skip to content

International Students


The National Health Service (NHS) is the UK’s state healthcare system providing a wide range of services including appointments with a doctor and hospital treatment. You should register with a doctor as soon as possible after your arrival in Cambridge. Your College will be able to advise on this and may recommend a GP practice. Further information about accessing healthcare in Cambridge is provided on the Student Support webpages

Student visa and immigration health surcharge

Those applying for a student visa and coming to the UK for 6 months or longer will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge as part of their visa application fee. The amount is confirmed on our webpage about costs associated with applying for a student visa

For students applying for entry clearance from overseas, the surcharge will apply to visas granted for more than 6 months. Those applying for further permission to stay in the UK will pay the surcharge regardless of the new visa length.

The immigration health surcharge will entitle students to access the NHS in the UK at no additional cost in the same way as a permanent UK resident. This includes at the Doctor's surgery (known as General Practitioner or GP), a Healthcare Centre or in a hospital. You may need to pay for dental and optical treatment as well as medicine prescribed by the doctor and collected from a pharmacy. There are also exceptions for particularly expensive discretionary treatments.

If your visa application is not successful, you will automatically be refunded the immigration surcharge (but not the visa application fee). The surcharge will not be partially refunded if you depart the UK earlier than the expiry of your visa. The surcharge is also not refunded if you do not use the NHS during your time in the UK.

Students from the EU and Switzerland and the Immigration Health Surcharge Reimbursement Scheme

Students from the EU and Switzerland studying full-time in the UK may be eligible for a full or partial refund of the immigration health surcharge paid with their visa application if they have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in an EU country or Switzerland. These arrangements are in accordance with the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Swiss Convention. Guidance about the Immigration Health Surcharge Reimbursement Scheme is provided on the government website. If you meet the criteria for a reimbursement, you should consider your circumstances carefully before applying to the scheme. In particular, you should take into consideration the information outlined in the guidance about whether you wish to work in the UK and the access to NHS healthcare in the UK with an EHIC.

Family members of students who meet the criteria may also be able to apply for reimbursement of the immigration health surcharge if they are in the UK on a visa, hold a valid EHIC and are not working, or do not intend to work, in the UK.

The scheme is currently not available to students from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Students from outside Europe are also not eligible for the scheme.

The Department for Health and Social Care, the UK government department responsible for policy on health and adult social care matters in England, has produced an information pack for students which includes ‘frequently asked questions’ about the scheme.

Students who decide to apply for a refund of the immigration health surcharge need to provide their Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) as part of the application process. The scheme requires the CAS to be presented in a particular format that is not usually available automatically to students. The International Student Office should be contacted to request the CAS in the required format. 

Short study periods

If you apply for your visa from overseas and it is granted for less than six months or you are required to make a number of occasional visits to the UK for short study periods, you are advised to take out medical insurance as you will be liable for NHS charges for the treatment you receive in the UK except for in a medical emergency and this is limited. Some countries have a reciprocal agreement with the UK which may entitle you to some free healthcare on the NHS but you should seek advice from the health authorities in your home country about what treatment will be covered. EEA nationals should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Private Medical Insurance

You cannot take out private healthcare insurance as an alternative to paying the health immigration surcharge as this is a mandatory fee included as part of your visa application. It is a personal decision whether you also have private healthcare insurance. You may wish to consider this to cover the following potential health-related costs:

  • Loss of fees if you are unable to complete your course
  • Costs incurred returning to your home country for treatment
  • Private medical treatment

If you already have medical insurance in your home country, you may wish to check whether this can be extended to cover your stay in the UK.