Do Immigrants Have the Right to Healthcare?

When traveling abroad, one of your top considerations should be how to get healthcare in case you fall ill. This is necessary when you are traveling to the UK. UK citizens and permanent residents have their healthcare covered by the NHS. 

As a migrant coming to the United Kingdom, the healthcare plan offered by your home country will be different from what operates in the UK. Since your plan cannot be carried over to the UK from anywhere you are coming from, there is a need to understand the local healthcare guidelines for migrants in the UK and how to navigate them by getting immigration advice service Leeds, from qualified professionals.

Primary Healthcare for Migrants in the UK 

Migrants in the United Kingdom can register for and receive primary healthcare services in the UK irrespective of their immigration status or nationality. They will typically not be required to provide proof of their residence or identity to primary healthcare with a general practitioner. This applies to every immigrant including asylum seekers and those with refugee status in the UK.

In the UK, Patients are entitled to free primary healthcare for the following conditions regardless of whether they can provide the documentation requested or not: 

·         Treatment for accidents and emergencies 

·         Seeing a general practitioner as a temporary patients 

·         Family planning services 

·         Treatment for infectious diseases 

·         Compulsory mental health treatment 

·         Family planning services (except fertility treatment and abortions)

·         Victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

Patients may only be disallowed from registering with a GP if their registration list is closed for new patients or the patient is resident outside of their catchment or has been removed from the register before due to a wide range of reasons. 

Secondary Healthcare Treatment for Migrants in the UK 

While NHS services are free for those who are ordinarily resident in the UK, individuals that are not ordinarily residents will be charged for any secondary healthcare services they receive. This includes any form of healthcare that requires referral for specialist services such as a wide range of diagnostics services, pathological laboratory tests, theatre operations, and so on. 

It is important to note that some non-UK nationals may still be able to get free NHS services for secondary healthcare. This includes those with asylum status and their dependents, victims and suspected victim of human trafficking and modern slavery, and so on. 

To qualify for free secondary healthcare in the UK you have to be ordinarily resident in this UK. What this means is that you must have a legal permit to live in the UK and you are not a visitor. This includes those with 

  • British citizenship (including those with dual nationality) 
  • Settled and pre-settled status under the EU settlement program
  • Indefinite leave to remain or limited leave to remain 
  • Have been trafficked 

Anyone who does not belong to any of these categories (not ordinarily resident) will be charged for healthcare services. 

Paid Healthcare Services 

It is important to note that there are certain healthcare costs that you have to bear yourself even if you are entitled to other free NHS services. This includes dental treatment, getting dentures, prescription glasses, and so on. However, you may not need to pay for these services by yourself if you are on certain employee benefits such as income support. 

Accessing Treatment as a Migrant in the UK 

Those entitled to free treatment as stipulated above can get the treatment they need immediately regardless of how long they have been in the country. However, those who do not meet the conditions necessary for free treatment will be informed about how they will be charged. 

If you are required to pay, you will have to make payment before the treatment commences. However, in emergency cases or when urgent treatment is required, treatment can commence immediately but the patient will be required to pay after. 

Immigration Health Surcharge

A visitor to the UK that will be in the country for more than 6 months on a visitor’s visa is required to pay an immigration health surcharge. This fee will be paid when applying for a visa to qualify for NHS (National Healthcare Service) treatments as a non-citizen. 

How much you will be required to pay depends on your age and your category of visa application. For instance, if you are applying for a student or youth mobility scheme, you will pay about £470 per year. Other visa & immigration categories are to pay £624 per year. All payments are made upfront during the visa application process. 


Your options for receiving free healthcare services in the UK involve either paying an immigration health surcharge or becoming ordinarily resident. All other immigrant patients are charged for NHS treatment except for treatments that are free to all (citizens and noncitizens).