International students and the UK health services
National Health Services in the UK, known as the NHS are not free for international students. When you apply for a student visa, you will be asked to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your immigration application. How much you need to pay depends on which immigration status (the type of permission) you are applying for. Permission is given by the Home Office, which is a part of the UK government. According to how long you can stay in the UK and what you can do while you are here, you will be given different forms of access to the NHS.
How to pay your Surcharge?
If you are applying for immigration online, you will pay the Healthcare Surcharge as part of the application process. For students, the cost is £470 per year. You must pay the full amount and return to the online application in less than 30 minutes. If you are making an immigration application by post, you must pay the healthcare surcharge before you complete your application. The earliest you can apply for a visa is 6 months before you travel.
Please note! If a student has paid the Health Surcharge, they are eligible for free treatment, including Covid tests from the NHS! Learn how the NHS works here!
When are NHS services free?
If you are entitled to healthcare services, after paying your surcharge, there are some free options available:
Consulting a GP and most other GP services (e.g. clinics)
Legally, you do not need to be registered with a GP, but it is highly recommended as you will have someone with an ongoing understanding of your medical history.
Treatment in a hospital (including non-emergencies)
As GPs have to help multiple people, you might be waiting months for an appointment. In some cases, it might be easier to call 111 and be seen by a medical professional at a hospital.
Please note! Some universities have a doctor's surgery or health centre on campus. It is worthwhile to find out if you can register with these local services, as they are convenient and often less expensive, if not completely free.
Short term student visa
If you are a short-term visitor staying in the UK (for up to 6 months), you do not have to pay the Health Surcharge but you will be required to have private health insurance.
- This will qualify you for the same NHS treatment as any other UK resident from the beginning of your stay.
- Your spouse and children will also be entitled to NHS treatment, even if you are a student. However, they must be registered as your family and not as visitors.
If your visa expires, you will be classified as an overseas visitor and expected to pay for all hospital treatments. You should also be aware that a Covid test may be required at the airport on arrival, which you will have to pay for and may restrict which airports you are allowed to arrive at.