If you're coming to the UK for more than six months, you'll need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge in order to access healthcare in the UK.
The immigration health surcharge is a financial contribution to allow you access to the UK's National Health Service. You will pay the surcharge if you are a non-EEA national and you are granted immigration permission to enter the UK to study for a period of more than six months.
You will also need to pay it if you are a non-EEA national who is already in the UK and you wish to apply to extend your stay. You will pay the charge (currently £150 for each period of 12 months leave granted) when you make your visa application.
For more information, please visit the Home Office pages of the GOV.UK website.
If you are entitled to NHS treatment this will cover you for:
- Medicine you require on prescription - this is free in Wales (but not throughout the UK)
- Consulting a doctor/GP and most other GP services (eg visiting a doctors’ surgery or clinic)
- Treatment in a hospital (both emergency and non-emergency treatment)
You are likely to pay extra for:
- Some GP services (eg vaccinations for travel and getting a sickness certificate)
- Dental treatment
- Optical treatment (you can get free and reduced price optician services through the University’s School of Optometry)
- Any illness or conditions which existed before you arrived in the UK
If you're staying less than six months
If you're coming for less than six months, you're not entitled to free NHS treatment. You should make sure you have adequate medical insurance to cover medical costs if you fall ill, and also to cover additional possible costs resulting from illness.
These can be substantial and include:
- lost fees if you are unable to complete your course
- the cost of returning home if a relative is ill
- cost of a relative visiting you in the UK if you fall ill
- cost of returning to your home country for treatment
- or in the worst possible situation, returning a body home for burial.
Taking out health insurance
You should also consider taking out insurance which covers the above additional costs, because you are not entitled to free health care for illnesses that existed before you arrived in the UK or anything that happened on the way to the UK.
Even if you are covered by the NHS for medical treatment, you may find that there are long waiting times of several months for services. An insurance policy which gives you access to private medical care could give you much quicker access to the treatment you need.
If you already have medical insurance in your home country, check whether you can extend it to cover your stay in the UK, as well as looking at options available from UK insurers.
Endsleigh Insurance in association with UKCISA has produced a special health insurance policy for international students, which also covers refund of tuition fees in the event of illness and damage to your possessions when travelling to and from your home country to Cardiff.