International Students Insurance in the UK

The UK is among the leading destinations for international students, not only for undergraduates and postgraduates but also for secondary school education. International students in the UK are required to have health insurance, but the type of insurance you need will depend on the length of your course. Many universities and colleges have specific requirements regarding insurance for international students.

Which Insurance is Required for a UK Student Visa?

To obtain a UK student visa, international students are required to have comprehensive health insurance. The type of insurance you need depends on the length of your studies. Students on a Tier 4 General Student Visa for more than six months are automatically entitled to access the NHS upon paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This surcharge is not technically insurance, but a contribution to the NHS system. Students on shorter courses (under 6 months) or those on a Student Visitor visa must have private medical insurance to cover their stay. Failure to provide proof of adequate health insurance can result in visa refusal.

Unlike some countries where healthcare is funded through compulsory insurance schemes, the UK operates a publicly funded healthcare system known as the National Health Service (NHS). International students are required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of their visa application process.

Health Insurance for International Students

There are two main types of health insurance for international student in the UK:

National Health Service (NHS) coverage

All international students on a Tier 4 General Student Visa for six months or more are entitled to access the NHS. The NHS is a publicly funded healthcare system that provides a wide range of medical services, including GP visits, hospital treatment, and emergency care. To access the NHS, students will need to pay a surcharge when they apply for their visa.

Private medical insurance

Private medical insurance is not mandatory for international students in the UK, but it can be a good option for those who want more comprehensive coverage than the NHS provides. It can cover the cost of private GP appointments, dental and optical treatment, and treatment in private hospitals. It can also provide cover for repatriation and other emergency expenses.

Additional Insurance Options for International Students

Beyond health insurance, there typically aren’t other mandatory insurance requirements for international students in the UK. However, depending on your situation, some additional student insurance options might be beneficial:

  • Contents insurance: This covers your belongings in case of theft, fire, or other damage. This can be especially important if you’re bringing valuables like a laptop or camera.
  • Travel insurance: This can provide coverage for trip cancellation, lost luggage, trip cancellation/delay, and medical emergencies while travelling outside the UK during your studies.
  • Public liability insurance: This protects you financially if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property. This might be recommended if you’re planning to participate in activities with some level of risk.
  • Gadget insurance: If you rely heavily on specific electronics, you can buy a laptop insurance, phone insurance, or any other gadget insurance to cover them for accidental damage or theft.
  • Cost of replacing a lost visa or passport: This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, especially if you need to replace them urgently. Insurance can cover the application fees and expedite processing costs.
  • Prepaid course fees if you end your course due to illness: Some universities may not offer refunds for prepaid tuition if you have to withdraw due to medical reasons. Insurance can help recoup these costs.

How to Obtain Health Insurance for International Students in the UK

Securing health insurance for studying in the UK can be done through various avenues. Many universities offer their own health insurance plans tailored specifically for international students. Furthermore, if you are on a Tier 4 General Student Visa for six months or more, you are entitled to a publicly funded healthcare system (NHS), but you will need to pay for the NHS surcharge (IHS) directly when applying for your visa.

Alternatively, students can purchase private health insurance from insurance providers recognized by the UK government. It’s important to ensure that the chosen insurance plan meets the visa requirements and provides adequate coverage for medical expenses.

Can International Students Apply for a National Insurance Number in the UK?: While international students in the UK are required to have a National Insurance Number (NIN) for employment purposes, obtaining one does not directly relate to health insurance. However, students may apply for a NIN if they plan to work part-time alongside their studies. Applications for a NIN can be made through the UK government’s official website or by contacting the Department for Work and Pensions.

How Much Does Insurance Cost for an International Student in the UK?

The IHS fee is currently £470 per year (with a discount for students) and is paid upfront with your visa application. There’s a 25% discount for students, bringing it down to roughly £353. This fee grants access to the NHS but doesn’t cover everything (prescription medications may incur charges, therefore you may need a private medical provider). Private medical insurance costs vary depending on the level of coverage, provider, and your age. Prices may fluctuate based on individual circumstances and the insurance provider chosen. Prices can range from a few hundred pounds to over a thousand pounds per year. Expect to pay anywhere from £200 to £1000 per year for a basic plan. Insurance for international students will typically include coverage for medical emergencies, hospitalization, prescription medications, and repatriation in case of serious illness or injury.

While cost is a factor, it is advisable to prioritise coverage rather than looking for the cheapest international student insurance. Options to consider for affordable plans include university sponsored plans and ISO student insurance. Many universities offer health insurance plans specifically designed for international students. These can be a good starting point as they are often competitively priced and meet visa requirements. ISO student insurance is a specialist provider focused on international students, offering plans that comply with visa regulations.

How to Pay Insurance for UK Student Visa

Paying for health insurance as part of the UK student visa application process is typically straightforward. Most insurance providers offer online payment options such as credit cards, bank transfers, or other accepted methods. Some universities may also facilitate the payment process through their student portals. The IHS fee is paid electronically during your visa application process.

Best International Student Insurance in the UK

The best insurance for international students in the UK will ultimately be determined by the individual needs and budget of the student. Our top pick as of March 2024 include the following student insurance providers:

  • AXA Global Healthcare
  • Allianz Care
  • Cigna Global

What is a Good International Students Insurance in the UK?

Preparing to study abroad in the UK involves careful consideration of various factors, and securing adequate health insurance is undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects. Firstly, consider the coverage provided by the insurance plan. Does it align with the visa requirements stipulated by UK authorities, and does it adequately address your anticipated needs? This includes considerations such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and mental health services.

Additionally, pay attention to the excess amount, which refers to the upfront payment required before the insurance coverage begins. For instance, lower excesses often come with higher premiums. Finally, prioritise choosing a reputable insurer with a solid track record for customer service and efficient claims processing. Opting for a well-established insurer ensures reliability and support when you need it most. By considering these factors carefully, you can select an insurance plan for international students that meets your needs and offers comprehensive coverage so you can focus on your studies.