UK visa extension for doctors, nurses & paramedics battling coronavirus

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Sanwar Ali comment:

The way that Tier 2 visa migrants and others have been treated has been somewhat controversial. UK visa fees and other related fees are amongst the highest in the World and for many are unaffordable.  UK visa applicants in effect have to pay twice for health care. 

Taxes paid by migrants and their employers help to fund the NHS.  On top of that the Immigration Health Surcharge of £400 a year in most cases needs to be paid in advance for the duration of the visa for the applicant and each family members.  This is due to increase to the even more unaffordable £624 a year from October 2020.

Amid the spread of coronavirus in the UK, the Home Office has announced that visas will be extended by one year for migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics on the frontline fighting the disease. The news comes after the UK extended visas for migrants of all nationalities stranded in the UK by the pandemic, to 31 May.

It’s understood that the extension will apply to approximately 2,800 migrant medical workers employed by the NHS who have UK Tier 2 work visas set to expire before October 1, 2020.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said: “UK work visas for migrant healthcare workers working for the NHS will be renewed automatically and free of charge. The changes will also extend to their family members for added peace of mind.”

Restrictions on hours of work for medical staff lifted

Restrictions have also been eased on the number of hours student doctors and nurses can work, while more time has been given to pre-registered overseas nurses brought into to cope with a surge in patients, to pass their exams.

Pre-registered nurses in the UK are typically required to sit their first skills test within three months and pass the test within eight months. However, this deadline has now been extended to the end of 2020.

Priti Patel said: “Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do.”

The Home Secretary added that the measure had been put in place to ensure frontline migrant medical staff were not distracted by the UK visa process. “That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year,” Patel said.

Immigration Health Surcharge exemption

The Home Office has also confirmed that the changes will include an exemption from the current, £400 per year UK immigration health surcharge.

Recently, MPs expressed concern over the amount key workers from overseas were paying in UK visa costs to keep their families in the country.

According to House of Commons statistics, approximately 153,000 of the 1.2 million people working for the NHS are non-UK nationals.

Coronavirus in the UK

Coronavirus cases in the UK have now surpassed 25,000, while the death toll is nearing 2,000 (1,789). However, 135 people have reportedly recovered from the virus.

Recently, a chief UK health official said that if the number of deaths stays below 20,000 “we will have done well, although every death is a tragedy.”

Testing for COVID-19 has now been rolled out to all frontline NHS staff, but during a Downing Street press conference, Michael Gove - the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - said: “we must go further and faster to increase availability.”

“More NHS staff are returning to the frontline, and more testing is taking place to help those self-isolating come back, and to protect those working so hard in our hospitals and in social care,” Gove added.

It’s understood that the government is also working with companies worldwide to bring in badly needed ventilators. Gove said: “The first of thousands of ventilators will be delivered to the NHS next week.”

This comes following a consortium of manufacturers joining together to build 10,000 ventilators to tackle the crisis, many of which are arriving from the EU.

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