UK Visa Law Changed Creating Potential Issue for Seafarers

An open passport with visa stamps in it
Updated Published

Adjustments to British visa policies might put international ship crew at risk of being marooned in the UK should there be outstanding healthcare fees.

The UK Immigration (Border Agency) updated its visa regulations for ship crew in February, indicating that crew members could be denied entry into the UK for having unpaid medical bills that are two months old or older from the billing date.

Medical expenses exceeding £500 incurred after April 6, 2016, or debts of £1,000 or above from November 1, 2011, to April 5, 2016, are considered qualifying debts. These are billed to the seafarer, despite the shipowner being the party responsible for settling these fees.

Since the bills are made out to the crew members, it is they who might ultimately bear the responsibility for any unpaid fees, although there are certain exceptions to this policy.

The Britannia P&I Club has noted: “These qualifying debts are reported to the (UK) Home Office, listed as one of the grounds for visa or entry clearance refusal, potentially affecting UK crew changes for shipowners.”

To prevent issues during crew changes in the UK, the P&I Club advises shipowners to promptly pay off their National Health Service (NHS) debts.