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Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) refunds and exemption

By Luke Aldred

​At Sanctuary International, we work with hundreds of overseas candidates each year, helping them find their dream health and social care roles in the UK. From interview prep, to helping candidates sort their visas and somewhere to live, we support them throughout the whole process. Which is why we’re pleased to see that, as of 1 October 2020, the Government’s Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) Reimbursement Scheme officially opened and that thousands of international health and social care workers are now exempt from paying the controversial fee.

What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?

The IHS is a fee added on top of the majority of UK visa applications and is in-place to fund healthcare from the NHS, which individuals can access when living here. The surcharge is not cheap, costing £400 per person, per year for applicants and each of their dependents; it’s set to rise to £624 for adults and £470 for children as of this month.

Can I get a refund for the Immigration Health Surcharge?

Due to the workers’ tireless and heroic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers were able to claim reimbursement from the surcharge, a promise that was made by Government back in May 2020. Anyone who has a relevant visa and has worked in health or social care, without breaks in employment for at least six months and paid the IHS, will qualify for the refund.

Those who qualify for the refund can apply now at, where there’s helpful advice on how to claim. IHS refunds will be paid back in six-month instalments.

Am I exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge?

The new Tier 2 Health and Care visa, which launched in August 2020, ensures that staff from these sectors are exempt from paying the fee. Workers not covered by this particular visa, but who’ve been working for the NHS or in a social care role since 31 March 2020, are now able to claim an IHS refund for themselves and their dependents, even if they paid the surcharge before this date.

For any queries regarding the IHS or the Tier 2 Health and Care visa, get in touch with our team at