there are so many scams around these days.

Does the fact that you have been asked to pay the difference mean that your application has been successful? I'd say so yes, but don't shoot me if I got this wrong!

How can I prove I have paid the IHS fee?

After you have paid the International Health Surcharge you will be e-mailed a confirmation receipt, on this receipt will be your IHS reference which begins IHS followed by a series of numbers. When you apply for the IHS use an e-mail address that you will be able to access in the future, i.e. a personal one and not a work one. Because if you lose your number the easiest way to find it is to log back in to your e-mails to retrieve it.

When will I need my IHS reference?

At some point after your arrival in the UK, you will need to register with a GP and you will need your IHS reference in order to do this, it is essentially your proof of having paid the fee. Should you ever need to go to a hospital then you will be asked for your reference here, along with your Biometrics Resident Permit and your passport.

Is the IHS the same as the NHS? No they are two different numbers. So, what is the difference between your IHS number and your NHS number?

Answer - the International Health Surcharge (IHS) is the payment or surcharge visa applicants must pay at the time of completing a visa that gives you access to the National Health Service (NHS). Your IHS number is essentially your confirmation of payment and you will need to show this when you register with a Doctors Surgery. Once you have your NHS number you shouldn't need your IHS number.

You will receive your NHS number once you have registered with a GP, there is usually a 4 week wait for the NHS number so I would recommend you register as soon as you can after you get here.

I have lost my IHS number – where can I find it?

Your IHS reference was originally e-mailed to you and can be found on your confirmation receipt. So the easiest way is to log back into your e-mail account that you used and search for it.

If you cannot access those e-mails anymore then you can e-mail the IHS department, which at the time of writing was at this address IHS.Sheffield@fco.gsi.gov.uk to recover it.

Please let us know if this does not work or you were given an alternative e-mail that we can share on this article.

I am no longer heading to the UK, how can I claim a refund for my IHS?

Sorry to hear this and hope that you will be able to come at some point in the future.

If your visa application was refused or you have withdrawn your visa application (you do this through your visa application log in, then you will get an automatic refund. It should take no longer than 6 weeks. You usually will not get a refund if you simply decide to not come to the UK (please don’t do this - if you're getting cold feet then call or e-mail me!!). But due to Covid there is a concession to refund you if you claim it is due to COVID. There was a process to follow but I see this has been removed now, I suggest you still try it - (see the image directly below).

Be aware that it can take months before you get your refund but don't let them get away with not refunding you!!

Should you need to contact the UKVI about your IHS refund then you can do so by e-mailing or calling them on their costly contact details! Click here to find out how to contact them.

IHS refund

Cancel your UK visa

If I do not stay the full duration of my visa, can I get a refund on the remainder of my IHS Fee?

Unfortunately this is not going to be possible. You have to pay for the length of the visa period granted at the time of application. So if you are on a Tier 5 visa which is valid for two years then you pay the IHS fee for the two years (currently set at £470 per year) and therefore if you go home early then sadly that is your loss. It's mean but spare a thought for those on the UK Ancestry visa who have to pay £3,120 because it is a 5 year visa!

So don't go home! Stay and get your moneys worth!

More help on this topic

Has this article answered your question?

Please just e-mail me (Sarah) if you have a question about this topic that I have not answered on this page.

Disclaimer – the above article is based on research sources at the time of writing. Whilst we hope it has helped answer any questions or concerns. However, we still recommend you carry out additional research on the main Government website to ensure you have the most up to date information. You can also contact them directly here, charges will apply.