Amid calls from foreign NHS staff to overhaul UK immigration rules for adult dependent relatives, new data shows that fewer than 1 in 25 adult dependent relative visas are granted by the Home Office first time round. Senior figures in the NHS have described the data as a ‘slap in the face for hardworking doctors’, according to a report published by iNews.
In light of the new data, non-UK NHS staff are once again urging the government to review its policy towards UK visas for elderly relatives. The new data covers a period of four years, and shows that in 2017, the Home Office didn’t issue a single adult dependent relative (ADR) visa.
In 2018, only 35 were issued. However, more than 100 (113) were issued in 2019, but the figure dropped again in 2020 to 70. The figures were reportedly obtained by a top NHS consultant surgeon and seen by iNews.
Nearly 1,000 applications made
Across the four-year period, nearly 1,000 (908) ADR visa applications were made, but just 35 were granted - representing fewer than 1 in 25 - at the first attempt. Others that were granted were only issued following an appeal or a decision being overturned in court.
The current ADR rule states that doctors, and others in the UK, are not allowed to bring their parents to Britain from overseas unless they meet very strict conditions. This has forced many foreign NHS staff to quit their jobs and return to their native country to care for elderly relatives who are prohibited from coming to the UK.
A recent survey jointly carried out by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and the Association of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe (APPNE) found that 91% of respondents who had tried and failed to bring their relatives to live with them were left feeling anxious, stressed and helpless.
President of APPNE, Irfan Akhtar, described the ADR visa rules as ‘discriminatory and discouraging’.
Non-British NHS staff
According to the most recent data available, approximately 170,000 NHS staff are foreign-born, 64,000 of which are of Asian origin. Up until 2012, thousands of ADR visa applications were approved, but rules changed as part of the government’s hostile environment policy towards immigrants.
Up until July 2012, a dependent relative only needed to prove that they were living alone in the ‘most exceptional compassionate circumstances’. However, since the rule changes, foreign nationals looking to bring an ADR with them to live permanently in Britain, must demonstrate that suitable care for the relative could not be found in their own country.
To prove this a doctor or local authority in that country must provide statements to that effect. Meanwhile, the UK government stopped publishing ADR figures in 2016 and earlier this year it refused to directly answer Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, Afzal Khan, after he sent written parliamentary questions asking how many ADR visas had been issued since 2017.
Following the release of the latest figures, Mr Khan said: “While I’m disappointed the Home Office couldn’t provide me with this information when I asked earlier in the year, it is important that it is now available and we have transparency on the operation of ADR.”
“These low figures show just how difficult applications have become and it is time the government reviewed the adult dependency rule.”
Professor JS Bamrah, the chairman of the BAPIO, said: “These figures simply serve to illustrate how unjust the ADR rules are.”
“Behind every refusal there is a family in the UK being denied the immense value grandparents bring to families, and every refusal is also a slap in the face of hardworking NHS doctors and nurses who are torn between their love and duty to their parents and continuing to work in the NHS so far away from them,” he added.
House of Lords
Earlier in May, the issue of ADR visa rules was raised in the House of Lords during a debate on the Queen’s speech. Labour’s Lord Parekh urged the government to ‘take a second look’ at proposals put forward by the BAPIO, to modify the ADR rules.
Lord Parekh said: “In the light of this, some of our doctors are leaving the country, or they tend to come here and then migrate elsewhere. The result is that we tend to suffer from the absence of their contribution.”
A spokesperson for the government said: “We are grateful for the vital contributions all NHS staff have made during the pandemic, which is why we have introduced a range of unprecedented measures to ensure the health and care sector is supported fully.”
“Given the significant costs for the UK taxpayer and additional pressures elderly dependents can place on our health and social care systems, our route for adult dependents seeks to ensure only those who need to be physically close to and cared for by a close relative in the UK are able to settle here,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson went on to say that ADR rules must strike the right balance between ensuring that those who need support can come to the UK without adding pressure to Britain’s health and welfare services.
“However, applicants may be granted leave outside the rules in exceptional compelling or compassionate circumstances when the rules are not met,” the spokesperson said.
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