Latest Update: All health care workers on list in all visa categories included
UK visas at the Home Office has confirmed on 29 April 2020 that the free one year extension covers all visa holders on the list of front line health care workers, whose visa is due to expire by 1 October. Not just Tier 2 visa holders and not just NHS health care workers.
On the same day UK visas at the Home office extended the free one year visa extension scheme to cover other “frontline workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists”. Those previously included on the list were doctors, nurses and paramedics. It has been commented that UK visas has not published a comprehensive list of health care workers who can come under the free one year extension scheme.
Sanwar Ali comment:
Unfortunately, UK visa at the Home Office and the Government seem to do this quite a lot. Incomplete information is provided so leading to confusion. So we and others need to provide an analysis of what we think the Government means! Even when the Government provides enough detail we frequently have the opposite problem. it is so long and complicated that people do not have the time to read it and/or do not understand it. For example the Tier 2 Sponsor Guidance for employers to employ people on Tier 2 visas.
The Home Office has been accused of causing foreign NHS workers on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus, ‘unnecessary distress’, over promises made about free UK visa extensions. It’s rumoured that the Home Office has restricted the offer of a one-year visa extension to NHS workers with a Tier 2 visa only.
On 31 March, 2020 the UK’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel announced that foreign workers employed by the NHS – including doctors, nurses and paramedics – whose visas were set to expire before October, would be granted an automatic, one-year visa extension.
At the time, Patel said: “I don’t want non-UK NHS workers distracted by UK visa and immigration issues as they contribute to the national effort to combat coronavirus.”
Home Office on UK visas position seemingly changed
However, since Patel’s announcement on 31 March, it seems the Home Office’s position on free UK visa extensions for foreign NHS workers has changed. The UK government’s website indicates that the offer is only available to NHS employees with a Tier 2 skilled worker visa.
If this is the case, NHS workers with a different type of UK immigration status - for example, those on a family reunion visa or with limited leave to remain - who need to apply for an extension prior to October, would not be eligible for the extension scheme.
The Home Office has failed to clarify whether the extension scheme applies to Tier 2 visa holders only, and instead referred to information from the announcement made by the Home Secretary on 31 March.
Addressing MPs in the Home Affairs Select Committee on 21 April, chair of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA), Adrian Berry, said: “There’s either been a shift in policy or a lack of clarity.” Berry insisted that whatever the case, the scheme should be made available to ‘all NHS workers.’
Berry argued that immigration lawyers are forced to rely on Home Office notifications posted online, which occur sporadically and often give no indication that there has been any changes.
The ILPA chair said: “We’re all forced to look online and try to find out. There isn’t a single source of information.”
Home Office communication is terrible
In a briefing statement published on 20 April, the ILPA said: “If the policy has been adjusted to exclude anyone who is not on a Tier 2 visa, this is ‘clearly unfair’ to anyone covered by the earlier announcement, but not under these changes and amounts to an ‘entirely unsatisfactory’ manner in which to make such policy changes, not least because the earlier version was not easily accessible.”
Legal director of the ILPA, Sonia Lenegan, said that the Home Office needs to clarify the NHS visa extension issue as a ‘matter of urgency.’
Ms Lenegan told The Independent: “This is frustrating both for those non-Tier 2 NHS workers who do not know whether or not they will need to apply to extend their leave, as well as for immigration lawyers who are having to try and advise clients on the basis of information that is constantly shifting, with no explanation being provided from the Home Office.”
The ILPA’s legal director added that the situation will cause additional distress for foreign NHS staff, which could have been avoided.
Exclusion of private sector healthcare workers and others
The exclusion of private sector healthcare workers, as well as members of the NHS workforce such as cleaners and porters, from the visa extension scheme has also raised concerns.
Adrian Berry told MPs: “It doesn't extend to agency workers who are employed by private hospitals but who are now providing NHS care because the private sector has been brought into that. They need to be included as well.”
“The scheme should be extended to hospital porters, healthcare assistants and cleaners working for the NHS. These are the sort of people that without whom, hospitals could not function properly. The scheme should not be limited to a certain type of NHS worker,” Mr Berry added.
Rumours that the extension scheme will only apply to Tier 2 visa holders comes after MPs urged the Home Office to open the scheme to foreign workers in the social care sector, arguing that they too are working to support the national effort in the battle against coronavirus.
Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper, said: “Care workers should also be included in the changes so that they do not have to go through a ‘costly and burdensome’ visa process during this time.”
Coronavirus in the UK
As of 22 April, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 129,044 with 17,337 deaths reported. However, there are reports that the death toll could be as much as double the amount specified by official figures.
Coronavirus related deaths recorded on Tuesday, 21 April amounted to 828, nearly double the 449 reported on Monday, 20 April.
Latest coronavirus updates, visa and immigration restrictions
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To apply for a UK visa extension amid the coronavirus pandemic, see this recent Workpermit.com news report.
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