UK’s new medical charges rules put seafarers in jeopardy

UK Immigration guidelines for crew visas changed in February, now refusing entry to those with outstanding medical bills of two months or more. Charges over £500 since April 2016 or £1,000 from Nov 2011-April 2016 are considered qualifying debts, impacting seafarers' ability to enter the UK. Shipowners urged to settle NHS bills promptly.
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In February, UK Immigration guidelines for crew visas changed, potentially leading to crew being denied entry if they have outstanding medical bills of two months or more. Any medical charges over £500 from April 6, 2016, or £1,000 or more from November 1, 2011 to April 5, 2016, are considered qualifying debts in the seafarer’s name, even if the shipowner is liable. The crew member could be held responsible for unpaid charges, with some exceptions.

Qualifying debts are reported to the UK Home Office and listed as grounds for visa refusal, potentially impacting UK crew changes for shipowners. Britannia P&I Club advises shipowners to settle NHS bills promptly to avoid issues at UK ports. The ITF has criticized the US plan to revoke seafarer visas, adding to the challenges faced by crew members seeking entry to various countries.

The P&I Club’s recommendation highlights the importance of prompt payment to avoid complications for crew members and shipowners. The change in UK Immigration guidelines underscores the need for clear communication and compliance with medical billing requirements to ensure smooth crew changes and operations in UK ports. Shipowners must be aware of these new regulations to prevent disruptions in crew visa applications and entry into the UK.

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