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Visitors who do not need to pay for NHS treatment

Some visitors to England do not have to pay for NHS hospital treatment because they are within one of the exemption categories.

The exemption categories only apply to people who are not ordinarily resident in the UK. People covered by the immigration health surcharge and some visitors from EEA countries and Switzerland may also be exempt from charges for NHS healthcare.

Visitors from non-EU countries that have a reciprocal healthcare arrangement with the UK may be covered for some treatment needs.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for:

  • testing for coronavirus (even if the test shows you do not have coronavirus)
  • treatment for coronavirus – including for a related problem that affects some children called multisystem inflammatory syndrome
  • vaccination against coronavirus

No immigration checks are needed.

See GOV.UK: NHS entitlements for migrants for information in other languages.

UK government employees and war pensioners

You are exempt if you are a member of Her Majesty's armed forces. This will include your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18, as long as they are lawfully present in the UK. As the principal exempt family member, you do not have to be in the UK with your family at the time of their treatment.

You are also exempt if you are:

  • a Crown servant
  • employed by the British Council
  • employed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • working or volunteering in employment overseas that is financed in part by the UK government

However, you must be visiting the UK as a requirement of the above employment, or you have been ordinarily resident in the UK immediately prior to taking up your current post or another of these posts in the past.

This includes your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18, as long as they are lawfully present in the UK. As the principal exempt family member, you do not have to be in the UK with your family at the time of their treatment.

If you, the qualifying employee, were not previously ordinarily resident in the UK and are only exempt because you are visiting the UK as a requirement of your employment, your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18 will only be exempt when visiting the UK with you.

War pensioners or those who receive armed forces compensation scheme payments are exempt. This includes your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18, provided they are lawfully present in the UK with you.

Vulnerable patients, detainees, workers on ships and NATO personnel

You are exempt from paying for NHS healthcare if you are:

  • granted refugee status in the UK
  • seeking asylum or temporary or humanitarian protection until your application (including appeals) is decided
  • receiving support from the Home Office under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • a failed asylum seeker who receives support from the Home Office under section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 or from a local authority under section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948 or Part 1 (care and support) of the Care Act 2014
  • a child looked after by a local authority
  • formally identified as, or suspected of being, a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking – this includes your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18 as long as they are lawfully present in the UK
  • receiving compulsory psychiatric treatment or treatment imposed by a court order
  • detained in prison or by the immigration authorities in the UK
  • NATO personnel and the service cannot be provided by armed forces medical services – this includes spouses or civil partners and any children under 18 as long as they are lawfully present in the UK

Since 21 August 2017, any overseas visitors working on UK-registered ships are no longer entitled to free NHS care and their employer is liable for their NHS costs.

Visitors from EU countries

You'll be covered for some treatment if you fall ill or have a medical emergency during your visit using your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You should make sure you bring your EHIC with you when visiting the UK. You should also make sure you have adequate travel and health insurance for your visit as an EHIC does not cover all healthcare costs.

If you do not have an EHIC, you can request a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) from the relevant authority where you live.

You'll also be able to seek planned treatment in the UK. You'll need to make all the necessary arrangements yourself in advance and request an S2 form from the relevant health authority where you live. The S2 only covers state-provided treatment, and you'll still have to pay any contributions that patients in England would pay, such as prescription costs.

If you cannot provide or obtain a valid EHIC, PRC or S2, you may be charged for your treatment. You'll be charged at 150% of the national NHS rate.

Visitors from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland

If you're a UK national who moved to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland on or before 31 December 2020, you're still entitled to access NHS care when visiting the UK, using an EHIC or PRC.

If you're visiting from Norway, you'll be able to get medically necessary treatment using your Norwegian passport.

If you're a visitor from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland who began a temporary stay in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you can access NHS care using your EHIC for the duration of your visit. You may also complete planned treatment using an S2 form, as long as authorisation for this was sought from the relevant health authority on or before 31 December 2020.

From 1 January 2021, visitors from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland may be charged for treatment at 150% of the national NHS rate.

Page last reviewed: 6 January 2021
Next review due: 6 January 2024