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...

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. 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!

As I write this in June 2019 the International Health Surcharge fees are as follows:

  • It costs £300 per year for a student or an applicant of the Tier 5 YMV visa, so it will be £600 for the two years of your Tier 5 visa.
  • It costs £400 per year for all other visa and immigration categories, so if you are applying for a UK Ancestry Visa then it will be £2,000 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.

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, the International Health Surcharge (IHS) is the payment or surcharge visa applicants pay that gives access to the National Health Service (NHS).

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.

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 then you will get an automatic refund. It should take no longer than 6 weeks. You will not get a refund if you simply decide to not come to the UK (please don’t do this!!).

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.

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.