Tens of thousands of international health and care staff have been exempted from a payment to use NHS services in recognition of their contribution during the coronavirus pandemic.
The exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge (HIS) fulfils a pledge by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in May.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “I am incredibly proud of all the fantastic health and care workers from all over the world we have working in our NHS who provide such an invaluable service, from cleaners to care workers to porters.
“We can now deliver on our promise as the reimbursement scheme will benefit those who have given so much this year to protect us all from COVID-19.
“This will encourage overseas health and care workers to continue to come and work in the UK and help those already living here to provide first-class care and support for patients.”
The IHS allows non-European Economic Area nationals to access the NHS on broadly the same basis as UK residents if they are seeking to work, study, or join family members for more than six months.
The Government’s Tier 2 Health and Care visa launched in August exempted eligible staff from paying the IHS. The new reimbursement scheme goes further to ensure that staff not covered by the visa, but who have worked in the NHS or care sector since 31 March, are able to claim reimbursement for themselves and their dependents, even if they paid the surcharge before this date.
Those eligible can now apply online on gov.uk and access guidance on claiming the reimbursement which will be paid in six-month instalments.
Anyone holding a relevant visa, who has worked in health and social care continuously for at least six months and paid the Immigration Health Surcharge will be eligible for a reimbursement.
Guidance on how to apply for the reimbursement can be found here.