In yet another Home Office immigration U-turn, 6,000 frontline migrant NHS workers will have their UK visas further extended. The government agency had initially refused to extend the visas of foreign NHS staff any further, forcing many to leave the UK. The move has been welcomed, although the Home Office has been slammed for not extending visas earlier.
A press release posted on the government’s official website stated: “More than 6,000 frontline health workers will have their visas extended for a year for free, including doctors, nurses and paramedics.”
Priti Patel announced the changes with the UK in the grip of rising coronavirus deaths and cases, plus a second national lockdown. The Home Secretary said: “Thousands of vital health professionals and their family dependants will have their visas extended for a year, free of all fees and charges.”
Foreign medical staff benefit
The news means that more than 6,000 medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, occupational therapists, psychologists, plus a range of allied health professionals, will be able to remain in the UK for a further 12 months to continue their vital work in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest extension comes following one that occurred earlier this year, which applied to health professionals whose visa validity expired between 31 March 2020 and 1 October 2020. The Home Office’s announcement means that this offer will be further extended from 1 October 2020 to 31 March 2021.
Priti Patel said: “We recognise the huge contribution healthcare professionals from overseas are making across the UK in fighting the devastating impact of coronavirus. We truly value the work these heroes are doing, which is why we’re renewing our free 12-month visa extension offer.”
“We estimate this will benefit a further 6,000 dedicated frontline workers and their families who deserve our support and our gratitude.”
Patel’s comments come despite recent warnings from trade unions and charities that the Home Office’s failure to extend visas sooner was forcing many vital NHS staff out of the UK.
Trade union, Unison, had recently urged the Home Office to ‘stop forcing migrant key workers out of the country and preventing new applicants from entering the UK.’
It seems their warning has had the desired effect.
Hugely grateful to NHS staff
Matt Hancock, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “I am hugely grateful for all of the frontline health and social care workers from overseas who have worked tirelessly to save lives and provide the best possible care during this global pandemic.”
“This visa extension will help to benefit healthcare professionals who have shown extraordinary dedication during this challenging period to protect all of us and our families from the threat of the virus,” Hancock added.
It’s understood that the latest extension will be similar to the previous extension, covering healthcare professionals in the NHS and across the independent health and care sector.
In addition to a 12-month visa extension free of charge, migrant NHS workers will also be exempt from the controversial Immigration Health Surcharge, which was increased on 27 October.
To benefit from the extension foreign NHS workers will need to complete an online form to confirm their identity, while their employer will be contacted to confirm their eligibility for a UK visa extension.
The press release posted on the government’s official website said: “Whilst this offer focuses on key frontline health professionals, it is just one part of the unprecedented range of measures taken to support the NHS and wider health and care sector during the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Home Office said that its Bereavement Scheme, has been expanded to all NHS, health and social care workers.
Meanwhile, the introduction of a new Health and Care visa, make it easier, cheaper and quicker for the most talented health professionals from around the world to work in the NHS, social care sector and any organisation that’s commissioned to provide services to the NHS.
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