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Immigrants in the UK


Your rights and access to services in the UK are dependent on your immigration status.

Do I have the right to healthcare?

Services and treatments which are free for everyone, whatever their immigration status:

  • HIV treatment
  • emergency treatment (although if you are taken into a hospital ward for treatment you can be charged)
  • family planning and sexual health services - this doesn't include terminating a pregnancy or maternity treatment
  • treatment for certain diseases like: tuberculosis, cholera, food poisoning, malaria, meningitis and pandemic influenza
  • compulsory psychiatric treatment

For other treatment the hospital might ask you for payment before they will treat you. If you can't pay (or show how you'll pay later) they might refuse you treatment.

If you need further advice on this please contact the Online Advice Service.

Becoming a UK resident

You will have the right to reside in the UK if you are a UK national, or:

  1. from the EEA or Switzerland, and
  2. employed, self-employed or registered as a jobseeker.

Your close relatives will also have a right to reside based on your status. Close relatives include:

  • your spouse or civil partner
  • your children
  • your grandchildren aged under 21
  • your dependent parents or grandparents.

If you are an EEA or Swiss national and you are not either employed, self-employed or registered as a jobseeker, then you will not have an automatic right to reside, although you may be able to show that you are habitually resident.

In order to get certain means-tested benefits, you’ll need to meet all the normal conditions for the benefit you’re claiming, and you must be able to pass the Habitual Residence Test.

The Habitual Residence Test

The Habitual Residence Test has two parts:

  1. You must prove that you have the right to reside.
  2. You must prove that you are habitually resident.

To prove that you are habitually resident, you must show that you intend to settle in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland (the Common Travel Area) and make it your home for the time being.

Visas for UK stay

If you don't have an automatic right to reside and you're not a close relative of somebody who does, you'll need to get a visa to enter the UK or be subject to immigration control.

A visa will give you temporary leave to remain in the UK.

You are subject to immigration control if:

  • You need permission to enter or remain in the UK but don't yet have it: for example, if you've applied for a visa.
  • You have permission to enter or remain in the UK only if you don't claim benefits or use other public funds, such as getting NHS treatment.
  • You were given permission to enter or remain in the UK within the last five years on the grounds that another person signed a document agreeing to support you financially.

If you have 'indefinite leave to remain' you're no longer subject to immigration control and have a right to reside.

Overstaying your visa

You'll become an overstayer if you were granted limited leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, but you neither left the country on the date indicated nor asked for the leave to be extended.

If you have overstayed your visa or leave, you'll need to act quickly.

From the date that your visa expires, you'll have either:

  • 28 days to apply for a new visa; or
  • 90 days to leave the country.

If you don’t do either, you'll be at risk of deportation.

Your rights as an overstayer

Regardless of how long you’ve overstayed, you can still:

  • send children to school until they turn 16
  • use emergency services in the UK (police, fire and ambulance)
  • get essential and emergency healthcare, including treatment if you’re having a baby

You can access HIV care and treatment regardless of your immigration status.

Applying for a new visa

You have 28 days from the date your visa expires to apply for a new visa - either by extending your current visa or leave, or by applying in a different category.

The Home Office will automatically reject your application if you apply after this date.

You should seek legal advice as soon as possible. You can contact our Online Adviser for Level 1 immigration advice or:

They may be able to suggest other ways to legalise your stay, for example if you have children living in the UK or if you’re married to a British citizen.

As an overstayer you will lose whatever rights you had during your legal period of stay while a decision is pending on any new application.

Leaving the UK

If you don’t leave voluntarily within 90 days, you could be deported.

If you leave voluntarily after 90 days, you could be banned from re-entering the UK for between 1 and 10 years.

Asylum seekers

Do asylum seekers have the right to medical treatment?

If your immigration status is that of an asylum seeker, you and your dependants are entitled to free NHS medical treatment and help with travel costs.

Legally, failed asylum seekers aren’t entitled to free NHS care as they aren’t lawfully resident in the country, but NHS Trusts have been given discretion to provide refused asylum seekers with free treatment, depending on a number of factors.

Can asylum seekers register with a GP?

As an asylum seeker, or even as a failed asylum seeker, you can register with a GP.

Contact Online Advice for more information.



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 27/4/2016 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 27/4/2019

Content Author: Gillian Arrindell

Current Owner: D. Anyanwu

More information:

The habitual residence test

Who is subject to immigration control?

Overstaying your visa

Gov.uk visas information