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Hospital treatment

Most types of treatment provided in a hospital setting will be chargeable to people who are considered to be ‘overseas visitors’, unless an exemption applies.

Exempt treatments

Treatments that are exempt from charging are listed in section 2 of this guide: free NHS treatment.

Exempt groups

A person will be exempt if they have one of the following types of immigration status:

  • Leave to enter or remain (unless this is a six-month visit visa) 
  • Refugee status or humanitarian protection
  • Asylum seeker whose claim is pending
  • Asylum seeker in receipt of section 95 Home Office support
  • Appeal rights exhausted (ARE) asylum seeker who is receiving section 4 Home Office asylum support or is accommodated by a council under the Care Act 2014

The exempt groups also include:

  • A child looked after by a council as defined by section 22(1) of the Children Act 1989
  • Victim or suspected victim of modern slavery or trafficking

For the full list of exempt groups see the NHS information on overseas visitors who do not need to pay for NHS treatment.

The exemptions do not apply to most people who are living in the UK without current immigration permission and to people who are here for a short-term visit. Therefore, a person will need to pay for hospital treatment if they have one of the following types of immigration status:

  • Leave to enter as a visitor (or on another basis) that is valid for six months or less
  • Visa overstayer
  • Appeal rights exhausted (ARE) asylum seeker who is not accommodated by the Home Office or a council under the Care Act 2014

Public Health England’s migrant health guide explains what should happen when an exemption no longer applies to a person following a change in their immigration status whilst they are part-way through a course of treatment. The guide also explains what information may be shared with the Home Office when the NHS needs to check the person’s immigration status or to inform the Home Office about an unpaid debt. 

The Department of Health and Social Care’s Guidance on implementing the overseas visitor charging regulations includes information about what should happen if a person cannot afford to pay for treatment.

Maternity care

Although maternity care, including antenatal appointments, is chargeable treatment, this is deemed to be immediately necessary, so should always be provided to a person without requiring upfront payment. Maternity Action provides advice and information to migrant women about access to maternity and other health care.

Further information

The Department of Health and Social Care has produced a series of detailed guidance documents for NHS staff about overseas visitors charging.

Immigration terms

Asylum seeker

A person who has made a claim to the UK government for protection (asylum) under the United Nations Refugee Convention 1951 and is waiting for a decision from the Home Office or final decision from the appeal courts (following a refusal).

Refugee status

Granted to a person who is recognised as having a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion under the UN Refugee Convention 1951, usually following an asylum application.

Visa overstayer

A person who had leave to enter or remain in the UK for a limited period and has no current immigration permission because they either did not make an application to extend their leave before their previous leave expired, or made an application that was refused after their previous leave expired.

Appeal rights exhausted (ARE)

The status of a person whose asylum or immigration claim has been refused when they have come to the end of the appeal process without success or have no further right of appeal.