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Coronavirus: Free visa extensions to be given to frontline healthcare workers
29 April 2020, 17:18
Free visa extensions will be granted to frontline healthcare workers from overseas to help them continue the battle with coronavirus.
Migrant doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers, pharmacists and other frontline health workers will be granted year-long extensions to allow them to stay in the UK amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The scheme was launched to allow people in vital roles to remain in the country and has now been extended by the Home Office to include more people in a greater number of positions.
Any healthcare worker in question whose visa was set to expire before 1 October will now have it automatically renewed for a year at no cost to that individual.
It is expected the measure will affect roughly 3,000 staff, plus their families.
The Home Office said it "will apply to those working both in the NHS and independent sector and include their family members."
All those who qualify will also be exempt from immigration health surcharges during the extension.
Additionally, family members and dependants of healthcare workers who die after contracting coronavirus will be offered immediate indefinite leave to remain.
Sean O' Sullivan, from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: "We are happy that the government has listened to our calls and has reversed their unusual decision to not include midwives from automatically extending their visa while working in the NHS during this global pandemic.
"This will be a relief for many RCM members who have had weeks of worry that they would face losing their legal working status when their current visa expired."
Refunds will be offered to any NHS workers who have paid for a visa application which is yet to be concluded.
NHS staff who now qualify include: Doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, paramedics, medical radiographers, therapy professionals, occupational therapists, podiatrists, speech and language therapists, psychologists, biological scientists and biochemists, medical practitioners, dentists, and social workers.
The scheme will also extend to nurses, social workers and therapists working in adult and children's social care as well as their families.
But the measures are unlikely to extend to carers working in small private care homes.
Some have called for migrant NHS cleaners and hospital porters to be added to the list.
Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Yvette Cooper told the Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday that the current policy feels "very unfair" to care home workers and hospital staff not covered such as hospital porters and cleaners.
Ms Patel replied: "On the issue of fairness there is equity obviously, we are conscious right now of the status of all NHS professionals, I think we should just be very very clear about that.
"This is not about segmenting or discriminating against anybody that works in the NHS."
Ms Patel added: "Everything is under review.
"I must emphasise though with social care, we are subject to some difficulties here in terms of understanding and knowing the immigration background and status of the individuals."