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Eligibility for healthcare based on immigration status

Whether you can fully access healthcare through the National Health Service or need private health insurance is based on your immigration status in the UK.


Students who arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020

If you arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020, your access to health depends on whether you are an EU/EEA/Swiss student or non-EU/EEA/Swiss student and whether your course is less than six months or longer than 6 months. 

EU/EEA/Swiss on a course for six months or longer

If you arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020 and your course is six months or longer, we strongly advised you to sign up for the EU Settlement Scheme. The EU Settlement Scheme gives EU/EEA/Swiss students the right to live, work, study and full use of the National Health Service (NHS) after 31 December 2020.

You should have also applied for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from your home country which acts as proof of your right to access the NHS up until 31 December 2020. After 31 December 2020, the online proof that you signed up for the EU Settlement Scheme will prove your right to use the NHS although your GP may still ask to see your EHIC.

You will also be able to register with a GP as a permanent patient.

Visit the UCL website for more information on the EU Settlement Scheme.

Visit the NHS for more information on using the NHS as an EU/EEA/Swiss student

EU/EEA/Swiss on a course for less than six months

If you arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020 and your course is less than six months, we strongly advised you to sign up for the EU Settlement Scheme. The EU Settlement Scheme gives EU/EEA/Swiss students the right to live, work, study and use of the National Health Service (NHS).

You should have also applied for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from your home country which acts as proof of your right to access the NHS up until 31 December 2020. After 31 December 2020, the online proof that you signed up for the EU Settlement Scheme will prove your right to use the NHS although your GP may still ask to see your EHIC.

You will still be able to register with a GP but it will be as a temporary patient.

Visit the UCL website for more information on the EU Settlement Scheme.

Visit the NHS for more information on using the NHS as an EU/EEA/Swiss student

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss on a course for six months or longer

It doesn't matter when you arrived in the UK. You will have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of your Student Visa application. This gives you access to the National Health Service (NHS). Your proof of your right to use the NHS will be your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).

You will be able to register with a GP as a permanent patient.

Visit the UK Government website for more information on the Immigration Health Surcharge

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss on a course for less than six months

You should ensure that you have private health insurance for the duration of your time in the UK. Your private health insurance should be obtained before you arrive in the UK. The type of healthcare you are entitled to will depend on the terms of your individual private health insurance policy so it is important that you fully understand what range of healthcare it offers.

You will most likely use a private clinic as your GP. NHS GPs have discretionary powers over whether they see private patients and if they do choose to see you, will most likely charge a fee.

Visit UKCISA’s website for information on private health insurance for students in the UK.   


Students who arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020

If you arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020, your access to healthcare just depends on whether your course is less than six months or longer than six months. All non-UK students will apply for the same Student Visa and there is no separation between EU/EEA/Swiss students and non-EU/EEA/Swiss students. 

Non-UK on a course for six months or longer

If you arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020 and your course is six months or longer, you will apply for the Student Visa and will pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of your visa application. This gives you full use of the National Health Service (NHS).

Visit the UK Government website for more information on the Immigration Health Surcharge

Non-UK on a course for less than six months

You should ensure that you have private health insurance for the duration of your time in the UK. Your private health insurance should be obtained before you arrive in the UK. What type of healthcare you are entitled to will depend on the terms of your individual private health insurance policy so it is important that you fully understand what range of healthcare it offers.

You will most likely use a private clinic as your GP. NHS GPs have discretionary powers over whether they see private patients and if they do choose to see you, will most likely charge a fee.   

Visit UKCISA’s website for information on private health insurance for students in the UK.  


Private medical insurance

  • If you are only studying in the UK for six months or less, you are advised to obtain private medical insurance as you will be liable for any NHS health services that you use.
  • If you are studying in the UK for more than six months, you may still wish to consider private health insurance as well as there can be longer waiting times for some secondary NHS services. With private medical insurance, you can also ensure you are covered for other medical-related costs that are not covered by the NHS. However, medical insurance is not compulsory and is your decision whether you wish to purchase it or not.
  • If you have medical insurance in your home country, be sure to check whether you can extend this plan to include your stay in the UK as well as considering options from UK health insurers. 
  • UCL does not endorse or recommend a specific insurance company, but you can visit the UKCISA website which gives information on private health insurance for international students.

Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

The GHIC allows UK residents to access state-provided, emergency and medically necessary healthcare whilst on temporary trips to the 27 EU countries. The GHIC has been introduced to replace the old European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs), which will be phased out. Your old EHIC will still be valid until the expiry date. At which point, you should then apply for a GHIC.

All non-UK students are advised by the NHS to apply for their GHIC via the form from the NHS website

You are not entitled to a GHIC if you're insured by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland but live in the UK. You should contact the relevant authority in the country you're insured by and request an EHIC.

Be advised that the GHIC does not provide cover in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It is advised that you take out private travel insurance if you travel to these countries.

Old and new EHICs will continue to provide cover in the 27 EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.  

GHICs and EHICs are free to apply for. Please only apply via the NHS. Do not use websites which ask for credit/debit card details.

Be advised that a GHIC or an EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. GHICs and EHICs only provide emergency and medically necessary, state-provided healthcare. It does not cover accidents occurred during recreational accidents such as skiing and does not cover loss of luggage. Also take out travel insurance when visiting another country.

Please visit the UK Government website for information on the announcement of the new GHIC.

Please visit the NHS website for information on the GHIC and new EHIC.