New Immigrants in UK Must Show Passport or Visa to Receive Medical Care

There is a series of new laws and procedures for newly arrived immigrants to the UK which must be read and understood before arrival. To ignore them invites a situation of financial calamity.

First, a statement made to the House of Commons by Immigration Minister Mark Harper in October 2013:

“The government is building a fairer immigration system which addresses the concerns of hardworking people. The Immigration Bill will tighten immigration law, strengthen our enforcement powers and clamp down on those from overseas who try to abuse our public services. We have been clear that the UK has a national health service, not an international health service. These proposals will ensure that migrants here temporarily make a fair contribution to the cost of health services in the UK.”

What does this mean in practical terms? New arrivals will have to prove that they are legally entitled to live in the UK either by stamped passport or visa depending on country of origin before they are eligible for access to either General Practitioners or hospitals. The latter includes AE facilities, or emergency rooms to use the American terminology. This can create a quandary. On the one hand, one should not travel about with a passport in either purse or pocket for reasons of theft; but on the other, what about a car accident?

A further intent of the Immigration Bill is to immediately make new immigrants start paying into the taxpayer funded National Health Service, the NHS. Non-European students, in an example made by The Telegraph newspaper, will have to pay a £200 levy (about US$332) before they will be allowed access to NHS facilities or practitioners.

It is not quite as dire as the Minister’s statement implies. According to a story printed by The Independent newspaper on December 30, 2013:

The Department of Health said that “life-saving treatment” would still be free but all follow-up care would be charged for. “If you came into A&E with a blood clot or heart attack you would be stabilised for free but you would be expected to pay for subsequent care,” a spokeswoman said.

“If you came in with a broken bone and could communicate you might be asked for payment upfront. But if, for example, you did not have your wallet you would still be treated and the NHS would try and recoup the cost down the line.”

Full details as to how the Government intends to levy new immigrants are expected to be released in the spring of 2014. However, for the time being it will be a wise precaution for the prospective immigrant to make sure that at the minimum he or she has a 60 or 90 day travelers health insurance policy in place. In addition, it will be prudent to keep a close eye on the UK government’s official website ( in order to know what the procedures are in getting either a temporary or permanent NHS number. It is suggested in the Immigration Bill and subsequent Parliamentary committee hearings that GP’s will have the ability to provide immigrant patients with a time-limited temporary NHS number (the rough equivalent of an American Social Security number) but until such procedures are passed through Parliament and given Royal Assent, precaution on the part of the immigrant traveler must be a priority.