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The Ultimate Guide to UK Health Insurance for International Students

Pursuing education overseas is a captivating and life-altering adventure, with the United Kingdom (UK) standing as a time-honored choice among global learners in search of top-notch educational opportunities. However, as an international student in the UK, it’s crucial to understand and prioritize your health and well-being during your time away from home. One essential aspect of this is securing appropriate health insurance coverage. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about UK health insurance for international students.

UK Health Insurance for International Students

Why is Health Insurance Important for International Students?

Health insurance is a safety net that provides financial protection and access to medical care in case of unexpected health issues or emergencies. While the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) offers healthcare services to residents, including international students, having private health insurance can offer additional benefits and peace of mind.

Here’s why health insurance is important for international students:

Comprehensive Coverage:

Private health insurance often covers a broader range of medical services than the NHS, including specialist consultations, prescription medications, and elective treatments.

Faster Access to Care:

With private health insurance, you may have faster access to appointments, diagnostic tests, and treatments, reducing waiting times compared to the NHS.

Choice of Healthcare Providers:

Private insurance gives you the flexibility to choose from a network of private healthcare providers, allowing you to select doctors and specialists based on your preferences.

Coverage for Repatriation:

In the unfortunate event that you need to return to your home country for medical reasons, some insurance policies cover the costs of repatriation.

Peace of Mind:

Health insurance provides peace of mind, knowing that you are financially protected against unexpected medical expenses.

IHS fees

The cost of the IHS fee varies depending on the duration of your stay in the UK and the type of visa you’re applying for. This fee is calculated per year and requires advance payment. For stays lasting 6-12 months, the fee is £470, and for stays under 6 months, there’s an additional charge of £235.

For instance, if you’re enrolling in a 12-month course, your visa should commence a month before the course starts and extend for a total of 17 months to cover the course duration and an additional four months. In this scenario, the IHS fee would amount to £705 (£470 + £235).

If you’re pursuing a 3-year undergraduate degree, you’ll be required to pay £470 for each year of the course, along with an additional £235 for the time before and after the course. This adds up to a total IHS fee of £1645 (£470 x 3) + £235.

Upon receiving the email notification, if you’re within the UK, you must make the payment for the immigration health surcharge within 10 working days. If you’re outside the UK, you have 7 working days.

Paying the IHS fee as part of your immigration application is crucial as it contributes to the UK National Health Service and ensures access to the same healthcare services as permanent UK residents. These services include General Practitioner (GP) services, hospital treatments, and emergency care.

Understanding the UK Healthcare System

Before delving into the specifics of health insurance, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the UK’s healthcare system.

National Health Service (NHS):

The NHS is the publicly funded healthcare system in the UK. It provides medical services to residents, including international students, free at the point of use. However, there may be waiting times for non-emergency treatments, and not all services may be covered.

Private Healthcare:

Private healthcare facilities and services exist alongside the NHS. Private healthcare offers quicker access to appointments and treatments, a choice of specialists, and more extensive coverage for certain medical services.

Types of Health Insurance for International Students

When it comes to health insurance options for international students in the UK, there are typically two main types to consider:

NHS Coverage:

As an international student, you may be eligible for certain NHS services for free or at a reduced cost, depending on the duration of your course and your immigration status. However, this coverage may not include all medical services, and waiting times can vary.

Private Health Insurance:

Many international students opt for private health insurance to supplement their NHS coverage. Private insurance provides additional benefits, such as quicker access to appointments, coverage for elective treatments, and the ability to choose your healthcare providers.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Health Insurance

Choosing the appropriate health insurance scheme is a pivotal choice. Here are some factors to consider:


Review the coverage offered by different insurance plans. Ensure that the plan includes services you are likely to need, such as doctor’s visits, hospital stays, prescription medications, and specialist consultations.


Compare the costs of different insurance plans, including monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. Consider your budget and choose a plan that provides good value for the coverage offered.

Network of Providers:

If you prefer a specific doctor, specialist, or hospital, check if they are included in the insurance plan’s network of providers.

Emergency Coverage:

Make sure the insurance plan covers emergency medical care, including ambulance services and hospitalization.

Pre-existing Conditions:

Check whether the insurance plan covers pre-existing medical conditions and any waiting periods associated with them.

Claims Process:

Check whether the insurance plan covers pre-existing medical conditions and any waiting periods associated with them.

Steps to Obtain Health Insurance

Here’s a step-by-step guide to obtaining health insurance as an international student in the UK:


Research different health insurance providers and plans available for international students. Consider both NHS coverage and private insurance options.

Compare Plans:

Compare the features, coverage, and costs of different plans to find the one that best suits your needs and budget.


Once you’ve chosen a plan, follow the enrollment process provided by the insurance provider. This may involve filling out an application form and providing necessary documents.

Pay Premiums:

Pay the required premiums as outlined by the insurance provider. Premiums are typically paid monthly or annually.

Understand Policy Details:

Carefully read and understand the policy documents, including coverage details, exclusions, and claims procedures.

Accessing Care:

When you need medical care, follow the procedures outlined by your insurance provider for scheduling appointments, obtaining referrals (if required), and making claims.

Emergency Situations:

In case of a medical emergency, call emergency services (999 or 112) or go directly to the nearest Accident & Emergency (A&E) department. Notify your insurance provider as soon as possible.

Additional Tips for Staying Healthy

While having health insurance is essential, taking proactive steps to maintain your well-being is equally important. Here are some additional tips for staying healthy as an international student in the UK:

Healthy Lifestyle:

Maintain a balanced diet, engage in regular physical activity, and prioritize sleep to support your overall health.

Mental Health:

Seek support if you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. Most universities offer counseling and mental health services to students.


Ensure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations to protect yourself from preventable diseases.

Register with a GP:

If you’re eligible, register with a local General Practitioner (GP) to access primary care services and medical advice.

Stay Hydrated:

Drink an adequate amount of water daily to stay hydrated, especially during busy study periods.

Travel Insurance:

If you plan to travel outside the UK, consider purchasing travel insurance to cover medical expenses and emergencies during your trips.


Securing appropriate health insurance is a crucial step for international students studying in the United Kingdom. While the NHS provides basic healthcare coverage, private health insurance offers additional benefits and peace of mind. By carefully researching and selecting the right insurance plan, understanding policy details, and taking proactive steps to maintain your health, you can enjoy a fulfilling and enriching academic experience while safeguarding your well-being. 

Remember, your health is an invaluable asset, and investing in proper health insurance is a proactive way to ensure a smooth and successful journey as an international student in the UK.