Foreign Visitors and Healthcare in the UK


    Travellers are always recommended to get sufficient travel insurance coverage before heading abroad. Whether they do that or not is another question, one that tends to factor in their level of comfort at risk, their financial situation, how long their trip will last and, of course, where they are journeying to.

    With the coronavirus still raging both within the UK and across the globe, the option of ignoring travel insurance no longer seems so flippant. The restrictions for foreign visitors to the United Kingdom will continue to fluctuate as the vaccination campaign and COVID-19 variants continue to mutate and the transmission rates vary.

    Considering all of this, it is more important than ever for foreign visitors who aim to travel to the UK to be aware of how covered — or not — they are in healthcare terms when they arrive in the country. Read on for the pertinent information regarding coverage for foreigners and check here for the latest from the National Health Services (NHS).

    Foreigners in the UK: Who is Covered by the NHS?

    The answer to the question: Am I as a foreign visitor to the UK covered by the NHS depends on a few factors. The first is how long you are going to be spending inside the United Kingdom.

    There are plenty of reasons to move to London or the other great cities and towns that the country offers. The good news is, for foreigners who are granted residency in the UK, general health care coverage through the NHS is free, meaning they do not need to worry about independent medical insurance as long as their residence permit is valid.

    It is important to remember that this coverage extends to general practitioner care and not necessarily to hospital stays, which are calculated on a case by case basis.

    Where things can get a bit more complicated, is when the duration of stay is too short for a residence permit to be solicited.

    NHS Coverage During Short Trips to the UK

    There are too many reasons to list why foreigners would want to visit and experience the United Kingdom. The number of options is endless, ranging from quaint trips to the countryside to putting on your walking shoes and checking out the best street markets in London.

    Travellers from many countries receive up to 90 days to spend in the UK upon arrival. While this gives them ample time to explore the country, people should also remember that accidents and illnesses can happen, even on holiday, and it is best to be prepared and informed before arrival.

    For foreign visitors to the UK who are staying up to three months, it is possible to register as a temporary patient with a GP at the NHS for free as long as the patient in question has a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

    This means that a traveller from France, for example, would be able to use their national health card to register, whereas a visitor from, say, Brazil, would not be eligible for the same service and would be on their own financially should they require general medical assistance.

    For those foreign visitors who are travelling from outside of Europe, it is crucial to have independent medical insurance for the entirety of the trip to the United Kingdom as they will not only be on the hook for any medical care that they require but oftentimes, the price of those services increases for non-European residents.

    The price of typical procedures can be as high as up to 150% more for non-British or European residents, making it extra important that they are privately insured.

    Travelling and COVID-19: Are these Costs Included?

    It seems that every person on the planet agrees, for once, that we are all looking forward to a time when the coronavirus will not restrict travel. Everyone has their personal list about the things they are most looking forward to doing once the restrictions have been lifted for good and life can resume as close to normal as possible.

    Until that time, foreign visitors need to understand the COVID-19 situation in the United Kingdom. As part of their financial plan to combat the disease, the British government has declared that every person, whether they have access to NHS services or not, has access to COVID testing and care, as long as it isn’t for travel purposes.

    An important part of this plan includes the stipulation that no immigration status checks will be carried out during the testing or treatment of patients so everyone should feel safe getting tested or admitting themselves for care.

    It is not the best time to be travelling to the UK or anywhere else. However, with the proper preparations and safety nets, foreign visitors to the UK can feel that they are in good hands.