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The government has launched an Immigration Health Surcharge refund scheme for NHS and social care workers. Migrants working in a hospital or care home who don’t have a Health and Care visa will continue to pay the surcharge up front, but can claim it back every six months.

During the pandemic, the Prime Minister promised to exempt migrants propping up the healthcare system from the £400 a year visa tax. That promise was partially fulfilled by waiving the charge for Health and Care visa applicants when that route launched in August.

The refund scheme is for people who are in the UK on a visa granting a “generic right to work”, such as Youth Mobility, and who happen to get a job with the NHS or in social care. They will be eligible for a refund for every continuous six-month period they work in qualifying roles for an average of 16 hours or more a week.

Home Office guidance gives details of the application process and the jobs that qualify (in Annex A). Unlike the Health and Care visa, which is restricted to certain healthcare professionals, a wide range of occupations is catered for, including care workers and hospital support staff.

Refunds are backdated to 31 March, so people can now apply to get their money back for the six-month period covering April-September 2020. The exception is those on a Tier 2 (General) visa, who cannot use the refund process and must instead email IHSrefunds@homeoffice.gov.uk to ask about getting their money back.