Staff can now apply for immigration health surcharge refunds

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Health and care staff from overseas are now able to claim their immigration health surcharge reimbursement today (1 October), a week after Labour accused the government of breaking its promise.

In May, Boris Johnson announced that overseas NHS staff and care workers would no longer be required to pay a surcharge to use the health service. Now, more than four months after Johnson’s announcement, those eligible for reimbursement can apply online.

The Tier 2 health and care visa, launched in August, exempted eligible staff from paying the IHS. But, anyone who arrived in the UK before this visa was launched and holds a relevant visa, has worked in health and social care continuously for at least six months and has paid the IHS, will be eligible for a reimbursement.

Last week, Holly Lynch, shadow immigration minister, attacked the government for its “shameful broken promise” for not having refunded eligible health workers.

“It’s completely unacceptable to level up-front charges on low-paid care workers that can amount to thousands of pounds for a family. The government is effectively borrowing money from families without ever saying when they will get it back.” she said.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am incredibly proud of all the fantastic health and care workers from all over the world we have working in our NHS who provide such an invaluable service, from cleaners to care workers to porters.

“We can now deliver on our promise as the reimbursement scheme will benefit those who have given so much this year to protect us all from Covid-19.

“This will encourage overseas health and care workers to continue to come and work in the UK and help those already living here to provide first-class care and support for patients.”

Rebecca Smith, managing director of NHS Employers, said: “Employers and recent overseas recruits will welcome detail on how the immigration health surcharge reimbursement service will work in practice.

The government’s decision in May to exempt health and social care staff from the fee and reimburse those who have paid it after 31 March this year demonstrated some recognition of the incredible contribution overseas staff make to the NHS. Now more than ever, we must show our gratitude for all our staff, including those from overseas, who have worked with dedication, fortitude and selflessness to care for our communities in one of the most challenging periods in our history.”

Guidance published by the government today says that applicants will need to apply for reimbursements on a six-monthly basis, when they have worked for at least 16 hours per week over the full six months. These reimbursements will be processed in six-month instalments in arrears.

“For example, if a claimant paid for the IHS in 2019, for a period of three years, they will be able to claim six months’ worth of IHS reimbursement on 1 October 2020. This can be repeated on 31 March 2021 and for any additional six-month periods, as long as they have met the eligibility criteria for this period,” the guidance states.

IHS in respect of any period of time or work before 31 March 2020 cannot be reclaimed.

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