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Overseas Visitors

Overseas Visitors to Scotland, who have a legitimate reason to be here, will always be welcomed by the Scottish Government as they contribute to our economy as well as to our vibrancy and diversity as a nation.

Overseas Visitors and Ordinary Residents

An "Overseas visitor" is a person that is not "ordinary resident" in the UK. Only those who are not ordinarily resident may be charged for NHS treatment and services. Ordinary residence can be described as living lawfully in the UK for settled purposes, as part of a person’s regular order of life. A person's identifiable purpose and whether that purpose has a sufficient degree of continuity to be properly described as settled are the determining factors.

Hospital Treatment and Services

It is for NHS healthcare providers to decide when an overseas visitor needs healthcare or services in an NHS hospital and if charges should be applied in compliance with Regulation 2(1) of the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) (Scotland) Regulations 1989. The regulations include exemptions from charges for certain categories of patient and services:

Exempt from NHS Charges

If a person is found to be "exempt from NHS charges", they are entitled to healthcare and services on the same basis as a person who is ordinarily resident in Scotland. This exemption also applies to their spouse / registered civil partner and children under the age of 16 (or under the age of 19 if still in full-time education).

Emergency Treatment

NHS treatment at an Accident & Emergency or casualty department, including treatment in an observation ward, is free to everyone, regardless of their residency status. Following this treatment, it is for NHS healthcare providers to determine whether an overseas visitor requires further in-patient treatment or registration as an outpatient, and whether or not they should be charged for that treatment.

Primary Care (General Medical Services)

The overseas visitors charging regulations do not permit charging for NHS general medical services other than certain dental and optical services. It is for GP practices to decide whether or not to register an overseas visitor or to treat them privately, taking into account the terms of the National Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 as amended:


Chief Executive Letter (CEL) 9 (2010) provides a balanced interpretation of the Charging Regulations for healthcare providers who deal with overseas visitors on a regular basis. It also covers matters relevant to overseas visitors' use of NHS care and services while in Scotland:

The Charging Regulations only apply to hospital care. However, the principles set out in the guidance may also be considered by those who provide general medical services, such as general practitioners, dentists, and optometrists, for example. The guidance is not, however, legally binding and should not be regarded as a complete and authoritative statement of law.

NHS Inform

NHS Inform is Scotland's national health information service. They have produced a series of seven leaflets which cover the main categories of overseas visitors. These leaflets can be found under the related downloads.

NHS Inform also has an Overseas Visitors  helpline to provide advice to the public, GP practices and other NHS healthcare providers on overseas visitors’ eligibility to receive NHS healthcare whilst in Scotland.

How to contact NHS Inform;