Economy

Can you claim an IHS refund if your UK visa application is rejected?

My husband is a US citizen living in the UK. At the beginning of this year he applied for a new UK leave to stay visa at UK Visas and Immigration, which would mean that he could stay here for a number of years. Unfortunately it was declined.

As part of the application process, he paid a fee of £2,054 under the Immigration Health Surcharge to cover future NHS care should he be successful.

The government website says this should be refunded if the person’s visa application is rejected. However, my husband never got the money back despite months of contacting UK Visas and Immigration, which is part of the Home Office, and the NHS.

We keep trying but there is no direct way to contact anyone about a refund so we are pushed around the houses and never seem to get anywhere. Can you help? LK, Essex

IHS issue: LK’s husband applied for a new UK visa but was rejected – then it took months for the Home Office to repay a sum of £2,054 that he was charged as part of the process had paid

Helen Crane from This is Money replies: I am sorry to hear about this refund issue, which must have caused additional stress in addition to figuring out where you and your husband will live now after his extended stay visa application was rejected.

The government is notoriously slow when it comes to paying back people’s money. Whether it’s emergency retirement taxes or a VAT refund on a self-built house, getting money back from the belly of the government beast is an unenviable task.

A certain amount of waiting time is unavoidable given the tidal wave of (now mostly digital) paperwork pouring into departments every day, but often people wait much longer than the promised timelines.

It is annoying to those who always pay their taxes and other charges on time that they do not get the same courtesy when the shoe is on the other foot.

So what is the IHS? It is a fee that people applying for most types of UK visas have to pay to cover the costs of using the NHS while they are here. Most short-term tourists don’t have to worry about this.

It costs £624 for each year the visa is valid for adults, and £470 for students or those under the age of 18. Paying this fee is an unavoidable part of any visa application and the entire amount must be paid in advance as you complete the online form – or apply by mail – without an IHS reference number.

However, the money will be refunded if the visa application is rejected, unless you apply for indefinite leave to stay in the UK, in which case you will not get the money back.

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Seems like a silly system to me. Why not charge people once their application is accepted and put an end to all this refund drama?

According to the Visas and Immigration Service, IHS refunds are “usually” refunded within six weeks of a visa application being rejected. But in your husband’s case, he has been waiting for more than four months and with no sign of the money being on its way.

You say there is no direct contact number within the Home Office for IHS refunds, so you have to call several telephone exchanges and remain on hold. If you do get through, you’ll just be told that your refund is still being processed, but you’re never told when it will hit your bank account.

It’s a classic example of obnoxious officials making our lives difficult, and I’m not surprised that you’re at your wits end and decide to contact me.

I spoke to the Home Office and asked it to tell me what the robbery was.

It told me the delay was due to an admin error affecting your husband’s online account, but assured me it was a one-time issue and did not affect all applications.

You then emailed me within a few days to tell me that the £2,054 had finally been deposited back into his account.

But I’ve since heard from another reader who says they’re having the same problem with a delayed IHS refund. I’d like to hear if this has happened to other people as well.

Contact: helen.crane@thisismoney.co.uk

I want to book my wine tasting but can’t reach Red Letter Days

I received a gift card from my son and his partner before the pandemic.

It was for a wine tasting, lunch and vineyard tour and I was really looking forward to enjoying a lovely day out – but then the lockdown came and I later realized the voucher was about to expire.

I called Red Letter Days, the voucher company, and paid to extend the expiration date to May 2023.

Grape Expectations: Reader Ed Was Looking Forward To Booking A Wine Tasting, But It Turned Out To Be Harder Than Anticipated Due To Red Letter Days Online Customer Service

Grape Expectations: Reader ED was looking forward to booking a wine tasting, but it turned out to be harder than anticipated due to Red Letter Days online customer service

I recently tried to book lunch but since I last contacted them it seems that Red Letter Days is no longer asking questions over the phone and only dealing with customers online.

When I try to book lunch through the Red Letter Days website, my account is not recognized and I cannot redeem my voucher.

How on earth can I book if no one is available to help me? ED, North London

I’m not surprised you’re whining about Red Letter Days’ service.

It’s so frustrating when companies don’t answer the phone for their customers, especially since problems are often resolved much faster that way – as long as you’re not on hold for hours on end.

I was surprised to learn that the voucher company had completely cut off customer phone lines. Often companies bury their phone numbers in a dark corner of their website, hoping people will give up searching.

But when I looked on the Red Letter Days website, I couldn’t find one anywhere. In fact, it said the only way to get in touch was via live chat, or if a question is ‘less urgent’, a contact form – which the team will ‘try’ to get back to within five working days.

By then, customers trying to fix a problem will definitely see red.

I contacted Red Letter Days to ask why you couldn’t book your wine tasting. Since the first voucher was booked several years ago, your account stopped working.

But the team has sent you a new link to access your voucher online, and you can now book at the vineyard. You told me you’re going with your sister and trying to get a date.

I hope you have a fantastic day out.

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Jacky

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

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