Health Insurance for UK Student Visa

Starlyon King
Starlyon King  - Author
12 Min Read
Health Insurance for UK Student Visa
Health Insurance for UK Student Visa

If you are seeking to travel to the UK to pursue your academics, then one of the mandatory requirements to get a student visa is obtaining health insurance. This can be a bit challenging, especially if you are new to the process and do not know how to go about it. However, if this is you, don’t be perplexed, as this article is for you! Here, we will be showing you all you need to know about health insurance for UK student visas, among other relevant information.

What is the NHS?

Established in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) is a publicly funded healthcare system in the UK, thought of as part of post-war social reform. It operates on three core principles: services are comprehensive, universal, and free at the point of use.

While England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own healthcare systems, they are interconnected under a single NHS umbrella funded by taxpayer contributions. The ‘Barnett formula’ allocates funds to devolved health systems based on factors like budget constraints, population, and health needs.

The NHS is a source of pride for many in the UK. Moving to the country, you and your family can gain access to this healthcare system by paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee.

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About Health Insurance in the UK

The National Health System (NHS) provides health coverage for everyone living legally in the UK, including international students who must pay a surcharge. The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) requirement has been integral to the UK immigration system since 2015. Foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the UK for over six months usually need to pay the IHS fee to the UK Home Office. This fee is justified by the principle that migrants accessing the NHS, funded by taxpayer contributions, should contribute to its costs. Collected IHS funds are distributed among the health administrations in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England, amounting to around £200 million annually and exceeding £1 billion since the introduction of the IHS fee in 2015.

Hence, paying the Immigration Health Surcharge means you’re part of the NHS, offering free healthcare during your studies. You won’t pay for doctor visits, emergency hospital treatment, minor-injury care, specialist consultations (with GP referral), or contraception. However, NHS generally doesn’t cover prescription meds, dental or eye care, wigs, or fabric supports. After arriving in the country, you should endeavor to register with a local General Practitioner (GP) clinic for primary medical care.

Benefits of Health Insurance

Healthcare for international students in the UK offers several advantages, some of which include the following:

  1. Comprehensive Coverage: Insurance for international students covers medical care, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and surgical procedures.
  2. Cost Protection: Health insurance safeguards students from the potentially high costs of healthcare in the UK. Without insurance, medical expenses can quickly become overwhelming for international students.
  3. Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions: Some policies allow coverage for pre-existing illnesses, benefiting students requiring long-term treatment.
  4. Visa Requirement: For certain UK student visas, medical coverage is mandatory. Adhering to this requirement, including having health insurance, helps avoid visa issues.
  5. Mental Health Support: Medical insurance often covers mental health therapies, providing assistance for issues like homesickness or emotional challenges faced by international students.
  6. Uninterrupted Lives: With UK health insurance, students can proceed with their education and daily activities without disruption, knowing they are financially protected from unexpected medical expenses.
  7. Emergency Services Access: Health insurance ensures access to emergency services such as ambulance rides, and hospital stays in case of a medical emergency.


How Much is Health Insurance for a UK Student Visa?

The fee for the Immigration Health Surcharge is determined by your visa duration, potentially extending beyond your study or work period.

For a yearly cost, it is £470 for student or Youth Mobility visas (e.g., £940 for a 2-year visa), £470 for applicants under 18, and £624 for other visas (e.g., £3,120 for a 5-year visa).

For less than 6 months, there is no surcharge for applications outside the UK. For applications inside the UK, the cost is half-year, such as £235 for students or Youth Mobility and £312 for others.

For over a year, you pay the yearly cost plus half if the visa is 18 months or less or the cost of two full years if it’s more than 18 months but less than 2 years.

Dependents aged 18 or older usually pay the same amount as the main applicant.

How to Pay Health Insurance for UK International Students?

Paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a crucial step in your UK student visa health insurance process. If applying online or through a premium service center, this payment is often made at the time of application. For postal applications, ensure you pay the IHS online and obtain an IHS reference number to include in your application form.

Use the official UKVI payment service to pay the IHS online with your debit or credit card, aligning with the UK student visa health insurance requirements. Provide the start and end dates from your Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) for work applications or official course dates for student applications. After payment, you’ll receive an email containing your IHS reference number. This number is also displayed at the end of the payment process. Utilize the IHS reference number to proceed with your immigration application.

When submitting an online immigration application, remember to pay the health insurance fee within 30 minutes of initiating the process. If applying by post, ensure payment of the UK health insurance fee is made before completing the application.

NHS Number for International Students

The NHS number for international students is a unique identifier assigned to individuals upon registering with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. It allows healthcare providers to track and access your health records. While not necessary for booking appointments or using NHS services, the number is important for identification and record-keeping purposes. You can find your NHS number on documents like doctor’s prescriptions, lab results, and appointment letters or through the NHS website if needed.

Immigration Health Surcharge Refunds

If your application is unsuccessful or you withdraw it, the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fees will be automatically refunded. You don’t need to take any action for the refunds; they are processed back to the account or card used for payment. However, if you don’t receive the IHS fee refund automatically, it could be due to issues with the initial payment card or technical problems on the UKVI side. In such cases, contact the UKVI to address any concerns or issues related to Immigration Health Surcharge refunds.

Bear in mind that the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) refunds are often processed within 6 weeks from the decision of your application. However, for applications that involve an appeal or administrative review after a refusal, the process may take longer. If you don’t receive your refund automatically within the specified 6-week timeframe, you can contact the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) directly. Note that recent changes may require payment for a guaranteed response when reaching out to UKVI.

Refund Eligibility

You may get an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) full refund if you paid twice, your visa application was refused or withdrawn, or you received less visa time than requested. Visa dependant(s) being refused or working in health and social care also qualify for a partial refund. You won’t get an IHS refund if applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, required to leave before visa expiration, deciding to leave before the visa ends, or choosing not to come to the UK despite a successful visa application.

Do you Have to Pay the IHS Payable if you Have Private Health Insurance?

While some individuals opt for private health insurance for additional healthcare options, faster specialist access, or elective procedures, it’s essential to note that this doesn’t exempt you from the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee. The IHS fee is mandatory, irrespective of any alternative health coverage.

If you already have private health insurance from your home country, check with the insurance company to see if coverage can be extended while you’re abroad. This aspect should be considered when planning your move to the UK, or it may affect you in the long run.


Studying in the UK is a dream come true for many students all over the world. However, one key requirement to securing a UK study visa is getting health insurance. The NHS covers health for everyone in the UK, even international students who have to pay a surcharge. This requirement has been there in the UK immigration system since 2015. Also, it cannot be waived even if the individual has private health insurance. When you pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, you become a part of the NHS, and it gives you free healthcare while you study. We hope that this article has just shown you all you need to know about getting UK health insurance and other relevant information.

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By Starlyon King Author
I'm Kingsley Neji, popularly known as Starlyon King, CEO of UnicrossBlog and SportPremi. Join me on a journey of knowledge and excellence in education and career.
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