Sanwar Ali comment:
Many overseas healthcare workers will surely be pleased to hear the good news that more people will receive automatic one year visa extensions. Priti Patel the Home Secretary has also said that the families of any overseas NHS staff who die will be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK free of charge.
One bit of bad news is that the true number of deaths due to coronavirus COVID-19 in the UK is much higher than previously stated in official announcements. The actual number of deaths due to coronavirus in the UK is actually more than 26,000. Previously the figures did not include deaths in the community, such as in care homes. Currently the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK is 165,221.
UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has announced that automatic one-year visa extensions will be granted to more migrant health care workers serving on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus, according to a statement on the government’s official website.
Midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists will be eligible for automatic one-year visa extensions, if their current stay in the UK is set to end before 1 October, 2020. The Home Secretary specified that visa extensions will be available to people working within the NHS and the private sector.
The addition of more frontline health and care workers made eligible for UK visa extensions, builds on an announcement made in March, which offered visa extensions to migrant NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics.
News that visa extensions will be available to frontline workers outside of the NHS is likely to be most welcomed, especially by immigrant advocates who have urged the government to extend the visas of migrant care workers and other crucial healthcare professionals.
Around 3,000 to benefit from visa extensions
It’s understood that the expansion of the visa extension scheme will benefit around 3,000 vital health and care workers, plus their families.
Priti Patel said: “We are incredibly grateful to all overseas health and care workers fighting this invisible enemy. We have already announced the extension of visas for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics. Now we are going further by extending this offer to hundreds of other frontline health and care workers, both in the NHS and in the independent sector.”
Extensions exempt from UK visa and Immigration Health Surcharge fees
The Home Secretary also announced that the offer of free, automatic one-year visa extensions would be exempt from the controversial UK Immigration Health Surcharge, which Patel had recently said was ‘under review.’
Patel said: “These extensions will be automatic, free and include exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.”
Matt Hancock, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health, said: “Frontline health and social care workers from overseas are doing extraordinary work in responding to this outbreak. Around 3,000 vital health and care workers and their families will benefit from the extension, and we are hugely grateful to them for protecting the vulnerable and saving lives.”
The statement issued on the government’s website said: “Those benefiting are providing essential services in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is important we relieve the pressure from the whole of the NHS, so it can focus maximum effort on fighting the coronavirus and saving lives.”
Extension effective immediately for ‘all’ visas
It’s understood that the extension will be made available immediately for ‘all’ visas expiring between 31 March and 1 October, 2020. However, there has been confusion over who is eligible for a visa extension. Workpermit.com recently reported that the Home Office had indicated that extensions were only available to Tier 2 visa holders.
The latest announcement suggests that migrant workers working in healthcare with any type of UK visa expiring between 31 March and 1 October is eligible for an extension.
Meanwhile, the government statement specifies that any NHS worker who has paid for a UK visa application that has yet to be resolved, will be offered the option of a full refund.
The Home Secretary also announced that family members and dependants of migrant healthcare workers who pass away while serving on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus will immediately be offered indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
The government statement said: “The Home Office will work with the Department for Health and Social Care and NHS Trusts to put these arrangements in place.”
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